One there was 'Watergate'; now every minor, irritating little faux scandal as the mocniker 'gate' attached to it. The latest being 'Tipgate', an August silly season story that has found the Prime Minister, David Cameron failing to pay a tip in an Italian restaurant. Here is the story, breathlessly revealed by the Daily Telegraph, a newspaper that is more than usually kind to Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha; "The PM has been branded a "shameless cheapskate" for his refusal to tip an Italian waitress for a round of coffees in a village bar. He's come in for criticism even though he reportedly had to collect the coffees from the bar himself because the waitress was too busy. His failure to leave gratuity has sparked a debate about tipping etiquette."
Frankly, if a waitress had told me to go and collect my own coffee I wouldn't have bothered to give her a tip either. But that's part of being a curmudgeonly middle aged Brit. But having lived and worked in New York I know just how important the tip is to legions of service workers in America, where the tip forms part of the salary. But in America there is little attention given to cheapskate employers who let the tipping system take the wages slack. Still there is another reason that I almost always tip in Britain and in Europe, even if the service is fairly ropey. For I'm often reminded of a scene in the Sopranos, when a deliberate refusal to pay a tip leads to a fatal shooting incident outside a restaurant.
The former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, once refused to tip I am reliably informed because his white wine wasn't cold enough. The reason I tell this story is that I can quite believe it.
But when it comes to poor etiquette, there is one person in particular who has to be singled out. Step forward, Cherie Blair, wife of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, a man rather short of scruple himself. Cherie is notoriously greedy, to the extent that while opening a superstore in Australia, and being offered to take a few mementoes back with her, she apparently despatched one of the boys to fill up a trolley. One year the Daily Mail sent a series of cheques for £1 to some of the richest people in the land, and guess what, Cherie cashed hers. Recently parents of boys friendly to the youngest were up in arms when it was reported that they would be each charged £10 per boy for a place on the minibus, heading for the Blair's pile in Buckinghamshire.
On second thoughts, why should Cameron be excepted from criticism? Even given the fact that service was pretty poor, how had he spoken to the waitress in question? If you were a waitress and the British Prime Minister came in for a coffee with his wife, wouldn't you think 'Oh, there could be a decent tip in this if I get this right?' (Unless of course you are a card carrying Socialist). I'm beginning to wonder of Cameron had been slightly offhand, dare I say, arrogant?
Of course the millionaire Prime Minister who has never has had a proper job and who has married into serious money will never have to worry about money. Unlike the waitress. Come to think of it, there isn't much noblesse oblige about Mr Cameron and the new breed of Tories. For them the poor can eat cake.
For more of Mark Seddon's commentary, please see his blog As I Please at BigThink.com.
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