Oh dear, what a pickle!

Boris, that loveable rogue, put up tube and bus fares today. Times are tough, everyone’s got to do their bit. The Mayor himself even chipped in £1,266 for – whoops – accidentally benefitting from claiming too much for his council tax. Oh dear, what a pickle!

I tried to write that as breezily as I could but the fact remains, on the same day, the very same day, that fares go up for people who can’t claim travel expenses or hop into a chauffeur driven car, the man in charge of the price-hike paid back money for profligacy on the public account.

The expenses scandal has tarred all those who got near it, no matter how chirpy and rogueish they remain. The headlines don’t tie Mr Johnson’s expenses in with the price hike but they don’t need to, this issue will not go away.

And for all the talk of austerity – of tax-hiking, cost-cutting, togetherness – the rift between public figures and the public finances they bloated and broke remains, and will do until this Parliament is over (sorry Boris).

Over in City Hall (and CCHQ and Cowley Street and Downing Street too), honesty may just be a buzz word or may be a very real public-spirited desire. The question remains: how will these public figures ever look honest, no matter how real their need to make spending cuts or how genuine their desire?

Party leaders want and need to make a clean break. Inquiries have been called and it appears another one will be. They do not do enough. Yet even if that were the panacea to the rot in public life and almost total mistrust of public figures, it would be weakened again and again by angry mutterings in the Westminster tea-room. Sorry folks, it ain’t the media’s fault, blame your colleagues! Why is it that MPs can’t come together to sort out the deficit but they can put aside party rivalries to sort out their own purses? Oh, and before I forget (I won’t for a while), Sir Thomas Legg hasn’t brought this back up again because people never forgot it.

Those who showed no ability to discern where their private spending was unregulated, showed no ability to discern where public spending was out of control. When you think of one, you think of the other.

You think of (some) public figures’ greed when you think of public spending cuts and tax-hikes. Yes, there was a lot of waste in public spending, but it wasn’t done by the people who’ll be hit by the consequences. Oh dear, what a pickle.


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