Wednesday, 20 May 2009


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."


Iota said...

'Depressing' is the word.

Dumdad said...

I'm glad this has all come to light. I have no problem with MPs' salaries - in fact, they could be higher - and I have no problem in charging for certain expenses.

BUT, when an MP claims £16,000 or whatever it was, for paying off a mortgage that was already paid off then that's fraud. And he or she should be jailed or fined - us ordinary people would be.

And why are some MPs saying they have done nothing wrong but they'll be handing back certain monies? Only because they've been caught out by the Telegraph's revelations.

It's a rotten government and a rotten Parliament and it's time for a change. Vote BNP (joke).

scotty1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Shame on you Dumdad for living up to your name. The BNP joke is way beyond the bounds of decency!!

Julie said...

Hi! I can't help thinking that your take on the French Parliament is somewhat unfair...

My father was a French MP (backbencher then frontbencher) for over 15 years (in the 80s/90s). I asked him recently, because of the Westminster mess, what perks and allowances he had. It is not true that the French system is less regulated than the British one. My father had generous allowances to entertain and things like taxis (always with receipts); he got a good motgage rate to buy his constituency/country house - but without any contribution towards actual paiments; he could travel for free on trains. That was about it. It is generous, but there was no way he could have got grocery bills or gardening expenses paid by the Parliament.

This said, I'm not saying that the French system is perfect, very far from it! And Chirac, as President, was a special, if shoking, case. As you may know, we French like to treat our President as a Republican monarch... Daft, isn't it?

I really enjoy you blog, BTW!


Anonymous said...

It all makes me want to gag!


Nota Bene said...

For me, the whole expenses saga is less about what they did or didn't claim for, and more about what it has revealed about the mind set of the people who want to govern us. And that is quite sad when you think about it.

Parisgirl said...

Iota, and, even more depressingly, it continues day after day.
Dumdad, agree totally (except for BNP joke). Pay MPs properly, give them set expenses, as in France, and give them grace-and-favour flats or subsidised rented accommodation.
Julie, thanks for your kind words. I think the French system is better (though it could hardly be worse!) so sorry for giving the opposite impression.
NWBD, It is sad and sickening for exactly the reason Nota Bene gives.