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

Thursday 25 August 2011

L'Etat, c'est moi!

JuliaM has a fine piece on Jacqui Smith's use of day-release prisoners to paint her house - or, as the Mail inevitably has it, her £450,000 house - in exchange for a donation and some plants.

It's an interesting little coda to the expenses scandal - from which, come to think about it, Smith didn't exactly emerge smelling of roses - and the reasons for which senior politicians helped themelves to public funds.

I suspect there is a particular form of hubris here - become a political animal and eventually you can no longer distinguish your public and private personae. Thus our MPs trotted merrily off to buy top-of-the-range furnishings at our expense, believing it was part of their inalienable right to life, Liberty prints and the pursuit of valances.

Perhaps it's seeing the grace-and-favour accommodation given to those in high office - look at the Bercows, after all - but the expenses affair served to illustrate the way many MPs felt entitled to have their homes improved at public expense without performing the public functions that explain our funding of Chequers and its ilk.

Leaving aside the interesting image of the Obamas or the Portugese Ambassador popping round for an evening chez Smith and Timney - probably best not to ask what's on the television - this story somehow sums up the arrogance that confuses the office with the person doing it.

Judging by Jacqui Smith's choice of painters and decorators, it's a hard habit to break.


  1. "their inalienable right to life, Liberty prints and the pursuit of valances."

    I like it. The depressing thing is, that's what they aspire to.

  2. Cheers for link! ;)

    Over at 'Insp Gadget's', a commenter notes that one of the charity trustees is a woman Jackboots nominated for an MBE; she in turn nominated Jackboots for MP.

    How cozy...

  3. AKH, I suppose becoming a party MP is a bit like joining a religious cult; after a while, all the bizarre stuff seems quite normal and everyone around you perfectly sane.

    Thus their sacred text - aka the John Lewis list - becomes a benchmark for normality with no reference to the living conditions of the majority of UK taxpayers.

    Thanks, JuliaM, and for the info on nominations. It's a good indication that the quangocracy spend more time scratching each other's backs than a colony of chimps.

    I think I've spent too long in the classroom; the story that immediately sprang to my mind was not the Shawshank Redemption but Louis Sachar's Holes (in which the Warden requires boys in her detention camp to dig holes in the desert to find the buried treasure she is looking for).

  4. What were the plants? Cannabis, poppies or cola bushes or all of them?


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