When the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of Clifton, Sir Alastair Graham, Kate Hoey, MP, the online comment section with every article, the letters pages in every paper and our own Libby Purves all say, with one voice, that something is a moral outrage, then the conclusion is inescapable. Run for the hills.Well, quite! If nearly 100% of the population, across all classes and occupations, is saying one thing, you’d have to be a massive egomaniac to assume that the opposite is actually true and everyone else is out of step, wouldn’t you?
Luckily, cometh the hour, cometh the egomaniac:
Let me be “smooth” with you. Twenty-five light bulbs (or, rather, an electrician to sort out the defective wiring, but sorry, I may be spoiling the story), 20 grand on security, a bath plug, a boiler, a property “flip” that earns a grand, a shared cleaner, or even 60-quid's worth of wreaths for Remembrance Sunday, does not add up to “clawing greed”, constitute a “sordid culture of abuse” or justify the assertion that Parliament's “moral authority is at the lowest ebb in living memory” .Oh.
Well, if you say so, Dave. What are you basing that on, then?
Read this exchange, and tell me who is the moral exemplar.Well, I don’t have any problem whatsoever spotting the moral exemplar there. On the one hand, a single parent holding down a job and paying her bills vs a woman who took a ‘job’ miles away from her current squeeze’s location and thinks someone else should pay so that she can get serviced. Am I wrong, Dave?
Margaret Moran, the MP for Luton South, on TV on her disgraceful claim for a second-home allowance on a flat in Southampton. MM: “My partner works in Southampton. He has done for 20 years. If I'm ever going to see my partner of 30 years, I can't make him come to Luton all the time, I have to be able to have a proper family life sometimes, which I can't do unless I share the costs of the Southampton home with him.”
A viewer texts in: “ARE THESE PEOPLE INSANE - DO THEY REALISE HOW THEY SOUND!! I'm so angry. I've been a single mum, working, holding down a job, paying my mortgage, my council tax and I don't have the luxury of asking the taxpayer to help me keep my family together.”
Oh. Of course I am:
I am afraid it is the viewer who does not realise how she sounds. First there's the obvious point that the taxpayer probably has helped her to keep her family together. And quite right too, but there's no glimmer of empathy. Second, there is the almost punitive desire that MPs should actually have it bad. Not healthy, Sigmund, not healthy at all.‘Empathy’…? Have they run out of bloody dictionaries at ‘The Times’?
Just why, exactly, should this viewer have any empathy with an MP who takes up a post far away from her partner’s home and then demands that her ‘employers’ (us, folks) pay for her to have a loveshack in his hometown so she can have a ‘normal’ life. Try that one at your next job, Davey-boy. See how far it gets you.
And no-one wants them to ‘have it bad’. They don’t want them to have it good, either. They want them to have it just like everyone else does.
That means that things like food (pet and human), Tampax, bathplugs and moat-clearance come out of your own salary.
…but I have worked in enough organisations to know that for every under-claimer there are five assiduous form-fillers and one ingenious expenses-artist. We all know it, don't we? Why do you think cab drivers offer you a handful of blank receipts?I don’t know, Davey-boy. No cab driver has ever offered me, or my colleagues, a handful of blank receipts, even when travelling on business. Has that happened to you, then?
Perhaps that doesn’t say anything about cab-drivers, per se, but rather something about journalists?
We might reflect that there had never been a democracy without political parties, and that we either made their members pay for them (which is increasingy difficult as we don't want to join), allowed potentially vested interests such as unions and hedge-fund zillionaires to fund them or asked the taxpayer to bear some of the burden. Those are the choices and everyone knows it.No one is saying that the taxpayer shouldn’t ‘bear some of the burden’, though. That’s a strawman.
What they are saying is that they should only bear the burden of legitimate expenses of the job. And when they are found to have been allowed to fill their boots with all kinds of tax-free perks because ‘the rules allow it’, then the rules need radical overhaul and the crooks need to have their collars felt.
Just like anyone else would be.
But then you and I would have to try to sell our decisions to a public that becomes intoxicated by its own outrage, that wants democracy but doesn't want to pay for it and whose preferred form of political engagement is tossing the rattle out of the pram.You know, it almost sounds there, Davey-boy, as if you’ve got a real idea, for the first time ever, of just how your ideas are received by ‘the public’. And you don’t like it one bit.
Good. There’ll be more and more of that, I’m betting….