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Richard Ingrams

Richard Ingrams: Why do wealthy politicians need to fiddle expenses?


I register indignation over MPs' expenses only when those concerned are known to be very rich in the first place. This applies to quite a few of them, including the Prime Minister himself who, though enormously wealthy, nevertheless put in a claim for £600 for the pruning of a giant wisteria at his country seat in Oxfordshire.

Indignation likewise should be felt in the case of two of the Labour peers suspended this week for claiming huge sums for bogus home allowances. Lord Bhatia is known to be a millionaire, while the Labour benefactor Lord Paul is described in press reports as a steel magnate and one of the richest men in England.

In this week's House of Lords debate over the suspension, another Labour peer, Lord Alli, accused his fellow peers of racial bias against the three offenders – the third being the Bangladesh-born Lady Uddin.

He might just as well have asked whether racial bias was not responsible for their being elevated to the House of Lords in the first place – all three political parties being keen to show their multicultural credentials by promoting coloured spokesmen whenever possible. The same argument could just as well be applied to Lord Alli himself, a relatively obscure but wealthy independent television entrepreneur befriended by Tony Blair.

Missing report could have been useful

From long experience we know how very reluctant the legal authorities are to admit to any errors or omissions. Which is why I doubt that the release by Kenneth Clarke of the so-called "Dr Kelly file" will add anything to our knowledge about the death of the weapons inspector.

The move is made in an attempt to appease the group of doctors who have publicly questioned the official view that Dr Kelly committed suicide. They will now be able to read the full report of the pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt, who recently announced that Dr Kelly's death was "a textbook suicide". But Dr Hunt's opinions were already public knowledge: he gave lengthy evidence to the Hutton inquiry, as did toxicologist Alexander Allan, whose report has now also been made public.

One document which will not be released – because it has gone missing – is the report of the two paramedics who examined Kelly's body in situ, both of whom were puzzled by the lack of blood. ("I just think it incredibly unlikely that he died from the wrist wound we saw," one of them, Dave Bartlett, said later in an interview.)

According to a report last week in the Oxford Times, the paramedics' patient report form normally would have been passed to the Thames Valley Police at the time but the force was reportedly "unable to comment".

Religion, marriage and other elastic concepts

Purists are fighting a losing battle to preserve proper punctuation, their special concern being the apostrophe and correct use thereof. I would like to make a plea for more rigorous use of inverted commas, so important when words are being so regularly commandeered by propagandists.

Take, for example, the Church of Scientology, recently attacked yet again by the fearless BBC investigator John Sweeney. The word church when used by Scientologists ought always to be put in inverted commas because it is certainly doesn't belong to one of the world's great religions.

The founder of Scientology, the fraudster L Ron Hubbard, simply wanted to con people into thinking it was a religion because he thought, correctly, that starting a new religion was a good way to make a lot of money. So he called it a church and even used the cross to deceive people into thinking that Scientology was in some way linked to Christianity.

Also deserving inverted commas is the word marriage, as in the expression gay marriage. Marriage, by its definition, involves a man and a woman. You cannot logically have a marriage between two men or two women. The same applies to the expression gay community, as there is no such community in any meaningful sense of that word.