One Rant at a Time

Whatever heaves into view........better keep its head down.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

It's Everywhere

I'm just loving this cash-for-honours controversy. We've suddenly discovered that people are actually giving money to our rulers in exchange for titles and status. Oh, and it's never happened before, has it? I mean, those Kings in the Middle Ages were far too ethical to give away titles for money, weren't they? Before the Labour Party kicked the hereditary peers out of the House of Lords, I would have thought that half those old guys came from families that had bought their titles.

Now, I'm not complaining that all of a sudden we're pointing a bright searchlight on those that "expect" their donations to be recognised in some way. That's fine, good and very democractic in a Stalinist up-against-the-wall sort of way.

But what does piss me off is the fact that everyone is suddenly acting as if this sort of thing is totally unacceptable. And, in a way, out political leaders are also trying to disassociate themselves from anything so grubby.

Come on guys and girls, this is how it's been since the first outsider in the cavemens' tribe tried to bribe his way into the clan leader's good books with a choice piece of mastodon steak! Ever since there was prestige and power, there have been people trying to get close to that source of that prestige and power, and using whatever means at their disposal.

So when Mr Industrialist decides to give a squillion quid to the Tories or the Labour party, he's doing it for one of three reasons. One, he quite fancies being called "Lord Snootypants" and his wife quite fancies putting one over on the other ladies of the manor.

Two, he wants to rub shoulders with the great and the good, the powerful, the glamorous, and by being someone with deep pockets gives him that access.

Or three, he reckons that by being close to the folks who pull the levers of power, he might be able to get a hand on one of those levers and maybe tweak it a little this way or that - you know, get planning permission for his megastore, get his megamerger approved, that sort of thing.

And you know what? This isn't new! It's been going on, around the world, since we first started walking on two legs.

When we read stories about Italian Prime Ministers who aren't above a little "greasing the wheels of politics", or African kleptocracies that are bleeding their countries dry, or when we watch Bond films in which the hero is taking on corrupt Russian generals, we're not exactly breaking new territory here.

What is new, though, is the sudden outburst of moral aeration that's going on. All of a sudden everyone's beating their chest and bleating about corruption, the appearance of corruption and the dangers this poses to democracy.

Let's just cut the crap and admit it. We're innately corrupt. Doesn't matter what level we operate at, we're all at it. Somehow.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Peter Principle in Action

Let's talk about Tessa Jowell.

Who? I hear you say.

That's Tessa as in M-I-N-I-S-T-E-R, Jowell as in C-U-L-T-U-R-E. In other words, a high-ranking member of the Ditch Blair Project. She's the one who reportedly knew nothing about a £340,000-odd mortgage that her husband took out on their home, and the one who was apparently never told that he managed to pay that mortgage off (with a little help, allegedly, from Silvio Berlusconi), so that a short while later, she could co-sign on yet another mortgage on the same home and not even think to ask a couple of questions.

Without even going near the allegations of international wrongdoing here, can we just focus for a moment on the ridiculousness of Jowell's ignorance of her own financial affairs? When you or I take out a mortgage, it's a pretty big event. We're selling our soul, giving up a hefty chunk of our income to service a whacking great loan. Now I can appreciate that to a multimillionaire, £340k isn't going to be too much to worry about. In fact, some prople are so rich that they can find that sort of money in petty cash, and so not even have to worry about a mortgage. Clearly, Ms Jowell and her husband David Mills aren't quite that rich, as they needed to traipse down to the Halifax and go on bended knee before the loans manager.

But she has said that she never knew the first mortgage had been paid off. Oh silly me, I completely overlooked the fact that a whacking great sum WASN'T BEING SUCKED OUT OF THE FAMILY BANK ACCOUNT EACH MONTH like it had been. Girly laugh, aren't I dim, etc etc. At least I have enough to pay the kids' school fees now.

Then, when her husband asked her to sign up for the second mortgage, she clearly didn't read the bit where it ask you "do you have another mortgage?" because, according to her, she didn't ask her husband about the first mortgage and how it suddenly got paid off. Gosh, well, you know, it's all a bit complicate for me, titter titter.

Tessa, dearheart, get a grip. You're a freaking Minister of the Crown. You're supposed to know this stuff. At the very least, you're supposed to be able to balance your own cheque book, and I would hazard a guess that even the lowest-wattage bulb would think to ask her partner how he'd been so clever as to pay off a THREE HUNDRED AND FORTY THOUSAND POUND MORTGAGE in less than a year. Or are you really so rich that these things don't matter to you? And if so, why did you need a mortgage in the first place?

So, assuming that everything really was above board and whiter than white, and that your husband is a financial genius who managed to turn nothing into £340k within a year, then all we lesser mortals have to worry about is the fact that our government includes a bimbo who can't even read her bank statement.

It's one of two things. It's either criminal incompetence or criminal conspiracy. And I actually hope it turns out to be criminal conspiracy, because I'd hate to think that there was someone quite as incompetent as Tessa Jowell governing this country.