I always thought wanting to be a local councillor was just about the oddest decision anyone could make. Spending hours knocking on doors asking people what local issues they are most concerned about.
Then rushing home to put together a manifesto pledging to make the people at number 43 buy some new net curtains and stop next door’s cat from pooing in the sand pit. It’s not exactly conviction politics, is it?
But I now realise that while it may only be a small step into the seedy world of politics, it is still a small step towards the vague possibility of becoming an MP. And if you’re an MP, you may never have to pay for anything again, ever.
Want your house redecorated? Put it on expenses. Want a house you don’t live in completely renovated? Expenses. Want some cleaning done, your own bus, free food, some butlers, an island retreat? Expenses. And if it feels a bit, well you know, wrong, just check the rules and you’ll find that everything is above board - after all, who needs a conscience when there are rules to blame if you get caught.
Given that level of integrity, wouldn’t you be ashamed if your son or daughter came home and said: ‘When I grow up I want to be an MP.’ That’s right up there with: ‘Mum, dad… I have some news - I’m dating an estate agent.’
‘A cash-strapped NHS is hiring people at £1,000 a day to design new letterheads and invent some job titles. And senior managers think this is wise’
I wonder what drives the desire to spend money that isn’t actually yours? Take the NHS spending £350m on management consultants, for example. Isn’t it odd that managers are buying in management consultants to help them make decisions?
Isn’t that a bit like saying: ‘I’m completely unable to do my job and need some other people to do it for me, but please keep paying me.’
And if that isn’t bad enough, £273m of that money went on issues that were not related to patient care. So essentially a cash-strapped NHS is hiring people at £1,000 a day to design new letterheads and maybe invent some job titles. And there are well-paid senior managers who consider this not only excusable but also wise.
The government is also planning to hire independent experts to come up with a new expenses system now that the old one has been exposed. I wonder if they need some letterheads done at the same time?
It’s a strangely unreflective world these people share; a sense that having the right to waste resources is somehow weightier than having a responsibility not to. And it is a culture laced with arrogance and completely lacking in the most important virtue required by both groups of professionals: a clear sense of moral purpose.
If you work in the health service, it isn’t OK to be wasting money on corporate gloss when it could be used to bolster clinical services. It is simply stupid. If nurses made choices like that, they would be held wholly accountable. Funny how that principle doesn’t apply to everyone, isn’t it?