Monday, June 8, 2009

On the Fiddle

The expenses abuse row in the UK is exploding into tiny little sparks of discontent that are being fanned into raging fires all over the country. It seems the average Labour supporter - let's call him Joe Fish 'n Chips - is outraged that his MP might have spent taxpayer money on moat cleaning. The US Congress, presumably in a preemptive CYA move, is preparing to offer up its expense accounts online for better 'transparency'. When I began my career in the early 1980's, an expense account was considered part of your salary. When you were paid tuppence ha'penny to work 50 hours a week, a nice dinner out on "Mother XX (your firm's name here)" was one of the few benefits. As times got worse, journalists' expense accounts were pared to the bone. Taking a source to lunch was so painful (pre-justification, approval of restaurant, maximum per-head limits) that we just waited until someone invited US out.
I remember when I was working at Platt's, my editor-in-chief Halsey Peckworth told me a story about an FBI man who went on a business trip to Russia. When he got there it was cold and rainy and he didn't have a raincoat. He bought one and duly put it on his expense account. J. Edgar Hoover sent his expense form back to him with a note that said "The FBI does NOT pay for raincoats." The agent re-did his expense form and sent it back up for approval with his own note: "Now find the raincoat." Brilliant. Halsey and the rest of us lived by that philosophy for as long as we could get away with it.


  1. Lots of things to say about this...

  2. Spending money to clean a ‘moat’ is one thing… claiming £13,000 for a mortage that has been paid off is something else? This is commonly termed as ‘fraud’ and as such the UK judiciary need to be involved. However, we’ll see what happens. The Labour government (ministers) have a habit of shelving or denying that any problem exists. Remember Tony Blair and the Al Yamanah corruption? Mr. Blair had that quashed when the Saudi’s explained that it wasn’t in anyone’s best interest to pursue this case…. And certainly not in his, so that died a natural death. He left government not long afterwards.

    I have no doubt that Gordon Brown will provide everyone (which will have to include the other parties) with an amnesty when he departs (which he will very soon I hope), ruling out police investigation into this whole stinking affair. Fiddling expenses is one thing, stealing taxpayers money (most of it very hard earned) is another. Don’t wait with bated breath on this one; rather, put your pen back onto the paper and try and do us overtaxed Europeans a favour by trying to get more transparency out of the European Parliament. I’d like to see Mr. and Mrs Kinnock’s last 5 years expenses please? Not forgetting the rest of the MEP’s who got rid of the whistleblower the other year and voted not to disclose their expenses. And I’m sure that the dept of Internal Revenue and Customs would like to see this affair opened up as well, after all they're making considerable on Capital Gains taxes from some of these, our good upstanding members of (the UK) parliament 'flipping' not one, but up to four (4) houses, and all after using taxpayer cash to renovate them...

    The time has come to bring the MEPs in Brussels to justice as well, and listen to them squeal as one after the other, their noses are also removed from the trough! It will only be through constant pressure, and with the help of the European newspapers, that these people will be brought to justice also. If you think that the UK ministers have been bad boys and girls, just wait until you see what’s been happening in Brussels. There'll be a lot of noise, but not initially, nitially there will be a 'dumb silence' as the general public are aghast at the scale of the greed... I cannot wait!