I can't waste energy getting worked up about BBC executives claiming for parking meters, bunches of flowers, hotel rooms and taxis – it's their smug sense of superiority that makes me nauseous. Pushed into revealing the pay and expenses of their top staff, we were told it was because the corporation is now being run in a more transparent way. Actually, it was because licence-payers and journalists asked hundreds of questions under the Freedom of Information Act.
It's good news that from this autumn the pay and expenses of members of the executive board will be published every six months. I'm happy we now know the salaries of the 50 top members of staff. What is harder to swallow is the self-righteous tone people like the director general, Mark Thompson, and his chief operating officer, Caroline Thomson, adopt when talking to lesser mortals: ie anyone who does not work for the BBC nor speak its language.
MPs have borne the brunt of our anger for their ludicrous expense claims and tax avoidance tactics. There have been plenty of occasions, like the classic moment when Margaret Beckett was heckled on Question Time, when it was plain that many of them have no idea how civilians live in the real world. A world with no expense accounts, lavish homes and first-class travel.
Now, MPs have finally been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. They're paying back millions. The police have been galvanised into action. We have a new speaker who promises to carry on reforming the system. The Tories plan to ban second jobs and Sir Christopher Kelly will recommend further reforms in the autumn. I have to be optimistic, and hope that the next election will see candidates from a wider social background enter parliament. The expenses scandal has had a dramatic effect, rekindling our interest in how our democracy works.
Which brings me back to the BBC – another bunch of public servants, funded by us. Any extra revenue they create to beef up the licence fee results from the exploitation of their assets – programmes, financed in the first instance, largely by licence payers. If we have forced MPs to clean up their act, why can't the top brass at the BBC? Their pay, bonuses and pensions remain scandalously high.
Mark Thompson bleats on about wanting to keep the best talent in-house, and says pay is set at a "median level" given the BBC has to compete with the private sector. Working for the BBC is like joining a big, cosy club – I was a top executive for years. Yes, you have to sign up to the corporate philosophy, sit through dozens of totally unnecessary meetings, and spend hours listening to focus groups. In return you work with intelligent, loyal, fastidious staff. For every phone-in debacle, Sachsgate or on-air profanity, there are thousands and thousands of under-paid backroom people working their arses off for crappy pay and no bonuses, keeping the whole show on the road.
Don't obsess about on-screen talent pay. If it's too high, that's the fault of the hapless executives who agreed their contracts. All the major broadcast channels face a huge funding crisis: ITV has laid off hundreds of staff and cut programmes; Channel 4 may have to link up with BBC World; Five is still losing money.
Thompson perpetuates a myth that he has to set the pay of BBC top brass at a level which keeps them onboard – there's nowhere else they can go! Twenty-seven earn more than the Prime Minister (£194,250) and Thompson himself trousers a basic wedge of £647k. They've agreed to a pay freeze, and no bonuses till 2010 – why aren't they taking a pay cut? Like MPs, these people just don't get the mood of the nation. Unlike the 6,940 workers at BA, who have agreed to work unpaid, part-time or take unpaid leave, in order to save the hard-pressed company £10m. I'd like to see the people running the BBC put up with the same conditions (public transport and canteen meals) as their staff. They should take a 30 per cent pay cut with immediate effect. Like MPs, they need to regain our trust, and dump the self-justification. There is no excuse for a BBC salary over £300,000.
Art not imitating life: The rubbish that is 'Boogie Woogie'
The British art scene has long replaced rock'n'roll as the most fashionable gig in town. Last week, Elton John's White Tie and Tiara ball had a modern art theme, with guests wandering through the gallery he's just built next to his home in Windsor, to house an amazing collection of contemporary work. Damien Hirst, Marc Quinn, Dinos Chapman and Tracey Emin were there – one of Emin's neons was sold in the auction which raised £4m for Elton's Aids foundation.
Artists and dealers give generously to support worthy causes, which is one of the reasons why I found Boogie Woogie, a new film about the Brit Art scene, is so threadbare. Premiering in Edinburgh last Thursday, I can't imagine this pile of rubbish will get much of a release, even if it was written by Danny Moynihan, a friend of leading dealer Jay Jopling.
In the movie, a Jopling lookalike is played by Danny Huston, while Heather Graham grins like a depressive on double prozac playing an ambitious member of staff who opens her own gallery. Jaime Winstone is an artist who documents her own life – an uncharismatic Tracey Emin – while Gillian Anderson (a rich art collector) is as wooden as my bird table. It's hard to make the current art scene boring – but this turkey succeeds.
Yes, twitterati, we're all sad
Michael Jackson's death was a gift for that most vacuous of pastimes – celebrity twittering. Emily Eavis told festival-goers at Glastonbury how "sad" she was. Predictably, so were Demi Moore and Madonna, while Calvin Harris said "show sum Respect!". I could tell you what Peter Andre, Miley Cyrus and Robin Gibb thought, but who cares? If Michael Jackson could come back to earth, and the twitterati shipped off to Mars, the world would be a pleasanter place. Twitter is the fastest-growing website in the UK, with traffic multiplying 22 times over the past year. It's the ultimate meaningless pastime. When Phillip Schofield feels the need to twitter his way through an entire Heston Blumenthal meal, you know it's not exactly chic.
Balls wastes paper to save energy
What a waste of money – 20,000 copies of a leaflet are being placed in every public library containing mind-numbing platitudes telling us how to tackle climate change.
Ed Balls's department is responsible for this patronising drivel, which contains such gems as "don't put your clothes in the tumble dryer but hang them out to dry if the weather is good". "Waste less food by planning your meals ahead." Take a shower instead of a bath".... Do you want me to go on, or have you fallen asleep?
Mr Balls earns well over £100,000, and judging by his podgy face, he's not wasting much food.
By the way, did you know you can walk instead of driving everywhere? To do it, you place one foot in front of the other, and move forward.Reuse content