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Panties, Dogs and Doughnuts Essential to the Functioning of Her Majesty's Government

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JOHN MAJOR
PA

In 1991, John Major, who was the prime minister of this country at the time, set up a system to reward ex-prime ministers, the ranks of which he was about to join. It is hard to know what is more surprising about that sentence: that someone who would benefit from a system should be so brazen as to set it up right before he would reap its rewards, or that John Major used to be the prime minister of this country. Can you recall a single thing about John Major other than he ate peas and tucked his shirts into his underwear? Well, remember this: you gave £1.7 million to just three ex-PM's in the past five years, people who are not known to be in dire need of a state handout, and he was one of them.

The payments are made under the cloak of rewarding the resting politicians for attending public events and answering letters. Honestly, the best part of two million quid for getting driven to some lunch where they'll be treated like God and open an envelope or two. But that's OK because it is paid out on results and work undertaken. Oh no, that's right, it isn't. Like much in the lives of the rich and shameless, reward is not connected to performance. Lady Thatcher, for instance, who is hardly ever seen in public due to her health, received over a half-a-million pounds of your money over the last five years for her public duties, of which there aren't any. John Major has been given a similar amount. When did he last open YOUR village fête?

Even the ex-Drear Leader Tony Blair has become even more unimaginably wealthy, thanks to you, as you have bunged him over a quarter-of-a-million pounds since he left office. But that's like a teaspoon of water in a bucket to him. He probably didn't even notice.

It is just one of the ways in which your hard-earned is doled out to the ruling classes like beatings at a convent. You may be dimly aware that civil servants get bonuses. That is, they are in receipt of extra money for doing the very thing that they were hired to do in the first place. You do not get a bonus because you have neglected to become the Assistant Director of Obfuscation for some government department which you would be hard-pressed to think of off the top of your head. If only you had clawed your way up the mahogany stepladder of the civil service, you could be sharing in the bonus pool of £140 million being showered on Whitehall mandarins this year, instead of being one of the chumps who's paying for it.

Because of the pesky Freedom of Information Act, various government departments have been forced to reveal all spending, over a certain amount, on their procurement cards. These are credit cards distributed like Smarties to anyone who buys goods for the smooth functioning of Her Majesty's Government. They are firmly regulated and only those items that are essential to their work as officials are allowed. Like £1200 on Avon cosmetics, £2325 for meat and £735 for the services of a vet - perhaps to cure a fat cat that had eaten too much cream. And remember, these are the bills for anything over £500 - they don't have to tell us about anything they buy for less than that, a veil that doubtless hides a multitude of sins.

The Ministry of Defence, presently engaged in not upgrading servicemen's dripping, leaky, rat-infested quarters, are spending £5 million pounds a month on the cards. A month! They are also getting through £45 million pounds a year in bonuses they are handing to each other. If it wasn't for the revelation that the Directors of FTSE 100 companies had given themselves a 50% pay rise this year, despite the share prices of those companies diving like brick off a balcony, it would be the most dispiriting news of the week.

Fortunately, there is greed and then there's private sector, shareholder and pension fund financed greed. For our civil servant top dogs, it's an excellent week to bury bad news.

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