Sunday, February 03, 2008

Snouts in the Trough

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) will know that I am not a great fan of politicians. Any of you living in the UK cannot have failed to be aware of the case of Tory MP Derek Conway who paid his student son £40,000 of taxpayers' money for, it seems, rather ill-defined work to do with his parliamentary duties. Conway has been suspended from the Commons for 10 days and ordered to return £13,161 of the money he paid his son. According to this article, he claims that he is "not a crook", and says that numerous other MPs are doing very similar things. Another wonderful quotation from the non-crook is "A lot of students do part-time work. He was working for his father rather than working in McDonald's.". I wonder how many student workers in McDonalds are paid £40,000 per year?

Gordon Brown must be quite enjoying Mr Conway's discomfiture, which has successfully diverted media attention from the various Labour scandals about undeclared campaign contributions, although I see the same article mentions the fact that former cabinet minister Peter Hain has been claiming that his 80 year old mother works for him as a part-time secretary and she was paid £5,400 last year. You really do wonder what other amazing revelations are going to crawl out now that the MPs' Expenses can of worms has been prised open!

Recently, we had the unedifying spectacle of MPs apparently agonising over whether or not to give themselves a sub-inflationary pay award this year---like the ones they were expecting other public sector workers to swallow. They finally seemed to accept that not to do so could have very serious consequences. If these are the sort of fiddles they get up to with their expenses, though, you can see why they could afford to be so magnanimous!

We are regularly told that politics in the UK is much less corrupt than in many other countries. I wonder if it's more the case that we are a bit more subtle about our corruption in Britain?