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