For the people, by the people?

A wise man one said that democracy was a government for the people, by the people. So, in theory, the English democratic political system works quite well. 100% elected House of Commons with appointed lords subject to heavy scrutiny by an independent, non-partisan committee. They’ve had some differences of opinion over the years. Most notably the long-awaited reform, House of Lords act 1999 whereby (eventually) all hereditary peerages were removed and replaced with appointments. This perturbed the Lords due to their birth right to a sense of entitlement.

Gordon Brown - (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)Gordon Brown – (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

The phrase ‘sense of entitlement’ is all too familiar after the recent financial ‘mishaps’ of epic proportions. It is a state of mind we now, with the benefit of hindsight, easily recognise in those in whom we put our misplaced trust for our money and liberties. (I should note here that it is also a state of mind recognised by most psychiatrists as an outrageous attitude held by narcissists and, of course, toddlers). So continues the revelations of greed which have been heavily garnishing the news of late. And so continue the excuses.

In the hope it will actually draw the attention away from either, there is a battle between The Bankers and The MPs, fuelled by the press, to decide who has behaved the worst. Gordon Brown denounces the bonus culture The Bankers indulged in and called for more regulation. Being the Chancellor of the exchequer for 10 years and then becoming Prime Minister, I was never really sure to whom he was making these ‘calls’, but they were made none-the-less and that’s not to say I disagree with them. Sir Fred Goodwin, who presided over the shambolic downfall of RBS, and then made away with an engorged pension we would all dream of, was a bone of contention. What was his excuse for it…? It’s within the contract and therefore legally binding. “But what about the court of public opinion?” cried the politicians, one eye firmly on the reaction of the masses. “What about it?” shrugged Sir Fred. That seemed to be the end of the matter. (That RBS would have taken about 5 hours to lose 20 years worth of Sir Fred’s pension, puts in perspective the total amount lost).

So it’s funny that a similar exchange should be repeated by the MPs when presented with their own expenses. “We were acting within the rules set” was the party line. “But what about the court of public opinion?” cried the media, with one eye on the reaction of the masses. (At which point Steven Fry interjected with a comment about the hue of Pots and kettles). Everyone has their 10 pence to throw in; everyone has an opinion. David Cameron’s is one of outrage. Vindicated by the revelation that he only claimed just over £600, Cameron took the hard-line and threatened his naughty comrades with the sack if they fail to repay invalid claims.

Austin Mitchell of Labour wrote in The Independent today on the subject. His main point seemed to be that, rather than wait until July when all private details had been ‘redacted’, these details have been release in all their glory and passed onto some slightly less highbrow publications for review and allowed the tabloids to formulate their own no doubt balanced opinion. One of my favourite lines in the piece: “but instead all our private addresses are now in the hands of journalists whom I wouldn’t trust not to flog them. We are in the lap of the sods.” This really does a good job of showing the sense of entitlement, the disdain for investigative journalism and just how out of touch with the common folk members of the House of Commons really are. Flog them? At least The Telegraph would have the good sense to get some cash for it and not just leave it on a train. Welcome to my world, Mitchell.

He colloquially signs off:

“There is a lot of anger about, because people are doing badly in the economic downturn, people are losing their jobs, and the spectacle of greedy MPs helping themselves – and some have been greedy – is very annoying. I understand that. I just do not know what to do about it.”

Annoying? Interesting choice of words. I would have said that annoyance was merely a by-product of the realisation of a fake democracy and the feeling that we’ve been taken for a ride for many, many years. Yes, annoyance was what I felt at the demo to stop the Iraq war in 2003 when over 1mm people turned up and no one listened. I was slightly annoyed when I found out that ID cards with biometric data were being made de-facto compulsory. Yes, there was definite mild annoyance when what I like to call the ‘Stalker Database’* is edging further and further towards fruition while concurrently ministers lose our details on trains and in taxis left right and centre, not to mention the astronomical costs for something which has been declared by experts as having very little preventative value. Yes, Mitchell, I suppose it is a bit annoying… But what to do about it? At the risk of sounding facetious, perhaps you should have thought about all this before you all helped yourself in the first place.

Anyway, I haven’t seen the papers run with a story like this since the Sachsgate affair. But this time it’s serious. So, if anyone wants my opinion (which, given the aforementioned sense of entitlement I highly doubt) we need to talk about it. Get it out in the open. We need the MPs to climb down off their high horses and grace us with their presence in the real world. They need to realise that they are working with us and for us. Not in spite of us and certainly not against us. There is no special treatment. We all must pay council tax and if you pay it late, pay the fine, like everyone else. If you need your moat cleaned, dip into your savings like everyone else. Ok, so maybe that last one didn’t need the ‘like everyone else’ bit on the end, but the message remains the same: For the people, by the people.

* Stalker Database (n): Database whereby all the emails and websites visited are recorded under the guise of stopping terrorist attacks.

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