Country rocked by scandal

#109. Read the headlines. Ministers of parliament have been claiming false expenses, the health service failed to detect that a child was being abused despite repeated visits to hospitals and clinics in search of assistance (the child subsequently died), a young man was shot while waiting in his car outside a bar and people are starting to resent the public broadcaster for what they think are extortionate license fees and poor content.

Welcome to Britain. MP’s are squirming as the national press, led by The Telegraph, have spent the past few days reeling out lists of items that have been claimed as expenses and paid for by British taxpayers. At a time when the world hates the rich, the squire-archy as they have come to be known are public enemy #1. Among the most bizarre claims are the one for 115GBP for changing some lightbulbs (the start of a great joke about how many MP’s does it take ….. the answer is just one and millions of taxpayers) and the others for: having a moat cleaned, buying some throw pillows, shelling out 600GBP for a hanging basket of seedlings, and a few more for a leather rocking chair. The list goes on. The full and growing story can be found here.

After a few days in England (where I am taking part in the University Of Central Lancashire’s Journalism Leaders Programme and plan to return home shortly. This is for you — Mrs rude passport official at Manchester airport who confiscated mine and some other South African passports for an “exercise” and left me and a couple in their 70’s waiting for 30 minutes while British authorities determined our level of threat to the country. For the record, after I saw the size of her I couldn’t begrude her the “exercise”) I can tell you that while I know Schadenfreude is not a pretty thing and nor is comparing one’s country to others that are worse off …. sometimes it feels good to remember that corruption, neglect, violence and protectionism were not invented in South Africa (take that, nay-sayers) nor perfected. And my thanks goes to the free press everywhere for pointing that out.

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