James Munson In the furore over Stephen Lawrence’s murder, some people, sometimes for their own interests, worked the country into a state of hysteria. Like most such cases, whether it was the show trials set up by Stalin, Senator McCarthy’s hearings, the mass executions of priests and religious organised by French revolutionaries in the 1790s, or the exaggerated reports of “wide-scale clerical abuse”, victims were required. In the Metropolitan Police a victim was found. Reports were issued. Public confessions were read out. Such purges are natural and are often the ploys of dictatorships, whether of one man or a mob. There will be more.
In addition to being highly profitable to a handful of lawyers and “activists” these hysterical circuses are of great use to politicians because they deflect journalists’ attention from the real issues. What is institutionalised in our country is not racism but corruption. Corruption is increasingly engrained into our public life and, what is worse, is increasingly tolerated.
Long gone are the days when Mr Gladstone kept separate records to show that coal burnt for any private work at Downing Street was not paid for by the taxpayer or when Stanley Baldwin secretly paid back his prime ministerial salary into the public funds. Mr Gladstone and Stanley Baldwin were fallible human beings with many weaknesses and faults but they were gentlemen who adhered to a code of honour. How times have changed.
Politics is now a business for which a political class is trained. It has its self-regulating and largely secret guilds which we call political parties, bodies with the power to make and break: if proof were needed, such may be found in the recent European elections, in which it is the parties, not the electors, who choose the successful candidates. The minority who voted didn’t vote for people but for unelected, irresponsible cliques: appropriate, some would say, for the EU.
Nowhere is this institutionalised corruption more evident than in what MPs pay themselves. When Lady Thatcher handed in her seals of office to the Queen she had been an MP for 33 years and prime minister for eleven years. When she turned 65 her pension as an MP and as a former Prime Minister would be £17,535 a year or £1,461 a month. We move forward: if Tony Blair were to hand in his seals this year, after 21 years as an MP and seven years as prime minister, he would get not £17,535 but £100,000 per annum, an increase of £82,465.
Let us put this into context: for you or me to buy an annuity that would pay us this amount, based on the same numbers of years of work, would cost us £3,190,000. Nice, if you can get it. But the increases are not confined to the Prime Minister. Members of Parliament are also at the trough. If an MP serves for just one Parliament, he will amass an annuity of £140,000. If the MP can hang on to his seat for 20 years, his annuity, if bought on the open market by you or me, will soar to £630,000. Not bad.
But it is not just PMs or MPs who are doing well: civil servants and public sector workers have got their place at the same trough. Recent figures show that as taxpayers we and our children will have to pay £470,000,000,000, that is £470 billion, to pay all the pensions as set today. But, of course, they will go up, unlike mine (and probably yours) which has been halved in value. If we move to the real sink of institutionalised corruption, the EU, we see that an MEP, if he serves in but one “parliament”, will be given (by us) an annuity of £166,000 — £26,000 more than an MP. This will give him £7,186 a year when he reaches 65. This annuity, of course, does not include the numerous benefits and perks. Naturally, it is index-linked.
Anyone who has watched pigs attacking slops will know that they always want more and MEPs, who alone know their real value, have recently proposed an increase. Do we respect MPs and MEPs all that much? Hardly. But then we don’t respect pigs either.