Magazine article The Spectator

Why Won't My Employer Pay Me to Look after My Castle While I'm in London?

Magazine article The Spectator

Why Won't My Employer Pay Me to Look after My Castle While I'm in London?

Article excerpt

Rod Liddle wants to know why the taxpayer has to pay for Douglas Hogg's moat and Phil Woolas's groceries, but nobody will subsidise his own extravagant needs - and is offended by MPs' attempts to posture as the victims of an impersonal 'system'

The thing that puzzles me is why did Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, need to buy a whole box of tampons? I can understand that he might wish to look at one, out of curiosity. But it seems profligate, if you're the taxpayer, to shell out for a whole boxload. Couldn't he have just borrowed one from his missus, if he was that interested? Apparently you are breaching the House of Commons rules if you claim for tampons for someone else - and so Phil is bang to rights. But it is O K if you are a lady and wish to use them for the purposes intended by the manufacturer. When you think about it, this is a little puzzling, too. Is there something about life in the House of Commons which predisposes women towards unnaturally heavy menstrual cycles? The rest of our womenfolk buy their own sanitary wear, no matter where they live or what hours they might work.

And then there's this: the tampons (and indeed 'panty-liners') Phil bought were part of a grocery order from a supermarket - for which you and I paid the whole amount.

Why? Why are we paying them to feed themselves, given that we already pay for their second homes? Is there any other job in which grocery bills can be charged up to the state?

I can understand a small weighting allowance for London; I can understand, to a degree, an entertainment allowance for, you know, taking potential donors out to dinner and offering them a knighthood. But regular grocery bills, when the Commons shuts up shop earlier than most offices?

You may think Phil's experimental tampon allowance is small beer compared to Hugless D ogg's upkeep of his bloody moat - and you'd be right. You and I have to hire someone from the local village at our own expense to dredge our moats, some ghastly agricultural labourer on his uppers and short of a limb or two who has recently been convicted of prising open the church poor-box. And I have searched hard for an employer who might pay some garrulous and hideous peasant woman to come in and look after my castle while I'm doing fabulously inconsequential work in London, but to no effect. Hugless gets it all paid for - the moat, the washerwoman, the gardener. Living allowances which enable Hugless D ogg - sorry, Viscount Hailsham these days - to pretend he's the bleedin' Count of Monte Cristo at our expense. Yep, check. The Tories, for sheer purblind cheek and venality easily outdo their cheapskate Labour counterparts on screwing the taxpayer for all he's worth.

Labour politicians always set their sights too low, usually at around crotch level. And this may, in the end, determine how you vote at those June Euro elections, vis-a-vis the competing demands upon our money, Labour vs Tory: tampons and panty-liners vs a moat and a chandelier. Unless, of course, you decide to vote BNP instead, having read of the Conservative MP James Gray's request to the Fees Office to stump up for a Remembrance Day wreath and decided that enough is enough.

There is a word for the likes of Mr Gray, a rude word connected directly to the object of Mr Woolas's strange obsession; a word you do not read too often in The Spectator but which is utilised often enough where I am right now, in Mr Gray's constituency, and about him. …

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