If one of my old editors were alive today I suspect he might write the following memo to his staff.
"It is inevitable that the words 'MPs', 'expenses' and 'scandal' may, from time to time and quite reasonably, occur in this newspaper. However, I do not ever wish to see these words appearing next to each other."
I am not sure what more there is to write about this depressing saga; God knows enough real and virtual print has been expended on it to drive even the most ardent bean counting member of ICA (England and Wales) to despair. I cannot get away from the feeling these three words, or their French equivalent (deputé, frais, scandale), would never appear in the same sentence in the press here. The very idea that France's elected representatives should account for the spending of personal allowances or that we should learn they spent it on moats, chandeliers, loo rolls, HobNobs or whatever, is risible enough. Resign? Add incredulity to ruptured spleens and mass hilarity.
There were raised eyebrows a few years ago when food bills run up at the taxpayers' expense by Jacques Chirac when Mayor of Paris, and his wife Bernadette were investigated. The receipts revealed a penchant for foie gras, truffles, organic yoghurt and chocolate mousse. While it was true the £100 the Chiracs allegedly spent on fruit and vegetables and £36 on tea and coffee a day suggested they were doing their five-a-day and caffeine intravenously at the same time, but nothing ever came of it mostly because he was by then president and beyond prosecution.
The Frenchman believes the British row is heading into dangerous territory. He points out, presciently I fear, that far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France's Front National, has made a successful career out of claiming, among other things, that the French political system is rotten; so successful he was voted into the run-off in the 2002 presidential election.
But never mind the chocolate biscuits and toilet paper. Call me venal and disgusting but in what privileged parallel universe do people "forget" or "not realise" they have paid off their mortgage? I know interest rates are low, but we're not talking about settling the milk bill here.
Perhaps I should be less cynical. And perhaps I should have kept La Fille at home today after she woke up this morning and announced: "I can't go to school. I've a headache, my eyes hurt, my tummy's sore and my leg is broken."
Quid pro quo
1 week ago