Greg's Occasional News & Views

7 February 2010

Oh my goodness – what a weekend to work my way through! Not only did the Six Nations Rugby Union competition begin this weekend but so too does the cycling Tour of Qatar, not to mention the small matter of that American football game which kicks off sometime tonight. So much sport to watch on the television and so little time. Even Ms Playchute recognised the futility of her position and volunteered to take the dog for its afternoon promenade yesterday leaving me on the sofa to watch the Italy v Ireland match followed shortly thereafter by the England v Wales game. This afternoon we have the Scotland v France match to enjoy, Stage One of the Tour of Qatar and then about a five hour gap until the Superbowl tonight. Fortunately, I have a couple of college basketball games queued up on the recorder to help pass the time.

You will be pleased to hear that we are on the home stretch of having the shower damage in the Annexe repaired. The tiler eventually arrived to fix the tiles in the shower, the plumber has reconnected the pipes and on Friday we had the arrival of the plasterer to repair the damaged plaster in the bedroom. The painter/decorator arrives next week and seemingly needs two days to paint the bathroom and bedroom although Ms Playchute has insisted that she is going to paint the bedroom, clearly not trusting any of these jokers to do a half competent job.

I imagine you will share our amazement at the bold-faced, brass neck nerve of members of Parliament throughout the ongoing expenses scandal which I have mentioned in the past. It seems that after a nine month investigation, MPs have been ordered to repay something in the region of £1 million and three MPs and one member of the House of Lords exceeded the exploits of their colleagues and will actually face criminal charges. Today’s news is that the three MPs might try to invoke Parliamentary privilege and claim that they are immune from prosecution, a strategy which is sure to win them considerable sympathy from the voting public.

MPs do, indeed, enjoy Parliamentary privilege (dating from 1689, apparently) which is intended to protect freedom of speech in the chamber and so prevent their being charged with slander. Now these three are contemplating invoking the privilege as, of course, they’ve done “nothing wrong.” Now, see if you can work out where they might have gone wrong:

One MP claimed £30,000 on mortgage interest relief over a number of years when, in fact, the mortgage had already been paid off. I don’t know about you, but when I finally pay our mortgage off I am guessing that I will probably notice. I hope (even if I were an MP) I would be intelligent enough to recognise that if one is not making any mortgage payments, one won’t therefore be paying any interest. To claim the non-existent interest back surely must strike most right-thinking people as dishonest, at best and probably a criminal offence.

Another claimed just over £20,000 for “dishonest” IT services and rent on properties which he and his mother owned outright. Again, if I own a property can I really justify claiming that I have to pay some rent? Hmmm. I am guessing that most folks might think that just a tad dishonest?

And the third MP to be charged is responsible for claiming, apparently, the relatively paltry sum of £10,000 for “cleaning services” and “stationery”. Unfortunately, the invoices he submitted to “justify” his expenses were entirely bogus.

Now, help me out here – an MP claims that he spent a sum of money on business-related expenses and submits completely fabricated invoices and then says, when discovered, that he’s done nothing wrong.

Yes, I guess they do need to invoke their Parliamentary privilege as I don’t think many juries are going to let them off.

A couple of stories caught my eye this week. Firstly, there is a short video clip of the incredible ice sculptures from the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan from the Guardian which you can see here, if you are so minded. And secondly, the Guardian also had an article about the recovery of crates of whiskey which were long suspected to have been entombed by ice outside Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic hut. Whew! That’s a relief.

Here are a couple of the snow sculptures from Sapporo to whet your appetite.

Sapporo Snow Festival Sapporo Snow Festival

Love to you all,

Greg

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