Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Credit where credit's due

It seems that Mr Buttered New Potato does have some testicles after all. This afternoon I received a missive from Master Cameron, which included a link to this video.

And the text of the email runs thusly... [Emphasis mine.]
Today was a busy day. Trust in politics has been eroded so much over the last week that I knew we needed to act fast to start setting things right. I began by meeting individual members of the Shadow Cabinet. We went through those claims that have caused concern, and they agreed to pay them back. There is a genuine desire to recognise and respond to the public anger.

Next I met the Shadow Cabinet as a whole and told them the immediate action I'm going to ask all my MPs to take. All expenses must be published online; you can't 'flip' your second home to make more money; if you sell a home on which the taxpayer has been making mortgage interest payments, you have to pay Capital Gains Tax; and any claims on furniture, household goods, food - all those things we've read about - are banned.

After that I met the Executive of the 1922 Committee and then the whole of the Parliamentary Party. I went through the new rules in detail and told them about the key proposal for a Scrutiny Panel - including someone completely independent from the Party - to go over all excessive claims and see whether they need to be paid back. I had to be very clear about this: if they don't co-operate with the Scrutiny Panel, they can't continue to be Conservative MPs.

And it's not just those in Parliament who need to understand this mission. It's also those who aspire to be. Every single Conservative candidate has got to sign up to this new way of doing politics. They need to know that working in Parliament is a great privilege - one that must never be abused again.

All this is about being the change we seek. If we want responsibility in our society and thrift in our government, we've got to live by those values ourselves.

OK, as I said in the title to this post, credit where credit's due: Cameron has taken decisive action and I sincerely hope that he sticks to it.

One hopes that Jackart will be somewhat placated by my (not even grudging) acknowledgement of Cameron's measures. But he misses the point.
Devils Kitchen for example has a thing about David Cameron, whom he loathes. His expenses are totally above board, as are the vast majority of MPs'. He is trying to find a route through this crisis, without destroying his party's chances of winning the next election, without further crippling parliament and without giving Gordon Brown a series of sticks with which to beat him.

And so we've descend into Anti-politician bile, which is getting seriously boring. Politicians are much like the rest of us; not paragons of virtue, and subject to temptation. What irritates me about the "they're all at it" and "they're all as bad as each other" arguments is that it's prejudiced, inchoate anger which is not only childish and stupid, it also lets the most egregious troughers off the hook as the political class circle the wagons against the mob.

In other words, we shouldn't expose those who are using massive chunks of our money to enrich themselves, because the politicos will all rally around to defend their own. Yeah, nice argument, Jackart.

And Jackart employs a very dodgy argument for someone who claims to be a libertarian.
Politicians are much like the rest of us; not paragons of virtue, and subject to temptation.

Yes, sure. And I have no problem with them being "subject to temptation": I do have a serious problem with them giving in to that temptation.

Libertarians believe that each individual is responsible for their own decisions: if you do not believe that, then you are not a libertarian. As such, given a temptation, a libertarian has two choices: give into that temptation or do the right thing.

Whichever you choose, it is your decision, and you must accept the consequences. Many MPs gave into temptation; even those whom I respect and am sure were making legitimate claims, such as Douglas Carswell, seem to have liberally helped themselves to large expense accounts (£153,378 (209th)).

Jackart obviously thinks that the fact that these MPs were tempted excuses the fact that they gave into temptation.

It. Does. Not.

To excuse an MP on those grounds but not to excuse a common thief on precisely the same grounds—that both were tempted—is not a libertarian attitude: it is a purely hypocritical one.

As for the idea that most MPs are trustworthy... Well, trust has to be earned, frankly. And, had the public and the bloggers and the media not got themselves into such a frothing rage—had politicians not realised that they might actually lose votes over this—then very little would have been done.

We all know that politicians monitor blogs to a great extent: in that way, we have been a conduit for the intense irritation of the general public (and, believe me, the public is really pissed off). As such, I like to think that we have served a purpose in this matter.

Unfortunately, Jackart will not see this point of view: not only is he a True Blue Tory, but he has, it seems, no problem with people fiddling their expenses and so, no doubt, cannot see where the problem is.

So, whilst I'll admit that Cameron has now responded to this furore rather well, young Jackart, alas, has not.

UPDATE: Towards Mutual Benefit has a rather more scathing view of the whole issue.
So, Dave has spoken. What is incredible about this whole affair is that having proposed the changes that he has, and which will seem reasonable to most people, Cameron will be hailed as if he were the Second Coming. That's how bad the old system was: that what is merely reasonable gleams like a beacon of probity in comparison.

Cameron will come out of this smelling of roses. And it'll be a good result for his snouting MPs, too: nobody sacked, simply some spare change to be repaid. And, most importantly, not a mention of the issues that I raised above. Good politics from Cameron. The public will be reassured. And the corrupt linkages to business -- where the politicians really do show that they are the best that money can buy -- remain unmentioned, and untouched.

The rest of the post, which deals with MPs' dangerous closeness to big business, is also worth a read. I do know that certain Tory MPs have been concentrating quite heavily on trying to expose this area, so we shall see if there are any developments later in the year...


Anonymous said...

A somewhat generous view, DK.

Try this one instead.

Anonymous said...

What Cameron has come out with is a start but is a long way from being enough.

Firstly, every single one of the guilty bastards must be made to resign.

Secondly, they have to pay back their ill gotten (plus interest).

Third they go to court, where after the appropriate trial by jury they shuffke off to the porridge hotel and finally they lose their gold plated pension - not for stealing alone but for the massive breach of trust.

That should cure the fuckers!

Mark Wadsworth said...

What Patrick says.

Why not big up the few MPs who didn't claim all the extras?

Anonymous said...

Jackart is now and always has been a prick, a fantasist and a hypocrite. There's nothing new here.

The point about troughing MPs is this: if one MP in a hundred was getting caught with his fingers in the till, we wouldn't be this outraged. We'd accept that there are bad apples in every group of people, we'd punish the wrongdoer and we'd move on. We certianly wouldn't think that politicians as a group were all corrupt.

But that's not what has happened. The troughing, the sheer abuse of the taxpayer, the way that rules have been warped to line the pockets of people who claim to represent us, is occurring on a scale that defies belief. Perhaps "most" MPs are good and honest - I say perhaps because the evidence isn't all in the public sphere yet - but enough of them are clearly out to line their own pockets that we, the public, are perfectly entitled to be prejudiced against them.

Jackart would do well to remember what the word "prejudiced" means - it means to judge something ahead of time (from the Latin 'pre' + the verb 'iudere'). To be prejudiced is not and never has been innately bad; if I see a man walking towards a bank with a gun and a mask, I am prejudiced in assuming that he's a robber but I'm also almost certainly correct - and that is the sum of our evil, evil prejudice against the political class: we see a group who are disproportionately thieves and we treat them as thieves and we assume them to be thieves. Sometimes we may, in our monstrous eeeeevil prejudice, malign an innocent but most of the time we're spot on.

(P.S. Since Jackart spends a goodly part of his time, when he's not fabricating lies about his background and education, spouting borderline racist bile at blacks, Muslims, the French, the Scots, the Welsh and, frankly, everyone who isn't a white southern English male. Not exactly the type who's qualified to berate us on the evils of prejudice.)

Jackart said...

I've no idea who anon is, but he doesn't like me very much does he?

Anyway, let's address the salient points...

"In other words, we shouldn't expose those who are using massive chunks of our money to enrich themselves, because the politicos will all rally around to defend their own."

That's precisely what I'm not saying. They aren't all at it. Let's expose the ones that are, and laud the ones who aren't, who didn't succumb to temptation.

Thus the inky swots will have an interest in exposing the troughers to their masters I.E. Us. rather than have an incentive to, as I say, circle the wagons.

So your point about my acknowledging of temptation, thereby excusing it, falls over.

It's just that there are a handful of MPs out of hundreds, who have taken the piss, and the rest have been somewhere along the continuum of bordeline to honest.

Your not-even-grudging does you credit, though.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

I think Cameron didn't go nearly far enough.

Paying back stolen money would not keep you out of gaol anywhere else. Jackart and all the other Tory fellators of the buttered new potato may care to put their money where their mouth is: cheat on your income tax, and then in four years, 'fess up.

Let us all know how that works out for you.

Jackart said...

And I wrote that before Cammo's performance. I think he should have found, as I said in the post, an admiral Byng or two....

You should really go read what I wrote.

Roger Thornhill said...

I basically agree with DK and Towards/Patrick.

Dave has made a significant move forwards but he could have gone further and nailed certain soon to be ex MPs, pour encourager les autres. He should have got Mediaeval on their arses. Maybe too many would have had the whip withdrawn and created a mass of trouble, who knows.

Good show, but no cigar in Roger's opinion.

Verity said...

I didn't bother to read the whole post and only skimmed through the comments above, because, what the hell was the Leader of the Opposition doing making an important, statesman announcement in his shirtsleeves?

Blairesque, to be sure, although I am pretty confident that Blair would never have made this speech in his shirtsleeves. He had a sense of occasion.

This speaks of condescension.

"The 'little people' will be alarmed by me in a proper suit, so I'll strike a pose as a trade unions leader making an angry speech!"

At least Gordon Brown has the respect for his office that he wears a suit and tie, for God's sake. Cameron seems to think that the 'little people', who he has to win over, might be intimidated by a suit and tie. Yes, Mr Cameron, and I am sure they will tug their forelocks when you visit their constituencies.

The man strikes so many false notes that an avant-garde composer (if such are not passé) could use him as a template for a new opera.

Anonymous said...

Cameron made a good start, but some heads should have rolled.

He also missed a trick by not putting an end to MP's holding second jobs.

Rob said...

Cameron's statement is in the future tense:

"you can't 'flip' your second home to make more money;"
"if you sell a home on which the taxpayer has been making mortgage interest payments, you have to pay Capital Gains Tax"

He is being clever here, trying to make it look as if he is doing something bold, but in reality no MP is going to be able to get away with this shit in the future.

What I want to see is:

"If you sold your home on which the taxpayer was making interest payments, you must pay CGT".

Personally I'd also like to see some prosecutions too. You can have all the 'independent' scrutiny committees you want, MPs will still find a way of corrupting them. However, if they see some of their number put away for fraud, that sort of thing has a wonderfully stimulating effect on the honesty gland.

On the subject of temptation - it isn't only that they suffered temptation and fell for it, the worst thing is that they themselves created the system which allowed it! This destroys the claim that they are like us, flawed human beings. They are criminals.

AD627 said...

Compeltely agree they shouldn;t have given into temptation.

However, an important part our legal system is the avouidance of puttign temptation into people's way. We have laws against entrapment, for example. We libertarians believe that laws that criminalise a high proportion of the people they apply to (many speed limits, the anti hunting legislation, TV licensing) are a bad thing.

MPs' expenses have led a substantial proprtion of MPs astray. They are a bad thing.

The only logical approach is to replace the system with a single annual payment, incorporating salary and an expenses allowance, out of which MPs must fund ALL their spending.

Simon Fawthrop said...

"At least Gordon Brown has the respect for his office that he wears a suit and tie, for God's sake."

Not when I went to see him as guest of honour at a black tie dinner. We all made the effort, he couldn't be bothered.

13eastie said...

dalesman is correct...

Cameron must wield the axe.It's frankly unbelievable that it took Cameron a whole five days to respond, and even then, Brown was left hopelessly on the back foot, able only to proffer further pale mimicry.

But this is not going far enough, DC.

Simply giving the money back is NOT punishment. That is what joyriders do.

If Cameron is going to show real strength, a head or two will have to roll:

Candidate No. 1: The Rt Hon.Douglas Hogg, 3rd Viscount Hailsham QC MP, who has "doug" himself into a moat and carried on digging - so wealthy the stolen money can have made no difference to him at all and demonstrably incapable of seeing right from wrong.

Fuck knows what judges must think of this cunt's antics in court when he is doing his second job as a barrister! This is a man who tried yesterday on the BBC to make serious argument that the discharge of his parliamentary duties genuinely incurs moat-dredging expenses and a £14k annual cleaning bill.

How much of a fucking slob do you have to be to spend £70/day for someone to clean up after you (and that is in a home where you've claimed NOT to spend most of your time)?

He's been in the House with his grubby fingers in the till for thirty years, and no-one can suppose he has only just begun his spree of embezzlement.

A Privy Counsellor and Queen's Counsel, a man with no self-respect whatsoever who has disgraced the country, his party, his profession, his chambers and his family.

He has set the Tories back ten years in an instant.

A true cynic and a hypocrite.

No-one can ever take anything this guy says seriously again.

He is dead weight to a party that can garner no confidence while he has the whip. He is worthless to the cause, David. Let him have it.

Capital Gains TaxAs usual, I almost vomited when that horrid munchkin the Community Secretary came into view on my telly last night - this time waving a cheque and grinning for all the world like she had just won the football pools.

We need clarification from HMRC on the wretched pipsqueak's latest frolic.

I'm not aware that the Exchequer accepts ex gratia donations.

HMRC was very insistent on paying back to me my overpayment this year.

Unless she submits a tax-return, and implicitly admits that she has defrauded the tax payer, she will not become liable for the CGT she has evaded, and which she now claims to be offering as a gift to the nation.

Blears should be investigated as the the criminal she is.

And then she can hang.

Brown's Tie-KnotVerity, don't kid yourself: Gordon Brown's class-war dress sense is a disgrace to his office. Sat next to Barrack Obama (a socialist with the self-confidence not to need to dress in sack-cloth) he looked like an absolute tramp.

The Prime Minister uses a granny knot and hangs his tie on the back of the door with the knot still intact at night. There is never a bad time to remind yourself of this image (unless you happen to be eating).

The Amazing Toad said...

Hogg is a very good constituency MP. I've written to him on two occasions and received prompt and very comprehensive replies. Other people I know have much the same to say about him and people who are instictively Labour voters have voted for "Hoggy", because of his involvement with local farmers. He actually knows about our constituency and helps people when it's in his gift. All of this makes his malfeasance all the harder to bear.

Verity said...

I wish to God David Cameron would put his bloody jacket on. The man is a posturing jerk.

Verity said...

Points taken about Gordon Brown. I said at the time that it was a disgrace and a studied insult that he did not wear a white tie to the City dinner.

What a self-righteous, preachy prat. If he didn't want to obey the conventions, why didn't he stay home and watch TV? His absence would have lit up the hall.

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