Magazine article The Spectator

The Market Crashes, but the Gravy Train Rolls On

Magazine article The Spectator

The Market Crashes, but the Gravy Train Rolls On

Article excerpt

It is difficult to think of anything more depressing than the recent photographs of a smirking Lord Mandy in his ermine drag flanked by two of yesterday's major groupies, Lord Falconer and Baroness Jay, she who gleefully masterminded the removal of the hereditary peers, but couldn't resist a title for herself. At the very moment the PM was berating the bonus culture, his new friend, Lord Mandy, was looking forward to trousering some serious dosh from Brussels, and senior executives of our self-congratulatory, ratings-obsessed BBC were awarding themselves £318,000 extra for doing nothing discernibly advantageous for the licence payers. A gravy train still leaves every hour for the fortunate few. Meanwhile not a hint of mea culpa from our blessed Prudence of the Manse and New/Old Labour is still peopled with the offspring of that pretty straight sort of guy who courted the very wealthy and in return gave us the Dome, all-night binge-drinking, Alastair Campbell, Ken Livingstone, the death of Dr Kelly, two wars and a lethal decline in our civil liberties.

I have recently been reading a book which I commend to anybody who still cares about our soon-to-be-bankrupt country -- The Bumper Book of Government Waste 2008, published by the TaxPayers' Alliance, which could have been sub-titled How We Are Continuously Being Taken to the Cleaners. It lists in sickening detail how the many indigenous porkers running our lives have their noses firmly in the trough. When the going is tough for most of us, how uplifting it is to know that Margaret Beckett was able to claim £52,000 for new kitchen cabinets, £46 million was the cost of 'supporting the Prime Minister' and £95 million was spent on 'supporting the Cabinet'. From the sublime to the ridiculous, the Forestry Commission offered £30,000 a year for the post of Diversity Chief to tackle the shortage of homosexual lumberjacks, suggesting a Monty Python sketch crossed with a new CD from the Village People.

Who are the civil servants who think up such non-jobs? Shouldn't we have a right under the Freedom of Information Act to know? They could be named and shamed like paedophiles, for they cook up endless non-jobs advertised in acres of Guardian newsprint devoted to overpaid public appointments that do nothing for the betterment of mankind.

We should also put aside sombre thoughts of our coming winter fuel bills and ponder the fact that £174 million has so far been spent on the inconclusive Bloody Sunday inquiry, while those responsible for the Omagh murders are still at liberty. Equally, while Sir Ian Blair calculates the amount of his retirement pension, give some thought to the expenditure of £200,000 of our money on an eightmonth study of alleged cocaine abuse by celebrity supermodels that has not resulted in any charges being brought. You and I get hammered for overstaying five minutes in a parking bay, yet have to stomach pop stars known to be serial Category A drug users getting away with it time and time again.

A packed gravy train of overpaid media personnel departs every day from Television Centre. Years ago I was offered and declined the job of running BBC Films at a salary of £30,000 plus a Ford Mondeo.

Times have changed and perhaps I should have accepted, since I read that the former head of Audio and Music took home a total of £419,000 in 2007-08. …

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