As this rich diet of the expenses scandal comes back again (and again) how's the appetite? Are we full, or can we manage a little more? Or do you suffer from reflux? Maybe this is reflux.
"It'll be preoccupying you lot for months," Ann Widdecombe said. "In three weeks' time they're publishing last year's expenses, then Kelly will report, and after that it's Consideration of Members' Estimates. It'll take you through to Christmas!"
She's hopping. It was impossible even for the most fastidious MPs to comply with rules that didn't exist at the time. "I never claimed a penny for beautification, I only ever claimed for maintenance," she said. Quote of the day. I believed her. "No, not one petal!" Of course, it was her garden she was talking about.
"But if you're changing the rules retrospectively, no one can know if they're in the clear or not."
It's like the Inland Revenue ringing us up about our 2003 return. But they don't do that, do they? So how's everyone bearing up? One minister exclusively revealed that parliamentary feelings were mixed. From soundings he had taken, fear was mixed with anger, depression and resentment. Despair was also observable. A little revulsion, a streak of contempt and a small number of emotions it is now illegal to report let alone to harbour. "Thank God I'm going," said another.
An elevated Tory remarked: "At first it was demoralising but now it's paralysing. Parliament is paralysed!" Could that be right? In the Chamber things were very much as normal so it was probably true.
Just when things were getting interesting between the parties, this happens. Just when rival theories of record deficit financing are facing off, we've got our yellow gloves on to inspect our leader's two-bed flat.
I predict disappointment. The second flow of indignation is never as sweet as the first.
Anyway, this fellow Legg. The man who's presiding over this retrospective inquisition – who is he and what's he like? MPs said variously: No idea. Never heard of him. (With great feeling): "He's a civil servant!" (With magnificent languor): "Oh, he's some clerk, some ghastly little clerk who's got a chance to kick MPs and is he making the most of it?"
"Legg," a journalist said, "he's an expert in closing things down." Is this closing things down? He was appointed by Gordon Brown. Ahhhh! A Tory explained why he didn't want his name attached to the argument below. "Earlier this year I made a public submission about cutting the cost of politics and it appeared in the press under the headline 'Greedy MP wants bigger trough for his fat family.'
"There've been death threats. People have been spat at in the street. At the party conference I was a guest of a newspaper" – he was careful to point out – "at a 75-quid-a-head restaurant and a man came up to me, in front of my wife, and said 'You give your [nasty word] second home back, you [nasty word you really wouldn't say in front of an MP's wife]!"
The public laying into these servants of the public with wanton, personal abuse? It's not as if they're sketchwriters."I tell you, if I could find a job, I'd be gone tomorrow," one said. "And I'll tell you what it was that did it for me. A constituent emailed me and asked, 'What did you buy on 15th July 2005 in Dixon's?' It was for £8.99. Now every little obsessive compulsive has the right to question every single purchase for the next five years!
"I quite understand Paul Goodman leaving Parliament. He said it was the humiliation of having to account for every five minutes of his life.
"And what is he effing doing laying down what the Prime Minister should be paying his cleaner!" That was the only supportive thing I have ever heard this Tory MP saying about the PM, so we see how adversity brings people together.
This new regime – more rules and ever more detailed rules, more inspections and ever more intrusive, and retrospective rulings to change the rules that were being followed but not in the right way... It is the final image of government today. It's what they have become, what they have made. It's been happening to us for years. They did it to us and now they're doing it to themselves.
They are the living embodiment of that fictional dog, running in ever tighter circles in order to bite off his own balls.Reuse content