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

Monday, 26 March 2012

Priceless.

THERE'S nothing quite like the blindingly obvious to kick off an old-fashioned political scandal.

So the revelation that a seat at Dishface's personal marble-topped dinner table was available for £250,000 is firstly not a surprise, and secondly a meaty bit of news.

We don't like the idea of our politicians being bought and paid for by people who wish to sway official policy their way when we haven't voted for 'their way'.

But politics was ever thus. It's an expensive business, trading all that snake-oil, and it has to be funded somehow. Red, blue or yellow, the cash comes ultimately from working people who slave to give money to someone else who then spends it on the politician he chooses. It's never been fair.

And no-one signs a cheque without expecting to get something in return. None of us would. I wouldn't spend more than a tenner unless it improved my life in some way, whether by providing a bottle of sauvignon, a nice book or some new heels in the sale.

Even if I had £250,000 Dishface could not persuade me to give him it, not unless he offered to let me use his exoskeleton one day a week so I could masquerade as Prime Minister, meet the Queen and call her 'Betty', rearrange the pasty tax and leave him annoying notes to find on his return.

OF COURSE major political donors pay for access. OF COURSE politicians fall over themselves to suckle at the corporate teat. It may be a disgrace, we may wish it were different, but it's not. Not unless you want the taxpayer to start footing the bill.

Consider what the politicians are already doing with what we give them. They're planning to spend £500,000 on iPads, for a start; Dishface is splurging £20,000 on an app to help him run the country (I have often thought he thinks it's one big game of Angry Birds); and now the Parliamentary spending watchdog IPSA has decided it will not publish the kind of MPs' receipts which three years ago led to the expenses scandal.

There are three options: 1) Either these people fund themselves, and people will attempt to purchase MPs and ministers wholesale; 2) We give them the shirts off our backs too; 3) We get rid of politicians altogether, and have a system like jury service where anyone over 18 can get called up and has to do a year in Westminster on the national average wage. This last one would mean an end to political parties, which I don't think we'd miss much.

Whichever system we have, people like me will continue to poke our noses into it. It's been a sticky 12 months or so for the Press, under attack from all quarters regardless of whether we work for up, middle or downmarket papers. But the good news for us is that this latest scandal is the first to have struck Dishface without - as yet - producing immediate criticism of the journalists who uncovered it.

The normal technique of his PR machine is to blame the hacks concerned in off-the-record briefings, more often than not using the phrase 'tabloid techniques' as though it were an insult rather than a hallmark of popular and thorough journalism.

Just over a year ago a Cabinet minister was embarrassed almost to the point of resignation after being caught on camera having private conversations with journalists pretending to be someone else. Vince Cable threatened to bring down the government and discussed official policy on Rupert Murdoch's bid to take over BSkyB. Outrageously those journos and their paper were censured for using subterfuge by the Press Complaints Commission despite the obvious ethical and public interest value of their work.

This latest scandal has come from precisely the same kind of investigation - journalists using pretence to get unguarded answers from someone in power. They had hidden cameras and fake business cards, the kind of tricks which the News of the World (RIP) used so often, and for precisely the same reasons. Of course this time the journos work for a snoresheet, so perhaps that is why their 'tabloid techniques' haven't had the criticism they might if they worked for a red-top.

The fact is those techniques, and the work of all the journalists from different papers who use them, are absolutely priceless.

It's just a pity the same can't be said of our Prime Minister.

The tide always turns.