In Parliamentary terms Tony McNulty is an overweight bully with the mentality of a thug. Yes, yes, it takes one to know one.
He came to the House to apologise for his expenses. For the life of me, I couldn't see why. Clearly he had done nothing wrong. There were some problems with "perception", he admitted, and the "appearance of benefit". But that didn't seem to be his fault. Far from it. If we are going to play the blame game, it was to the discredit of obervers who jumped to the wrong conclusion.
All he'd asked for was proper advice, the poor fellow.
There was some reference to the committe's decision that his, "mortgage as a fixed cost that didn't need to be abated". We didn't understand that. It's some sort of accounting mish-mash of jargon that just confused the issue. Bureaucrats! It was over this that the Commission were disagreeing with the Resources Office – so one of them was obviously wrong. The only blameless party was poor Tony McNulty who had come to the House to apologise for their faulty advice, delinquent oversight and perverse interpretations.
A boot-faced Jackie Smith looked down from the row behind. Her apology for marital porn on the public purse hadn't gone nearly as well, although she had been saying much the same.
The newspapers suggest Tony had been living with his parents in Harrow although he was actually living with his wife in Hammersmith so why he should be repaying £13,000 of the £60,000 he had claimed was the product of a selflessness we rarely see in public life? It's hard not to blame the Prime Minister. Habit is a powerful master. His solution to the expenses problem has been to appoint three competing investigators or authorities who have struggled to out-perform each other. One lot was so incompetent they wouldn't survive a professional audit and another has recommended a set of regulations that won't survive an employment tribunal ruling.
Prohibiting MPs from employing their wives is illegal. Employment law being what it is, these employees will be entitled to claim for wrongful dismissal and will get five years' pay. Multiply £25,000 by five years and 250 employees and you'll get enough to run any amount of TA training.
The third lot, the new overseeing body is the final indignity. Parliamentary supremacy is further confined by these civil servants – who are in turn constrained by the decisions of an employment tribunal. It's hard to imagine how much lower our sovereign body can sink.
There are democratic solutions to their problems, especially with the internet. But the instincts of our rulers go quite the other way, into the warren of commissions, authorities and tribunals.
The worse for them, in the end, I bet.