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

Monday, 28 May 2012

Broken Britain.

IF politicians have one thing in their favour it's the fact that we can sack them.

It doesn't happen very often, because people don't like change and these days if you can't vote with a phone app half of us can't be bothered to haul arse down to the polling station.

But in theory the possibility exists. It's the one check on their pomposity, and very rewarding it is too on the rare occasions you see it wielded.

Except in the case of Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the co-chairman of the Tory party and Minister Without Portfolio who's been found out not only failing to declare thousands in rental income from a flat she owns but scamming the taxpayer for a further £165.50 a night while staying at a friend's house.

A friend, it must be said, who did not charge her.

A friend, furthermore, who did not write any receipts.

Baroness Warsi says it was "occasional" over a period of about six weeks. The friend says it was regular enough she had her own front door key. She says she paid another friend, but if so the money never made it back to the man who owned the property. And there's still the question of how you can claim expenses for something there's no receipt for, which is something only MPs seem to manage.

Over the six month period being discussed she claimed £12,247.

No-one's quite sure what happened but it stinks to high heaven, so Parliament will hold an inquiry which will probably say everything smells of roses and leave us wondering really went on.

At best Warsi's been swindled, and so have we as it was our money. She must be an idiot to forget she had a spare house in London and surely immoral to think that making thousands in profit from renting it out didn't clash with asking the taxpayer to fund her accommodation.

The fact she also wants housing benefit cut for people who struggle to find somewhere live elicits a hollow laugh when you realise she probably has two or three homes of her own.

At worst, Warsi is a fraud, a charlatan, and utterly amoral if she took money from those without much to spare, lined her own pockets, and did it all with a smile on her face and sense of entitlement while accepting free meals from a friend who had allowed her to stay.

Which of those two possibilities is right we may never know but either way she hardly has the ideal qualities for someone who sits in Cabinet meetings and represents the Government in public.

But we can't vote her out, because we didn't vote her in.

Warsi benefited from the drive for a more modern, open and diverse Tory party by being selected to fight a seat in Dewsbury which has a large Muslim population.

She not only failed to win, she even managed to cut the Tory share of the vote; a towering failure by anyone's standards.

Although she was unelectable the Prime Minister thought she made him seem nicer, because she was a woman and she was brown. So she was made a minister in the House of Lords from which position she tells everyone else what to do, both in her party and the country.

And unless she jumps or is shoved, that's where she's staying. Regardless of whether she resigns her job she will for evermore be a Baroness.

I could swear a Tory policy document said last week we ought to make it easier to sack people. Yet we could probably sack the Queen with less effort and mess than we can get rid of Warsi.

She's may be innocent of any crime, but even if not she'd remain in Parliament just like Lords Hanningfield and Taylor who've served jail time, and Baroness Uddin who somehow didn't.

No, I'm afraid there's only one way we can be shot of her and that's the court of public opinion.

That's when newspapers do their greatest public service - when the system fails, the state protects itself, and the people get stiffed. Reporters turn over the stones to see what's slithering around underneath, there is a truly public prosecution and The Reader gets to be the judge and jury.

It's a very imperfect kind of rough justice and not always right, but there are times when that's all that's left and it's the verdict politicians fear the most. Warsi's role in public life has been all about PR and what makes her boss look good. She won't go until she makes him look bad.

Failing that, we could reform the House of Lords and have mid-term elections for all of its members rather than pack it with those who are appointed or born to sit in it. There are plenty who are in it now who'd get elected - Betty Boothroyd for one - and quite a few who'd get booted, too. Yes John Prescott, I'm looking at you.

Frankly anything would be better than leaving it as a corrupt, lazy, allowance-fed, so-called check on power which in fact lets power run rampant because half its members are hand-picked by the people in power in the first place and the rest rarely bother to take part.

Give people a title if they deserve it by all means, but what's the point of giving space on the bench to Margaret Thatcher or Richard Attenborough when they don't turn up? What's the point in appointing people like Prescott who everyone was tired of, or Warsi who'd already been rejected for the job?
 
The argument against reform is usually that if it ain't broke it don't need fixing.

To which I reply, what do you do when it is broken?

Let people break it some more?