Tuesday, October 13, 2009

They just don't get it, do they?

The blogosphere has, predictably, been up in arms about the fact that MPs are being asked to repay expenses after Sir Thomas Legg audited their expenses and sent begging demands to the honourable members.

For what it's worth, I do think that Jackart's position is technically correct.
At the moment the Tax Man cannot retrospectively charge you for taxes that you paid correctly last year. (I know the appalling misuse of the 'Proceeds of Crime' act by the HM R&C can bankrupt you for a £400 VAT tax error, but that's a different matter). Nor can an employer claw back wages if you turn out to be rubbish at your job.

That is, a Government cannot come in and say "it's appalling that income over £100,000 isn't and wasn't taxed at 50%". There are a lot of people—a lot—who think that high salaries without high marginal tax rates are "unfair". Immagine if the revenue could say that not only were they taking the new, higher rate taxes on your future income, they were applying it retrospectively to the previous couple of year's income too, on the basis of "fairness", were delivering a bill to you for money you'd already spent on the mortgage and the Kids' school fees?

For that is what is happening to MPs. The rules they "obeyed" were grossly flawed and they have been changed. That is not in question. If you're pissed off with your MP (mine's squeaky clean, I'm pleased to say) then there's an election coming and you can stuff envelopes for his opponents, effectively firing the bastard. But just as the Tax man cannot go after income you earned in the previous year after you've been taxed on it, MPs should not be forced to pay money already received if it was within the rules as they existed at the time.

So now, of course, we are forced to give MPs the benefit of the doubt.

No, your humble Devil might be a terrible old cynic, but I cannot help thinking that that was the entire point of this measure. They have quite deliberately told Sir Thomas Legge to go beyond the remit of his report and, again, quite deliberately to apply the rules retrospectively.

In this way, all of the actual cases of disgusting fraud get obscured, obfuscated and buried beneath the deluge of claims and counter-claim. The report is then declared a waste of time, and our wastrel MPs opine that to hold another would be a waste of taxpayers' money—and we cannot possibly allow that in these straitened times.

The results, of course, are that the public can never be sure quite who is guilty of fraud and theft and who is not (bar the few who have obviously been thrown to the wolves); the majority of MPs have to repay precisely bugger-all; and there is no fall-out for the honourable members, apart from the tedium of having to mutter a few meaningless platitudes about how they are shocked at all this troughing and that they are sorry for any "honest mistakes" that they may have made.

But we cannot let this pass: we really can't—for the reasons that The Appalling Strangeness articulates.
Yes, I know I am a zealous ranter when it comes to the issues of MPs' expenses fraud, but they did rinse the public purse for all it was worth under the guise of being public servants. Frankly, they deserve as much abuse as we can throw at them. The thieving fucks. Particularly when they are quick to get out the world's smallest violin and start manically playing it for a bit of completely undeserved sympathy:
One unnamed MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "An accountant will always find errors in the expenses claims especially on claims of such magnitude over a long period but the only ones publicised are the over-claims, no-one ever mentioned the under-claims."

No. No-one does mention the under-claims. Because the point of expenses isn't that you have to spend them - rather, there is an allowance there if you need it. And given MPs work directly for the public purse, and are supposed to represent the British people, you might have thought they'd be less keen to spend, spend, spend. When your expenses are paid by an already grossly over-stretched taxpayer, frugality becomes a virtue.
"The need to please the press and get back in their good books has produced a total over-reaction and it has been very badly handled. We were treated despicably today when we were waiting for our letters, we felt as though the sword of Damocles was hanging over us."

I don't give the first fuck whether MPs get back in the good books of the press - they should want to get back into the good books of the people they have so badly betrayed. And expecting MPs to pay money back to the public purse isn't an over-reaction; it is actually quite a moderate response. I'd like to see everyone of them who abused the system sacked and facing prosecution, and the worst offenders locked up. And that isn't an over-reaction either; it is what would happen to anyone who got involved in this sort of swindle but didn't have the good fortune to be employed as an MP.

I really couldn't have put it better myself. It is that first quote that so absolutely enrages me—so here it is again.
One unnamed MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "An accountant will always find errors in the expenses claims especially on claims of such magnitude over a long period but the only ones publicised are the over-claims, no-one ever mentioned the under-claims."

I really don't think that this cunt has got the point of expenses, has he? Look, you terrible little bastard, let me explain the concept of expenses to you.

Expenses are just that: they are a recompense of the monies expended in the direct pursuit of your work duties. If you spend £2.50 on a train ticket to your constituency, then you can claim £2.50—not fucking £50! Do you see?

If the rules say that you can claim up to £10,000 on communicating with your constitutents, that does not mean that you have to spend the entirety of that £10,000, you feckless fuck. If you only spent £10.40 then you only claim £10.40; but if you spent £12,468 then you can still only claim £10,000. Do you fucking get it yet?

The idea that you should get some kind of prize—or even any fucking credit—for not spending the absolute maximum (or, in many cases, way over the maximum) is absolutely fucking laughable.

It is this kind of fucking arrogance and quite blatant sense of entitlement that makes your humble Devil want to abandon his principles and hang the lot of you whether the rules have been retrospectively applied or not.

Don't you understand? It. Is. Not. Your. Money. It is our money.

Every few pounds that you spend is an hour of a someone's life spent working rather than playing.

Every few pounds that you spend represents yet another hour that someone must toil in order to put food in his mouth, or to afford a roof over his head, or to buy an unsubsidised drink.

Every few pounds that you spend is another waste of money, another punch in the face for an ordinary person, another fruitless period of someone's life passed.

So don't think that you will be able to bury your misdemeanours in a mire of confusion; don't think that you can obscure your crimes in a slurry of retrospective excuses.

You have been revealed as thieves and liars, charlatans and harlots, bullshitters and conmen. Our time will come, and then you had better be ready to defend yourselves with something rather more concrete than limp excuses and whining rhetoric.

9 comments:

SaveBulletsHangEmAll said...

Congratulations DK - the whole of the last section should be a full page ad in every paper in the country - no one has said it better

Nick said...

Not true DK.

Section 58 2008 finance act is retrospective.

Nick

Prodicus said...

You really are a cynical old bugger, aren't you? Now there's a comment that didn't need making.

I have been musing on those who did not milk the system to their own pecuniary benefit. They too are bleating about injustice.

Injustice? They are guilty of a sin of omission: by their culpable silence about flagrant albeit hidden corruption among their colleagues, they made themselves accessories before and after the fact of their greedier colleagues' sins of commission: they are complicit.

ALL MPs should shut up and – as appropriate - pay up and then consider what damage they have done to Parliament by (a) their greed and/or (b) their tacit approval of others' greed and (c) their promoting a non-elected official (and there are to be others) above themselves when they should have remained, as a corporate body, sovereign **because they are elected** ... ** to the high court of Parliament**.

We, the electors, have not given them our permission to place any citizen above them, our elected representatives. However, they have chosen in effect to abdicate rather than accept the very responsibility for the discharge of which they stood for election in the first place: the sovereignty of the Commons.

Not just greedy, sleazy and venal but ignorant of the constitutional settlement from which they derive their position, cowardly and thoroughly dishonourable.

The Legg process may be rough, summary justice but they chose it. If it feels more like retribution than justice, they should remember that it was of their own devising. Life's a bitch and then you die.

They may also may care to reflect that it's better than some of the the sanguinary alternatives.

Anonymous said...

There are two ways of sinking a task you never wanted to do.

One is to deliberately do it badly, to the extent that we all wish we had asked anyone else but you to do it.

The other is to overdo it to such an extent that we all wish we had never wanted it done at all.

Vicola said...

"The idea that you should get some kind of prize—or even any fucking credit—for not spending the absolute maximum (or, in many cases, way over the maximum) is absolutely fucking laughable."

Absolutely right. Why they are trying to get sympathy for not fleecing the taxpayer for every single available pound is beyond me. I can claim mileage for driving the entire length of the country if I need to but I don't get the warmth and gratitude of the MD if I drive from Manchester to Leeds and only claim for a 60 odd mile round trip as opposed to the mileage from Lands End to John O'Groats and back again. I genuinely don't understand why they can't grasp this. And why they think that the rules of expenses that apply to every person working in the private sector shouldn't apply to them.

Rob said...

I seem to remember that the rule book for MPs stated that expenses had to be "wholly relevant to their Parliamentary duties", or words to that effect.

The swapping of residences, the Duck houses, the televisions, ipods & other goods, the annual redecorations, fixing houses 100 miles away from Parliament or their constituency, the purchase of flats on taxpayers money for their children to live in, etc etc.

I want to see each and every one of them in court trying to argue that these claims were "wholly relevant to their Parliamentary duties". I want it done in court because then if they lie they can be nailed for perjury.

Tax Lawyer said...

Sir Thomas isn’t changing the rules, or inventing new ones - he’s just applying the rules that were always there.

The 2006 Green Book says that the second home allowance is for "only those additional costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred to enable you to stay overnight away from your only or main UK residence".

It also says that "Members should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money" and "should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious."

His guidelines (max. £2,000 per year for cleaning, £1,000 for gardening) aren’t new rules but are just a reasonable interpretation of the existing requirements of “necessarily”, “value for money” and avoiding extravagance.

As for ‘flipping’, the 2006 Green Book said that "the location of your main home will normally be a matter of fact.” In other words, just because you designated your sister’s spare bedroom as your main home doesn't mean that it actually was.

If we’re comparing it to tax, then by issuing interpretations and guidelines with retrospective effect he’s only doing what the taxman does regularly.

Anonymous said...

Is the 'Unnamed MP' Patrick Cormac by any chance - I heard him on Radio 4 yesterday and thought he was a really arrogant fucker. He told John Humphreys that his own Legge letter was private and that he didn't need to disclose how much he has been asked to pay back.
Afterwards the other MP twat on the program described Cormac as a 'great parliamentarian'. For fucking crying out loud, these people deserve to be publicly eviscerated in the cruelest of fashion.
Cunts the lot of them.

ukipwebmaster said...

Read it and weep:

http://the-tap.blogspot.com/2009/10/legg-protects-powerful.html