Saturday, June 6, 2009

Political Scandals and a Dollar Cure

Last week I was driving through the stately village of Woburn, the home of the Duke of Bedford and Woburn Abbey when suddenly Master Ben cried out;

"Look, TV cameras!"

As I had my eyes fixed on the car in front (just for a change) I didn't see the cameras but I supposed that it was nothing unusual as historic Woburn Abbey and its famous safari park have been the subject of many documentaries. However, on our return several hours later, just as we coming through Woburn again, we were listening to the local radio news and the announcer declared something to the effect of;

" David Van Day has been in Woburn today canvassing political opinion. The former 80s popstar is considering standing at the next election."

At which point, I nearly had a fourth car crash.

Let me explain - as I know many of you across the world will have no idea who I am talking about.

My earliest memory of David goes back a lot further than most. Because as a child I think one of my first, but definitely my first truly memorable outing to the theatre, was a trip to see the comedian Freddie Starr. Freddie was then in his heyday producing chaotic, highly comical routines which famously included impressions of Elvis Presley and Adolf Hitler. (This may account for my fetish for comedy jackboots.) Freddie's supporting act was a successful cabaret act called Guys "n" Dolls which featured the young David Van Day.

This was the start of a career that has spanned 30 years in show business, firstly with Guy's "n" Dolls, laterly with Bucks Fizz and a number of reality TV shows including I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and Reborn in the USA but principally as one half of the 80s pop duo Dollar where he sang alongside Thereze Bazar his former partner in Guys "n"Dolls.

Dollar had a number of hits between 1978 and 1988 but peaked in the early eighties with a series of songs produced by Trevor Horn of Buggles fame. Here's my favourite from this period Mirror, Mirror





So all in all, David's had a pretty colourful life. There have been acrimonious band departures, court cases, vitriolic reality shows and tabloid headlines and I'm sure he's learnt a hell of a lot along the way.

But do I want him as a Member of Parliament?

No!

Well, it would take a LOT to convince me that David is a suitable candidate. I've have nothing against celebrities standing as MPs. In fact, I'm personally in favour of candidates coming into politics late in life having made their own way in the world and being in a situation to offer their services to causes they feel strongly about. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Glenda Jackson are two good examples of well known personalities who have successfully made this career change. However, there's no way I would want to see numerous celebrities standing for election, diluting the political system for the sake of cheap publicity. I'd like to see more candidates from business, the armed forces and education; people who are used to making serious decisions. I'm fed up seeing MPs who were born into it or recruited straight from university.

I rarely touch upon politics as you know, but for weeks now our newspapers have been dominated by a political scandal that shows no signs of abating. Without a shadow of a doubt it is the final nail in the coffin for the current Labour Government. Currently, 4 serving cabinet ministers have resigned their positions as well as the Speaker of the House of Commons. This is the tip of the iceberg though; I have actually lost count of the number of politicians who are "standing down" at the next election for "personal reasons."

The truth is they have all been fiddling their expenses and have now been ousted. Yep, there have been claims for employing relatives, ice cube trays, horse manure, toilet seats, pornographic videos and even a duck house.

Yes...a duck house! Obviously a vitally important necessity without which Sir Peter Viggers, Tory MP for Gosport, couldn't do his job properly. And what's more it was a floating duck house - boy those were lucky ducks! Maybe I'm being cynical - maybe Sir Peter was planning to sail down the Thames on it to avoid traffic congestion. You know, I've tried a similar tactic with Mr T and requested more pocket money for my chocolate bars but he just said I was just pulling a fast one.

The duck house, manure and pornographic videos are just the silly claims though. Sadly, there are claims far worse. For example, there are claims for second mortgages that didn't even exist!

This whole sorry saga is turning out to be a shameful affair for both the major parties. It will now take an absolute miracle for the public, many who are cash strapped and facing redundancy, to forget this blatant abuse of MPs' privileges. It is time for clearout of these second rate, conceited politicians who have abused the trust that has been placed in them. I am not the only one who hopes that the next election will introduce a new breed of politicians for whom politics is a genuine vocation and not just a meal ticket to power and prosperity.

But how do we go about attracting the right candidates? No simple answer there - but it would surely help if MPs were paid a suitable sum for the responsibilities the job entails. A back bencher is paid £66,00 pa which although significantly above the national average is not sufficient to attract better quality candidates. I'm not excusing the behaviour of the offenders, some of whom are independently wealthy, but it would certainly help to open up the field.

In the meantime, I welcome the interest of sincere people into the political arena. Esther Rantzen, the TV presenter is considering throwing her glove into the arena in Luton South, the constituency of the disgraced Margaret Moran. (Moran claimed £22, 500 for treating dry rot at her and her husband's home in Southampton after already making claims for homes in Luton and London.) We need more informed people to challenge the status quo, more independent candidates who do not conform to the party whips and are not afraid to speak their own minds.

Personally, I'm all in favour of Michael Winner, producer of the Death Wish movies, standing as MP. The whole country knows he's a pompous old goat at times but hell what fun we would have! Michael says he would "purge The House and send the PC idiots to Gulag" Hmm... sounds pretty good to me and if he made Saturday nights compulsory Champers Night (which is highly likely) I'm sure the whole country would be falling over themselves to vote for him!

Joking aside, politics is a serious matter and never more than now when there are so many truly global concerns. We need strong, effective leadership but leadership which commands our respect and demonstrates true integrity. With an election on the horizon next year it is time for the major parties to clear out the dead wood and take a leaf from the Americans and Barack Obama.


It is time for change.

8 comments:

  1. C'mon Jane. Dancing like a puppet is a fundamental job skill for politicians, right?
     
    What a mess. I think you're right that a broader base of real world experience would enable better decision making. Gentlemen who count floating duck houses among their basic needs might lack empathy for those needing dinner or health care.

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  2. Yes - politicians do have quite a few features that resemble puppets - including the noses that won't stop growing!

    I'm probably being a bit harsh on poor David, for all I know he could have spent a lifetime devoted to local politics - but somehow the idea of him in Westminister just doesn't sit comfortably with me.

    Yes, it is a huge mess. But I hope that out of chaos will come order. Fingers crossed anyway.

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  3. Ahh you see this expenses furore is just the thing to wake people up and actually care a little about who runs our country.

    I've lost count of the apathetic non-voters who are up in arms about BNP getting two Euro seats. Well if you don't vote, you don't get the right to complain.

    Working for local govt, I see and question things that make me furious. Like a Chief Exec who gets fired, but the press release says early retirement, with a half million golden handshake and not a bad word said about how incompetent he was. I could go on but this isn't my soap box... it's yours ;)

    Right, no more politics ... OK?

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  4. Well Roxy I don't mind if you rant or do some serious woofing; I'm a good listener!

    I used to be very interested in politics and then the kids came along and everything took a back seat - now the brain cells are reawakening I'm starting to think again ( which is probably a dangerous situation!)

    So you don't want me to talk politics just stick to the silly stuff eh? Damn, I was hoping to turn this blog into an intellectual one!

    Now tell me...how does a local Gov worker get to take his dog into work? Are you the dog warden??

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  5. Sounds just like what happens here in our Third World countries! Probably learnt the right lessons from the former colonisers (or vice versa)??

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  6. I'm not just saying this to be controvercial, but what a load of all pony! and I've several debates, the longest one is still on-going with my brother-in-law, about this expenses carry on raging on.

    I'm not big on politics at all, but one thing is certain, just about every person not in on this fiddle, WOULD BE in on this fiddle given half the chance. It's a fact. People moving from flat to flat to avoid paying inheritance, paying solicitors to get as much tax relief as possible.

    My brother-in-law, hope he don't mind me saying, screws the government on his travelling expenses, BECAUSE HE CAN. IT's LEGAL SO LET'S FILL OUR BOOTS!

    Which ever employer you work for, you claim every mortal thing out of the blood sucking bar stewards, and rightly so. Who wouldn't take as much as is legally possible?
    Politicians or not, they're only doing what every one of us would.

    the laws got to change, because human nature, when it comes cold cash, certainly will not.

    Right I'm off to right a letter of complaint becuase I've paid far too much tax this year. Shame on my accountant, he's for t'chop!

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  7. Sue,

    I guess power corrupts pretty much everywhere:(

    Gary,

    I can't agree with you. Evidence - there are some MPs who haven't claimed a single penny and who no doubt could have done if they so wished.

    It's all a matter of conscience, about what you believe is ethically right or wrong. If those MPs who have resigned had no guilt they would not have taken that course of action. I know I wouldn't.

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  8. Whats new about pompous greedy politiciaans ? I guess theyre the same the world over. I remember reading about the Bedfords whenI was a child -a book called the Silver Spoon or something . Someone was hanged for murder - I remem,ber that gory bit

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