Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Porking

In the national interest. Not.


A couple of weeks ago we looked at some US waste watchers, and noted how much of their effort is directed against pork-barrelling. That's the practice whereby US Congressmen divy up Federal tax dollars among themselves to pay for pet projects back in their constituencies. The general idea is to buy continued electoral support back home, although there have also been plenty of cases where more direct financial considerations are involved.

Some have argued that such things could never happen here because... well, we have a national government that acts in the interests of the entire nation, not just favoured bits of it.

Yeah.

Right.

Last autumn we had the scandal of the electoral "heat maps", which Commissar Hewitt uses to decide which hospitals to let close- ie those in Tory areas- and which to protect- ie those in Labour marginals. In fact, as we later discovered, since 1997, 70% of new hospitals have been built in Labour constituencies.

Then last weekend - blow me down - we learned that exactly the same thing has been happening with schools. Under Labour's Building Schools for the Future programme, 27 out of 38, or 70% of the projects, have gone straight to Labour authorities.

And today we hear of yet another case, this time involving the oldest pork barrel of all- defence.

Regular BOM readers will recall the case of St Athan, the MOD's aircraft maintenance facility in South Wales. Just before Christmas, MOD tried to bury the bad news that the base was to lose its maintenance contract, threatening thousands of local jobs.

Not surprising they wanted to bury it because St Athan is slap-bang in marginal Labour country, with the local MP, John Smith, sitting on a horribly wobbly majority of 1800.

Oh, er.

What to do? What to do?

Ah yes. Easy. Simply close some other bases in Tory or Lib Dem constituencies and transfer their work to St Athan.

Which is exactly what's happening today. Des Browne has announced that St Athan is to be Britain's new Defence Training Hub, and that training will stop at Blandford Camp in Dorset, and at RAF Cosford in the Wrekin, terminating thousands of local jobs in both places.

And yup, both Blandford and Cosford are in Tory constituencies.

I think the appropriate expession is oink, oink.

PS We can't blog pork barrelling without just mentioning once again a few of the all-time US greats. This list includes $219,000 to teach college students how to watch television, $100,000 to study how to avoid falling spacecraft, and $144,000 to see if pigeons follow human economic laws. Remember: the US is the future.

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