Rod Liddle

MPs join the huddled masses

MPs join the huddled masses
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There’s a story in the Mail on Sunday today about MPs who have been either warned about their conduct towards House of Commons expenses staff, or issued with “yellow cards” which they do not know about. Among the MPs, er, named and shamed, are Theresa May, Bob Ainsworth and Denis MacShane. A lot of the problems have come about as a consequence of the new computerised system which almost nobody can understand. But it seems to me that most of it is a consequence of the civil service staff being sanctimonious, unhelpful and whining. None of the stuff reported in the paper strikes me as being bad behaviour, per se; some of the MPs have become heated, for sure, as we all do when we are confronted with bureaucrats who refuse to take responsibility for their idiocies. Theresa May, for example, simply told the expenses staff that the new system “isn’t good enough”, which seems to me a perfectly reasonable thing to have said. As a consequence, though, she was warned about her “unacceptable behaviour” and vilified in the national press.

This is the familiar redoubt of the all-powerful bureaucrat; sanctimony and vilification when faced with complaint. They have begun putting signs up near the expenses offices warning that staff must not be subject to bad language, abuse etc. These signs always appear at places where some form of injustice is meted out by people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and where the customer feels powerless and trapped – Heathrow Airport, for example, or the Passports Agency. It is a rare pleasure to be on the side of the MPs on this issue. The expenses scandal was bad, for sure, but it is nothing to the misery inflicted upon millions of us by stupid, sententious bureaucrats.