No hypocrisy please, we're British

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The story so far: There is much complaining about the way Members of Parliament receive outside payments that may affect their behaviour as our representatives.

Not to put too fine a point on it, there is a feeling that MPs are not to be trusted.

So MPs decide that in order to get MPs trusted again, MPs will reveal all the relevant payments made to them, and MPs will be trusted to reveal them all.

In due course, the list is published and it turns out that Roy Hattersley is the richest MP in the House.

Everyone knows that this is not true, because people like Edward Heath and David Mellor are rolling in consultancy money that they have not declared on the MPs' list of money received.

When taxed with this, Mellor and Heath and other people who are rolling in consultancy money say that they have only declared stuff which is relevant to their role as MPs, and that their other money has nothing at all to do with their role as an MP.

Pull the other one, says half of the public.

OK, then, says the other half of the public - why not resign as MPs and see if those consultancy fees are still paid to you on merit after you have left Parliament; so we will know if you were right or not? Otherwise, just declare everything you have got and we will make up our minds whether it is relevant or not.

This does not appeal to Mellor or Heath.

Trust us, they say.

But the whole reason that this system was started was precisely because we do not trust MPs, we say.

The end result is that:

1. A lot of MPs have declared some of their earnings

2. Nobody trusts MPs any more than they did before, especially MPs like Mellor, Heath etc.

3. A lot of people trust MPs even less than before

4. Everyone now feels Roy Hattersley is the only person in Parliament you can have any confidence in.

Meanwhile, everyone abroad is looking on with amusement at yet another example of British hypocrisy.

I am sorry to have to say this, because it always comes as a shock when we realise that the world regards us as two-faced, or "Perfide Albion", as the French admiringly refer to us.

The British do not like to be thought of as hypocrites, because they have been told from birth that the British are straight dealers and gentlemen, that we believe in fair play, that an Englishman's word is his bond, etc, that it's not cricket etc etc, that we say what we mean and don't beat about the bush, etc etc etc.

Unfortunately, this is a load of undeclared income. The British are so adept at double-dealing and double-thinking that they have even brainwashed themselves into believing they are not so. We say one thing and mean another. We say "We must have lunch one day," and think, "Not if I can help it". We say, "How lovely!" and think "How ghastly!". So when someone tells the truth, we actually get rattled.

If, for instance, someone were to paint a portrait of the Queen at 70 and show her looking like a 70-year-old woman, one would not be surprised if there were an eruption of protest from people who wanted her painted as we would like to think she is, and not as she really is. But nobody ever raises a protest over the ridiculously idealised picture of the Queen on postage stamps and bank notes, which make her look like some teenager from a 1940s fashion magazine, the concept of which is infinitely more two-faced and double-think than, well, than MPs' undeclared income.

However, none of this will ever be ironed out while the British go on thinking of themselves as the fair and square, honest-dealing nation among all the bribe-taking, dishonest nations.

No matter that even Sir Richard Scott is shocked by the way the Government twisted the meaning of what he had to say in the Scott report.

No matter that we have wholeheartedly adopted a new profession that actually sets out to be two-faced and hypocritical, called spin doctoring.

No matter that Prime Minister's Question Time is called Prime Minister's Question Time for the very good reason that all you get is questions and no answers.

No matter that behind the net-curtained facade of new Labour, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson are said not even to be on speaking terms.

After all, life in Britain today is only a soap opera and we are the viewers, is that not so?

Now read on...