Sleaze?

Jack Straw submitted claims for council tax he had never paid, luckily discovering his mistake and paying back £1,500 only after the High Court ruled that MP’s expenses had to be published.

Gordon Brown accidentally submitted a £150 plumbing bill twice.

Hazel Blears claimed for three different properties in one year and bought two new TVs and two new beds in 12 months.

Shahid Malik paid way below the market rent for his main home in Dewsbury, while billing the taxpayer thousands for his second home in London.

Andrew MacKay claimed full second home allowance on his London property while his wife, Julie Kirkbridge, claimed the full allowance on another home.

Elliot Morley claimed £16,800 in mortgage payments on his constituency home 20 months after repaying the loan.

And it goes on. And on.

Sleaze?

In other countries they call in corruption.

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Always check your reciepts before submitting

This morning it emerged that the Home secretary, Jacqui Smith, had made an expenses claim for porn films.

The two films, valued at £5 each, were part of a £67  Virgin Media bill submitted last June.

As we know, MPs seem to be able to claim expenses for pretty much anything, but porn is apparently one step too far. Smith’s husband, Richard Timney, took the blame and said in a statement today:

“I am really sorry for any embarrassment I have caused Jacqui. I can fully understand why people might be angry and offended by this. Quite obviously a claim should never have been made for these films, and as you know that money is being paid back.”

My guess is that the house of commons was pretty empty today as MPs were busy rummaging around drawers looking for their expenses claims.

I wonder what the next thing will be?

People power

Just watched a recent episode of Uppdrag Granskning – a popular Swedish investigative journalism programme – on the brilliant SVT Play.

This particular episode was about how Swedish state-owned financial institutions have decided to – in the middle of the finance crisis – increase the bonuses given to directors. This because of the Swedish right-wing government having changed the rules governing bonuses in state-owned companies last summer.

To add to this, the Swedish Finance Minister, Anders Borg, has spent the autumn being very outspoken against the bonus culture in the private banking sector, introducing caps on bonuses and attempting to influence other European leaders to do the same.

During the course of the programme Borg, along with several other politicians and finance directors are seen sweating in front of the cameras as they are forced to eat their own words from last summer.

However, the most interesting thing is not the programme itself. It’s a 3-minute add on, recorded one week later, showing what happened next.

Within, 24 hours, and as a result of the public outcry that ensued, the government had met and decided to change the rules regarding bonuses in state-owned companies.

Time and time again, Uppdrag Granskning manages to change things for the better. In the last couple of months it’s managed to ban cod fishing in Öresund, stopped McDonalds from paying cleaners below the minimum wage and made Sweden’s largest supermarket introduce stringent rules on the sustainability of the Norwegian salmon farms it buys from.

Basically, if a consumer problem is brought up on the programme, it’s almost guaranteed to be set right immediately.

Why does this not happen in Britain?

To Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and the Bank of England

Have you guys not heard of John Manyard Keynes? You do all have economics degrees, don’t you?

If not, I recommend reading the Wikipedia entry on Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interst and Money.

Is Mwai Kibaki a polygamist?

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I wrote about Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki’s wife, Lucy, slapping an official after being introduced by the name of Kibaki’s mistress, Wambui, last year.

Now the rumour is that Wambui is, in fact, Kibaki’s second wife. Polygamy is not actually illegal in Kenya, but this is, nonetheless, embarrassing for the ‘family man’ that Kibaki reportedly is.

Kibaki yesterday held a press conference denying the rumours:

Those Brits again

The whole world is nationalising what was previously seen as the epiphany of capitalism – the banks. Governments are pouring in billions of dollars in subsidies to failing industries. Stockmarkets are crashing.

Why have you chosen THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT to attempt to privatise Royal Mail, Peter Mandelson?

Those Brits again

Recently it’s been impossible to not notice the effects of the recession. 100,000 lost jobs every month, £500billion given to the banks and house prices dropping by 20% and it seems to be getting worse by the day.

The recession is clearly a result of unchecked capitalism and neoliberal market economics. Everyone agrees on this – even people who for years have been upholding the supremacy of the ‘free market’ are advocating that the government support failed banks and industries and introduce tougher regulations.

Since the problems have so clearly been caused by selfish, greedy bankers we should see a clear resurgence of the left. And this is indeed what we are seeing in America, where Obama, probably the most left-wing president for 50 years, is seeing popularity ratings of up to 70%.

Not so in Britain.

Here, the Conservative Party, which has been miles behind Labour over the last 10 years or so and nearly disappeared, now leads Labour by over 10% and looks certain to win the next general election.

People are moving to the RIGHT.

I just don’t get it.