Friday, May 08, 2009

Cabinet expenses – a catalogue of abuse, fraud, misappropriation and exploitation

While the Home Secretary has busied herself with eradicating the deadly sin of ‘hate’ from race, religion or sexuality, the unseemly peccadillo of greed has crept in unawares.

Cranmer is appalled to read of the scale of the scandal of the expense claims made by members of the Cabinet – a chronic systematic abuse which goes right to the heart of Number 10. It has been well-known for centuries that the political class are wont to feather their own nests and better their own bank balances while they can, but the revelation that the rich man in his second-home castle has been fleecing the poor man at his gate is one of the great scandals of modern public life. Indeed, it is truly worthy of the suffix ‘gate’.

Expenses-gate is awkward and feeble, but it is the only metaphor we have for such scandal. It may be clumsy, but the moment it is deployed the reader instantly knows that the issue concerns corruption and deception on the scale of a Shakespearean tragedy. And so it is in the case of the corruption at the heart of New Labour.

It transpires that bathplugs and pornography are the least of it. Public funds have been poured out like water upon those who are supposed to be the guardians of the public purse. We may well wonder with Plato ‘Quis custōdiet ipsōs custōdēs?’

The answer is nobody.

This New Labour government which promised to rule righteously and be ‘whiter than white’ has tainted itself with an indelible Brown stain and the stench of evil. And evil it is when people are living in poverty, enduring considerable hardship, losing their jobs, their livelihoods and their homes while the most powerful in the land are adorning their mansions with antique wallpaper, affixing fake Tudor beams to the facade of their fist, second or third homes, and claiming substantial refunds on what they have not spent at all.

The Cabinet has been hoist by their own petard, for it was Labour who legislated for freedom of information, and if anything were ever in the public interest, it must be the disclosure of the receipts proffered by our political rulers which they claim to be wholly and necessarily incurred in the performance of their public duty. Public money should be and should be seen to be properly spent.

Cranmer fully understands that ‘second homes’ may be necessary, as may the ‘additional costs’ allowance worth up to £24,222. But these millions have been subject to little audit and scant scrutiny as they have renovated, decorated and luxuriously furnished their ‘second homes’ at taxpayers' expense, using the allowance to pay the mortgage interest, and then pocketing the profit or buying another property, and doing the same all over again.

Sarah Beeny would be proud.

But this political property ladder is not what angers Cranmer the most. He reserves his particular wrath for those members of the Cabinet who even at this stage in these sordid revelations are insisting that they ‘have done nothing wrong’ and that they have acted ‘within the rules’. They cannot grasp the moral deficiency of the system which they have themselves created. They have drawn up the rules, defined the thresholds, ensured the lack of accountability, and then they argue that their behaviour is moral because they have defined their own ethic which enables those who have acted beyond acceptable limits to assert quite boldly that they have acted within the rules. Those responsible for the most egregious abuses and audacious rapacity can have no conscience, no sense of proportion and no decency. They are so detached from reality that they can no longer discern the original purpose of the ‘additional costs allowance’: if there is money to be claimed, they must claim it – up to the penultimate penny to which they are entitled, whether it is right or proper or necessary or not.

The honourable members are without honour. Ichabod.

This tawdry state of affairs is undermining democracy and destroying public confidence in the political system. And with a million further receipts to be published in a few months’ time, it is profoundly concerning to consider that the abuses of the Cabinet are not going to be the half of it.


Blogger Gnostic said...

Scamgate or rip-offgate spring readily of the tongue, Your Grace. As do fraudgate and swindlegate.

8 May 2009 at 10:09  
Blogger Timothy Belmont said...

Your Grace,

It's little wonder that the Country is fiscally bankrupt, given the Labour Government's reckless spending spree on themselves and their supporters.

How many unwanted quangos exist in the UK? And how much does it cost the Taxpayer for so-called "Human Rights" commissions, Equality commissions...the list is endless. I suggest that we dump the lot and spend the proceeds on Health, Roads, the Environment etc.


8 May 2009 at 10:10  
Anonymous BulloPill said...

Your Grace expresses it so well. This is a major fraud on the taxpayers of Britain. Because taxes are insufficient to pay for current expenditure, thus incurring borrowing, our children will be paying for this fraudulent expenditure for years to come. Why should my girls, just about to set-out into the world of work, pay for the bathplugs, tellies and cat-food of today's thieving politicos?

8 May 2009 at 10:20  
Anonymous Maturecheese said...

Your Grace

How many times have we had to take lectures on benefit fraud from these morally corrupt people. They are supposed to show leadership and integrity but instead turn out to be far worse than the very people they lecture.

I really do despair when I think about how low this country has sunk especially when there doesn't appear to be a solution to all the ills coming anytime soon.

8 May 2009 at 10:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steal gate.

8 May 2009 at 10:25  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

You ask: ‘Who guards the guardians?’

I suppose that is to ask where amongst men, who have a propensity to do wrong, accountability should lie.

I recall God giving Moses the Law – and Moses goes on to establish a judiciary.

In 1215 Englishmen established Magna Charta to hold King and Commons accountable. Indeed, was it not the great English lawyer Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke who said that ‘the Magna Charta is such a fellow that he has no brother?’

My Lord Oliver Cromwell faced the same problem. To resolve it he wrote the Statutory Instrument of Government – one of the first modern attempts at a written constitution (presumably in which sovereignty would lie).

Then our brother Christians in the newly independent American states, write their Constitution (in which sovereignty lies). For, indeed, they can impeach their president.

And what does this country do? Why in the late nineteenth century along comes A. V. Dicey with his book ‘The Law of the Constitution’. He just made it up along with the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty – something that Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke would reject.

It is not a foreign thing to have a written set of rules that hold men accountable. It is a thing which is the inheritance of this once great people.

8 May 2009 at 10:26  
Blogger Demetrius said...

In a place not a mile away from one of these second homes is a very old, and very ill lady, who is completely dependent on visiting carers. She has no family and has outlived her friends. Because of her situation social services can afford only minimal carers, cannot move her into any suitable accommodation, and so she is left high and dry and living in dirt and misery. I do hope the parliamentarian whose second home is close by is enjoying the fruits of the expenses, and all those free meals and subsidising drinking sessions that this lady has had to pay for.

8 May 2009 at 10:29  
Blogger The Heresiarch said...

Plato? Surely it was Juvenal.

8 May 2009 at 10:50  
Anonymous Stop Common Purpose said...

Best free show in town.


8 May 2009 at 10:53  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Heresiarch,

His Grace is pleased to have learned communicants.

Of course, the Latin quotation is usualy ascribed to Juvenal. The question was, however, first raised by Plato in The Republic in a question put to Socrates. The 'noble lie' lives on.

8 May 2009 at 11:05  
Blogger McKenzie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8 May 2009 at 11:42  
Blogger David Hodgson said...

Nothing excuses what these politicians have done, but I smell a distraction tactic here; neo-liberal faithfuls wanting to help us forget the massive rip-off the City/Wall Street "masters of the universe" have perpetrated on the ordinary guy whilst feathering their own exotic nests.

8 May 2009 at 11:47  
Anonymous G Eagle Esq said...

Your Grace

Quite so - Master Jacobus Kirkus would say of Inglaterra :

Transmitte me sursum, Caledoni
Non illegitime carborundum

[Beam me up, Scottie AND
don't let Plato get you down]

Yr Grace's obedient servant etc


8 May 2009 at 11:54  
Blogger McKenzie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8 May 2009 at 12:02  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr McKenzie, it is written:

'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.'

8 May 2009 at 12:51  
Blogger john in cheshire said...

The criminal activities of NuLabour started from day one. Remember Derry Irving and his expensive wall-paper? Another friend of Tony's. Will we ever get to see some of these odious creatures behind bars where they belong? I despair that at the next general election, a significant minority of the electorate will still be voting for them.

8 May 2009 at 13:35  
Anonymous len said...

Any prospect of a politician being a public servant nowadays seems laughable.
Politicians seem to be there only to serve themselves, we live in a culture where self is King, "I will take what I want because I am worth it" seems to be the attitude prevalent today.
When I think of the children and adults living in poverty whilst these fat cats dip into the public purse makes my blood boil!

8 May 2009 at 13:37  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Whilst not wishing to detract one jot from Your Graces Blog, let us not forget that Her Majesties Opposition are also masters of playing the expenses game to the utmost of their personal profit, some may even say they invented it.

One conservative MP charged £160 each year to have his Aga serviced;
One animal-loving female Conservative MP claimed 78p for two tins of Cesar Chicken and Turkey pet food and £3.69 for Iams Senior pet food.
Two Elephant Lamps for £134.30, bought by a well-known Tory frontbencher.
Farrow and Ball paint charged by a Tory shadow minister as part of a £1,775 interior house painting claim for his home in the country.
Farley’s Rusks £1.59, bought by a Conservative backbencher in 2006
Horse manure, one particularly wealthy Tory MP charged £10 for a bag of manure for his country retreat.

And the list goes on

I have nothing but contempt for these socialist crooks. All I am saying is Tories and liberals also have their snouts well in the trough, this swine flu is not the sole preserve of the Labour benches.

8 May 2009 at 14:35  
Anonymous not a machine said...

second home expenses yes , property portfolio on the tax payer no .

8 May 2009 at 14:41  
Blogger Dave H said...

A very good post.

Ministers are still lamely defending themselves with it's within the rules and don't seem capable of grasping how infuriatingly unconvincing that is for the rest of us. The same bunch of crooks made the rules.

Another massive blind spot in their world-view is that expenses are generally understood to be payments defraying costs incurred as part of normal work. Expenses are not (sorry, that should have read 'ought not to be') looked on as a concealed salary supplement.

It's the most disgusting hypocrisy for members of a party that claims to care about the poor to be secretly enriching themselves with taxpayers money when they are already receiving an above-average wage.

8 May 2009 at 15:12  
Blogger McKenzie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8 May 2009 at 15:15  
Blogger john in cheshire said...

No, no no. Not second home expenses. I worked away from home for 18 years and claimed expenses. They amounted to not much more than £100/day plus transport - about £400/week for 46 weeks = approx. £18,500 p.a. All had to be supported by receipts. I was a busy man and I still had to find time to fill in my expenses claims form each week. It isn't difficult. So, I don't accept any politician excusing their behaviour by saying they are so over-worked that they have difficulty in making legitimate and honest claims. They found enough time to make the claims in the first place, I notice. I would reduce the number of MPs, reduce their salary and abolish any expenses. Then let's see how many of these entities actually want to do the job.

8 May 2009 at 15:16  
Blogger Forlornehope said...

You are a little unfair to the elegant Sarah Beeny. All she appears to do is to encourage people to invest their own money and hard work in renovating property. Investment and hard work are the basis of the capitalist system. Enriching oneself at the public expense is a completely different matter.

8 May 2009 at 17:46  
Anonymous Voyager said...

In the real world - where Exemption from HMRC regulations is not enshrined in the Finance Act 2003 - expenses are subject to receipts and strict scrutiny by The Revenue.

Moving homes allowance is configured on that used for Civil Servants and anything above that paltry allowance is subject to Income Tax and National Insurance. Even Christmas parties are taxed if more than one bottle of wine per table appears.

Entertainment Costs are NOT deductible unless entertaining foreign guests for export purposes.

It seems funny that MPs have what the Germans call Narrenfreiheit or the Licence of Loons - we really do have Lords of Misrule

8 May 2009 at 17:59  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace

Good post, good comments. I shall remember the Joseph Goebbels quote and also the Narrenfreiheit. Could the latter somehow be worked into the EU's national anthem 'Ode to narrenfreiheit?'.

8 May 2009 at 18:19  
Anonymous Mishae said...

Tantalization explanation station. What does God make of all this?

8 May 2009 at 19:23  
Blogger ZZMike said...

I'd be willing to bet that the average businessman's expense accounts are reviewed under microscopes to ferret out the slightest questionable charge.

I also wonder whether these people spend any of their own money (on such essentials as "... £3 for eight sachets of mulled wine, 69p for biscuits, £2.50 for eyeliner").

By "their own money", we mean, of course, money that's been collected from the People.

As long as we're on a literary bend, I might point out that "Who watches the watchers" has been used in that current dystopian novel, "Watchmen".

Also, after "Narrenfreiheit" I present "Narrenschiff" (or "Stultifera Navis"), apparently an apt metaphor for Parliament.

len: "Any prospect of a politician being a public servant nowadays seems laughable." I doubt you'll find anyone (on either side of the pond) in a position of government who actually thinks of themselves as "servants".

Servants are the little men (and women) who come and go, with as little notice as possible, to tidy up the various messes brought about after a hard day at the Commons, writing just and wise laws.

8 May 2009 at 20:55  
Blogger Janet said...

"Scamgate or rip-offgate spring readily of the tongue, Your Grace. As do fraudgate and swindlegate." All good suggestions Gnostic, but it seems to me the only gate this bunch of freeloaders should be considering is Traitor's Gate.

8 May 2009 at 21:31  
Blogger Willie said...

Your Grace.
I seem to have arrived at a personal tipping point. I have been a poor communicant for the last thirty years and my failure to do nothing more than observe the moral decay in public life now concerns me. These politicians have no moral compass as they are from the first generation that was never given one in the 1970s. What can be done to ensure the return of moral values to our country and of course the EU? Does the Cof E need to mount a crusade to recover Westminster to the side of the true believer? Could we through some slightly bizarre transubstantiation see Your Grace appear (from the clouds?) as a latter day Cromwell and cast out the Devils?
Sorry for the theological juxtaposition but the grey matter appertaining to it has been dormant.

8 May 2009 at 22:27  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Willie,

His Grace is indeed considering standing for Parliament. He is pondering the how, why and wherefore.

8 May 2009 at 22:31  
Anonymous Oliver Cromwell said...

"Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money."

I wonder how many of our politicians are receiving bribes from the petrodollar-funded OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference) to promote the Islamisation of Britain?

8 May 2009 at 22:42  
Blogger Pete said...

if these scum believed in the British constitution (1689 Bill of Rights and Common Law) they would know that British Law is based on intent and reasonable actions.

The political class obviously have no idea of what reasonable behaviour is; and they have sold their souls to the Napoleonic code based EU soviet where the WRITTEN law is all that matters - not the intent.

this; your grace ; is so totally antithetical to the British Constitution and way of life that it makes them all traitors; swindlegate should indeed be renamed Traitors' Gate; and the hoons spread around our towns & cities in a manner befitting such traitors !

9 May 2009 at 00:05  
Blogger Willie said...

Your Grace.
If you are thinking of re-entering the fray in a temporal form and having to leave an appropriate position at Our Lord's hand (foot?)therefore, it doesn't say much for the value of the Lords Spiriual in the Upper Chamber who might have at least kept you informed and less needful of reappearing amongst us.
However cometh the hour, cometh the .. whatever. To which city's gate will you append your fiery cross?

9 May 2009 at 00:20  
Anonymous Hank Petram said...

Is Your Grace pondering which constituency would be most suitable? Where else, Your Grace, but Canterbury? A safe Tory seat, to judge from the 2005 result (21,000 votes to 13,000), but there would be the present incumbent to dispose of. His name, I learn, is Brazier, which might suggest . . . No, no, perish the thought, that would be too cruel, as Your Grace is only too painfully aware.

9 May 2009 at 03:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


More in todays saturday Telegraph
"• Ben Bradshaw, the Health Minister, switched the designation of his second home to a property he shares with his partner in west London. Although the couple initially split the mortgage costs, Mr Bradshaw now claims the entire interest bill on the property – despite owning only half the property. "

9 May 2009 at 04:23  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Janet, Traitor's Gate works very well for me. :D

9 May 2009 at 07:50  
OpenID jamestheless said...

Two Elephant Lamps for £134.30, bought by a well-known Tory frontbencher.If the Tory in question was a Eurosceptic, it may have been an attempt to demonstrate the presence of "the elephant in the room".

9 May 2009 at 11:27  
Anonymous len said...

Mishae 19:23
What does God make of all this?
Ecclesiastes 12:13,
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is mans all. For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

9 May 2009 at 13:11  
OpenID curly15 said...

If only they could be despatched in the manner of Your Grace's late earthly body.

9 May 2009 at 13:52  
Blogger brian said...

Remember that these tawdry, tainted, people are making decisions regarding the governance of this country every single day [if they can find time off from maximising their allowances and expenses]: about foreign police, defence, law, justice, political correctness, racial matters, policing, and so on and so on. They cannot entirely separate their personal venality from their public duties because it is a culture, an attitude to life, a mindset, and it is malign and loathsome. We should bring to account those who have abused the present much over lax rules and claw back that which has been defrauded from the taxpayers, prosecute them and eject them from parliament [let us not forget those venal, treacherous labour peers].

9 May 2009 at 15:59  
Blogger brian said...

Darling is Chancellor of the Exchequer and he's milking the system in a gross way. Jack Straw is Justice Minister and he 'realises' just prior to publication of the expenses that he has made a 'mistake', [accounting is not his strong suit]. Funny how all the mistakes, errors, overlooking of items, all happen to benefit them. Strange isn't it? Woollas, Smith, Blears, Hoon, Prescott, Balls... really, the list of these truly repellent creatures goes on and on. It is far easier to list those who do not defraud the taxpayer - a very short list, indeed. They are not worthy of our trust and should resign or be sacked. Does Brown have the moral authority to do that? No, I thought not.

9 May 2009 at 16:10  
Blogger Malthebof said...

It resembles the 'Nuremberg Defence', I was only (within the rules) obeying orders.

10 May 2009 at 10:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace,

Whilst we fulminate (quite rightly) about the gross abuse which the Daily Telegraph has revealed, we should not apportion all untruth to Parliamentarians.
It is not surprising that the New Testament describes Satan as "The Father of Lies".
On page 12 of the Telegraph 9/5/09 I read in an article about a list of names discovered at Auschwitz that "there have been suggestions that the list might consist of names from a British SS Division that fought on the side of the Nazis in the Second World War."
Will the paper nail this lie about a British SS Division in as spectacular a fashion as it has over false claims by M.Ps.
Perhaps Your Grace could provide encouragement.

10 May 2009 at 16:37  
Anonymous no nonny said...

Re Anon @ 1637. Yes - I too am interested in what's making the front pages and why.

Fascinating that scandal about money and pornography actually makes it into some US headlines, also. No fuss anywhere about these people subverting our culture and giving our country away - basically to said Nazis and their commie brethren.

Ah well - Radix malorum est Cupiditas.

10 May 2009 at 20:16  

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