Monday, June 30, 2008

The Boneless Wonder

“But you have not imparted to me,” remarks Veneering, “what you think of my entering the House of Commons?”
“I think,” rejoins Twemlow, feelingly, “that it is the best club in London.”
When Charles Dickens wrote ‘Our Mutual Friend’ he can have had no idea of just how good a club it would become.
Veneering was duly voted in (unopposed) to the constituency of Pocket Breeches for the trifling sum of £5000, but there is no record of his having claimed for a second home, groceries, travelling expenses or the employment of Mrs. Veneering. It seems he was there to serve the constituents, not to augment his income.
A new book by David Craig, ‘Squandered,’ throws an interesting light on the costs of the British parliamentary system that might surprise a public already pretty inured to hearing of the excesses of those they had elected to represent them.
There are in all 1,021 politicians to represent the interests of fewer than 70 million people, or one for every 68,000 citizens.
Apart from these, there are also hundreds more politicians in the House of Lords and thousands in local government, jobsworth to a man, or possibly, woman.
By contrast, in the United States, there are 435 members of Congress - one for every 680,000 citizens.
The total cost to the taxpayer of the MPs alone is now well over £366 million a year.
As much of the legislative load is now passed along to the European Union, Craig argues that halving the number of MPs would save the nation some £180 million each year. It might, of course, mean that some would have to put in a full days work or even to make some sensible decisions on behalf of the nation.
But the Tourist Board should also be encouraged to promote Parliament as a source of education and enlightenment as lesson in how not to run a country. For never, in the field of human conflict, has one government got so many things wrong and so many been made to suffer for the errors of so few
However, that farsighted politician, Winston Churchill, was not unaware of the potential entertainment value to be derived from the House of Commons.
He said that, as a boy, he always looked forward to the arrival of Barnum and Bailey’s circus, but that there was one exhibit he was not allowed to view as it was ‘too revolting a spectacle for the human eye.’ It was the side show called ‘The Boneless Wonder.’
He continued, “Now, after thirty-six years, where do I finally find this freak show? Not in the circus, but in the House of Commons, sitting on the front bench – the Boneless Wonder.”


Post a Comment

<< Home