Spiral Notebook: You've been framed

By Giles Broadbent on May 23, 2009 10:21 AM |


Giles Broadbent considers a radical, punitive imposition on errant MPs

I make no apology for returning to the subject of MPs' expenses. I make no apology because it is fully within the rules as laid down in the Columnist's Green Book and it is the system that stinks, not I. Reform cannot come soon enough.

In pursuit of redress, and never one to decline the fruits of another man's labours, my thoughts turned to the Window Tax of 1696. We should reintroduce this much-maligned imposition forthwith.

The new Window Tax 2009 would stipulate that MPs must pay the price of all broken windows in any chamber, constituency residence, tavern or town hall even if they are not directly to blame for being flung through them in the first place.

(Incidentally, the Window Tax was not repealed until 1851 when it was replaced by the "House Duty", a form of words that whooshes straight over the heads of our elected embezzlers like a hungry wig hawk scouting for supper.)

In the doldrums

• I fear for the future. In years to come, all ambition will be spent. Look at the milestones passed in recent months - the first Speaker ousted since 1695; the deepest recession in a century; the first Lords kicked out of Parliament since Oliver Cromwell; the biggest constitutional crisis since the MP for Berwick on Tweed in 1745 knotted his brow with a reef rather than the more traditional Gordian knot.

What will we pitch for when all is said and done and stolen and claimed for and reimbursed and repaid in sorrow?

In 10 years' time - new government, settled house prices, recession ended - we'll be as dull and lifeless as the barnet of a slumdog crack addict.

We'll turn our faces to the skies in the hope that climate change will bring us, say, the worst hurricane, the biggest snowfall, the loss of Norfolk. Anything to lift us from our middle-ranking, unremarkable malaise of historical mediocrity.

I still thrill to the sound of a newsreader concluding her statistical analysis with "...since records began".

Dear Diary, I was there when that terrible thing happened. I witnessed history.

Come 2019 we'll be edging through Canary Wharf on Crossrail and the holographic figure of a stately Emily Maitless will echo from the depths of our iLatte™ "...and those are the worst figures..." and we'll perk up before she continues... "since the Great Superlatives Flood of 2009" and we'll sit back and sigh.

We're standing on the shoulders of pygmies, we'll think, secretly yearning for the return of City excesses, free fluffy dusters and a bent peer or two.


Allan B said:

We shall never run out of superatives or excesses while we have journalists. Over a lifetime of non-excess I have constantly wondered [can you constantly wonder?] at the ability of journalists to glean shock, horror and probe stories out of the most barren of fields. Long may you exceed.