Mark Steel: No place for arrogance

The boom years are over. The rules have changed
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The Independent Online

But the common feature of these recent expenses stories is the MPs seem aggrieved they should even be required to try and cover their fiddling up. So they get caught making claims such as £35,000 for a second house, which is actually a rocket; "As Under Secretary for the Arts it is essential I have a view on cultural output from comets, and given the distance of the outer galaxy from my constituency, the rocket is essential"; or "My second house is a lump of gold"; or "It was essential for my constituency work that I bought the airport". And they get tetchy when they're questioned about it.

And then they get away with it. So even with the porn film issue, MPs make statements like: "The cause of this unfortunate incident is the complex regulations surrounding porn on expenses, so I suggest a new code of practice restricting members to two films a week, excluding girl-on-girl action, or three for members representing rural constituencies."

So you see these stories and wonder if you've missed something, because the issue isn't, as they all claim, that the rules are too vague, it's that they've FIDDLED A BLOODY HOUSE. Maybe they'll have the same attitude if one of them is found guilty of murder. A series of colleagues will come on the radio to say: "Well yes, strictly speaking, feeding one of his constituents to a crocodile is against the code if we're being rigid, and certainly the rules need to be clarified in this regard, but he's an excellent MP and a very fine ambassador for our upholstery industry."

But it's part of the ethos they all celebrated for so long, that to take what you want isn't just acceptable, it's to be admired as the attitude that makes us "vibrant" and "modern". This is why there's now a generation of young people in business who think they look impressive if they go on The Apprentice and snarl "When I want something done, it's DONE; even before I've decided to do it", or "When I want something I GET IT, and if that means setting fire to a child's pet, well that's the puppy's fault for being a LOSER". Then they're given a task of buying a loaf of bread but get eggs by mistake and on the way back drive a van into the lion enclosure at London Zoo and have to be rescued by helicopter and then wet themselves. Then they all end up screaming: "I did my job perfectly but Tasmine who was supposed to draw a map of the bread shop failed and Gareth who was project consultant for predator-avoidance was useless."

Throughout the boom years, arrogance and greed were celebrated and politicians would do anything to be seen on a yacht with some billionaire. Characters such as Madoff and Stanford were hailed as icons. And when your heroes are fiddling entire continents why would have any qualms about fiddling a second house or a selection of porn films.

But these people don't seem to realise the rules have changed and now that sort of behaviour attracts contempt. Maybe someone should organise a protest against all this.

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