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Devil's Advocate

Roger Elwell - Yes Please

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Innovation in Financial Services

Innovation in Financial Services

A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.

Yet More Hypocrisy In Justifying Expenses

12 May 2009  |  2893 views  |  0

Last night on Newsnight, Shaun Woodward, made a spirited attempt to comment on the expenses scandal.  In doing so, however, he highlighted yet another area of hypocrisy that underlines why our current set of politicians are not fit to govern.

Jeremy Paxman questioned why, when he is so rich (he is married to a Sainsbury) he should claim mortgage interest on one of his many houses.  Quite rightly, he made the point that the ability to claim expenses should not be means-tested.  So far so good.  The mistake he made was in using himself as an example.  He claimed that it would not be right to exclude him from expenses because of his wife’s wealth.

I’m with you there, Shaun.  It would be wrong to deny benefit to one economic unit (person) due to the financial position of another.  Unfortunately, your argument highlights a small problem elsewhere in Government policy and maybe you should have thought your argument through before advancing it... 

Given that you're right on means-testing expenses, then why is it right that my son, and thousands like him, is denied financial support for his university student fees, simply because of his parents’ financial position?  All students, as adults in their own right, are independent of their parents and therefore are equal (i.e. largely penniless) and are an independent economic unit.  How can the decision of whether he gets grants therefore be dependent on the circumstances of anybody else?  Your argument highlights that it is not right to give grants to some people but not others, and yet you no doubt support that policy.

This is yet another example of how politicians like to have one rule for them and a less beneficial one for those they govern.  Double standards at play again – and this from someone who is so rich he never needs to think about where his next meal, or flash car, is coming from.  Students and their parents don’t have that luxury.  Disappointingly, Paxman missed an opportunity to push him on this point last night…

On the subject of expenses generally, politicians have repeatedly labelled the system as rotten in recent days.  They were at it again on Newsnight last night.  The only thing that’s rotten is those that have played the system for their own personal advantage.  The fact that they require the system to be changed in order to stop the abuse tells us all we need to know about the morals of these people.

Can’t they also see that their systematic immoral abuse of the system disqualifies them from commenting on other immoral but perfectly legal telephone and Internet scams?  And what about Fred Goodwin?  He broke no laws, and yet they’re quick to denounce him.  They can’t, now.

Parliament should be dissolved – if not by our PM voluntarily, then the Queen should exercise her constitutional right to do so.  This would probably be the first time since the 17th Century that a monarch could do that with majority support.  The last one that dissolved Parliament off his own initiative lost his head!  Since this is not a party political matter, but a crisis of confidence in the current crop of legislators, there is a perfectly good excuse for doing so.

Whenever the election comes, it is the duty of all the media to remind electors of the expenses claims of all sitting MPs, except where the constituency party has done the right thing and already deselected them.  That way, people can ensure they vote not only on the policies of the party they represent, but also the character of the candidate.  There are, of course, many who are probably above criticism (though few have actually had the balls to publish their expenses claims on their own initiative); these people deserve a second chance.  The rest don’t.

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job title Consultant
location Colchester
member since 2008
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Consulting to the financial services industry with a specific expertise in the cards business - issuing and acquiring.

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