Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 19 October 2012

The dog returneth to his vomit

Talk about recidivism! No sooner do we drag Westminster's finest away from one trough than they have their noses buried in another.

This time it's the rent scandal; they're all renting from each other while we foot the bill.

Something about it seemed uncannily familiar, until I realised that it's similar scam to one that was rife, albeit in rather different social circles, when I briefly worked in a housing benefit department many years ago (it involved home-owners swapping unemployed offspring rather than expense-funded flats but the aim was broadly the same).

This ought to call for a new installment of 'Expenses: the Musical', but the muse is elusive and, in any case, the quick-witted Oxfordshire Geek has a sharply-written song parody posted already, while Caedmon's Cat presents the story in his own inimitable style (and provides the title of this post).

So I shall turn my attention instead to George Osborne, who had the bad luck to be spotted in a first class railway carriage with a standard class ticket. Rather than travel with the plebs - oops, sorry; voters - he had his aide pay £189.50 for an upgrade.

Such an occurrence might have escaped public notice but for the wonders of modern technology; a television journalist in the train, who presumably couldn't believe her luck, tweeted the ensuing conversation to a waiting world:
“Very interesting train journey to Euston Chancellor George Osborne just got on at Wilmslow with a STANDARD ticket and he has sat in FIRST CLASS.”
  “His aide tells ticket collector he cannot possibly move and sit with the likes of us in standard class and requests he is allowed to remain in First Class.
“Ticket collector refuses.”
“George Osborne pays £160 to stay in first class!”
Cue an enigmatic silence on the part of Osborne's spokesman while, one assumes, frantic behind-the-scenes damage-limitation talks are being held. For the news to break on the same day as Mitchell's resignation leaves the Conservatives uncomfortably vulnerable to criticism.

Here in the Tavern, however, it has prompted a nostalgic singalong from the days when Sir Nicholas Winterton, too, found second class travel a democratic gesture too far.

Oh the posh, posh travelling life, the travelling life for me,
Comfy seats and lots of tables, complimentary tea;
If you can’t enjoy the benefits then why be an MP?
Proles Out, Stewards at Hand, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh

The people there in second class will always make me frown,
Their noisy children anger me, they never settle down
But I am on expenses so ta-ta and toodle-oo
As I board first class and never have to sit with any of you.

Oh the posh, posh travelling life, the travelling life for me,
Comfy seats and lots of tables, complimentary tea;
And all the other passengers are people just like me,
Proles Out, Stewards at Hand, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh

In first class I am sure to find an atmosphere to suit me
If there was any justice then the public would salute me;
They’d understand why I avoid all peasants great and small;
When crowded in with hoi polloi one just can’t think at all!

Oh the posh, posh travelling life, the travelling life for me, 
Comfy seats and lots of tables, complimentary tea; 
When I'm travelling at your expense I do it stylishly 
Proles Out, Stewards at Hand, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, P-O-S-H, P-O-S-H, P-O-S-H... 



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