Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

43 and never been spanked.

LET me tell you about a benefits cheat.

In 2005 he got a job which gave him access to the public purse, from which he obtained thousands of pounds to equip a posh London home which was already quite-well furnished.

He used the money to buy a £331 armchair, a £493 cabinet, and a pair of elephant lamps for £134.50. He also got a £750 Loire table, a birch Camargue chair worth £432 and a birdcage coffee table for £238.50. He got us to pay for Egyptian cotton sheets from the White Company, a £454 dishwasher, a £639 range cooker, a £702 fridge freezer, a £20 toaster, a £35 children's mattress, and a £30 doormat.

Having fitted out the house he decided to sell it, and moved to a new home in Surrey. Once there he carried out the same trick and dipped his hand into the taxpayer's pocket to fund the moving costs and stamp duty to the value of £13,259. When he stayed in a hotel for a night during the move, he thought the public should pay his £500 bill. He took his furniture with him, and his bottom still sits in our armchair.

In the two years that followed he demanded - and received - public funding of £45,193 which paid for his mortgage on the new house, his utility bills, TV licence, council tax and telephone costs, which he thought he deserved despite being among the top 10 per cent of earners in the UK.

The man's misdemeanours are well-known and have caused public revulsion. His punishment was to repay £7,000, and to be made Secretary of State for Education. He now tells us how to raise our children, for which he is paid from that same public purse a grand total of £145,492 a year. He has not learned from his offence, and still makes us pay for his mortgage interest, council tax, home insurance and utilities.

Then there's a 22-year-old girl from a good family who was going to start university next month. During the riots last week she, her sister and a friend went out to rubber-neck what was going on and were drawn to the Argos store in Croydon, where a gang of 100 other people had torn through the shop stealing stock.

The girl didn't steal anything. She didn't smash anything. Her sister had nicked some chewing gum from a Kwiksave. The girl and her friends were arrested outside the shop, and when they were hauled to court last week all admitted intent to steal and were sentenced to six months in jail.

Now, there are looters who carried out awful deeds and caused terrible damage and deserve a strong sentence, but Shonola Smith isn't one of them. If you sentenced her to go down to Argos and fix the shop up that's all the punishment she'd need and she'd never do it again.

Intending to commit a crime is different to actually committing one. Getting swept up by an event is different to a pattern of behaviour planned and conducted over a period of years. Michael Gove is a a greedy man who has gained financially from playing a system which was never intended to pay for sheets, doormats or flippin' elephant lamps. But he has never been brought to court, and nor will he, because he was "following the rules" which he helped to write himself.

Shonola was stupid, and Gove was clever. She has learned that rules are just for the poor, and he has learned how to get away with it. The law must be robust, it seems, except with those who make it.

Dishface said of the rioters last week: "You will feel the full force of the law. And if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to face the punishment."

Michael Gove is 43.

Behind bars            Not behind bars