Friday, December 28, 2007

Plum Pullers

The Punches in happier times

As we sprawled semi-comatose in front of all those leftie Dickens adaptations, who should pop up on the festive BBC News interlude but our old friend Mr Punch.

He was in a highly distressed state. Tears welling in his eyes, he wailed that the rest of the public sector have now been given so much Labour dosh, his differentials have been squeezed most viciously. Paywise, he and fellow MPs have fallen way behind. In fact, they'd have done a whole lot better staying in their previous public sector jobs and never becoming MPs at all!

And it's not as if he's asking for much- all he wants is "fairness and some sort of reasonable attitude [rather than] everyone coming out of the woodwork and accusing MPs of having their snouts in the trough. I’ve never ever, in the time I’ve been an MP, done less than a 14-hour day. I think we work pretty damn hard for what we get.”

Now, don't simply say so what. Don't just say well, we never asked you to thrust yourself forward to rule over us in the first place, so stop whining, and anyway, loads of people have to do long hours, and anyway, you can't call what you do work, so shut up.

No, consider Mr Punch. Consider his pain. Because this is the very worst of pain- the pain of envious regret.

The pain of renouncing a totally chilled job heading a housing quango, for the roar of the Westminster greasepaint, and then seeing the current head of the self-same quango, a certain Mr Swiveller, rinsing a six figure basic. Ah, if only Mr Punch had listened to Mrs Punch, and stayed tucked up nice and snug in there! If only his head hadn't swelled up bigger than a giant poison puffball! If only Labour hadn't won so large in 1997 that even he'd got in!

But alas! The die is now cast. There is no six figure basic for the Punch family this Christmas. No certainty of employment beyond the Great Day of Reckoning (29th April 2010). Barefoot in the snow, they can only contemplate a future of destitution and misery. What in heaven's name will become of them?

And yet, even in the depths of their despair, all is not quite lost. Thanks to the unstinting goodness of a certain deranged Benefactor, the Punch family is not quite so destitute as it believes. Indeed, if they could but feel a little gratitude, their table veritably groans under an abundance of seasonal cheer.

Item: Mr P's basic salary £60,675 pa. Item: Mr P's 2006-07 expenses- £118,952. Item: Mr P's munificent pension- Britain's best final salary pension scheme, paying a two-thirds pension after just 26 years membership (1/40th accrual rate, index-linked, 26.8% annual employer contribution).

And all this in spite of the fact that Mr Punch makes no useful contribution to society whatsoever! Moreover, such are the egregious demands he routinely makes on his benefactor, he is fortunate the Benefactor hasn't thus far realised he is being played for a fool.

Take the latest fiscal gerrymandering news. While the Benefactor's attention is otherwise engaged, Mr P's party routinely doles out the Benefactor's money to its cronies and supporters. The object is to buy votes, and it now transpires that during Labour's decade in power, schools spending in Labour local authorities has increased much faster than in Tory ones:

"Almost all the local authorities that have seen the biggest increases in spending since 1997 are dominated by Labour councillors and MPs.

Middlesbrough - controlled by Labour for more than 10 years - has seen spending on schools jump by a record 54 per cent. In 1997/98 just £3,136 was spent on every pupil in the authority compared with £4,837 in 2005/6. By comparison, Conservative-controlled Bournemouth, one of the few local authorities to retain grammar schools, has seen its funding rise by just 27 per cent, from £3,147 to £3,991 per pupil."

This is systematic gerrymandering. And worse, it's by no means the first instance. The late Commissar Hewitt had those notorious "heat maps" so she could ensure NHS hospital closures were concentrated in Tory constituencies. And we later discovered 70% of both new hospitals and schools have been built in Labour areas.

And yet, somehow, despite the provocation, the Benefactor simply accepts it, and goes on meekly picking up the tab. How can that possibly be?

Let us recall the original Little Jack Horner. As you may know, he was steward to Richard Whiting, the Abbot of Glastonbury, during Tudor times. Responsible for collecting taxes and keeping the accounts, he helped himself wherever possible, really lucking out when he stuck his thumb into the famous Christmas pie, and pulled out the title deeds of not just the plum Somerset Manor of Mells, but also its lead mines. Nice.

Horner's final act of betrayal was to deliver up poor old Whiting to Henry VIII's murderous Reformation asset strippers. Whiting got hanged, drawn and quartered, while Horner lived out a comfortable retirement on his new estates.

But really, the old Abbot brought it on himself. WTF did he trust such a dodgy self-serving operator as Horner?

He must have been a real mug.

PS Many thanks to pedant2007 who pointed out a serious error in the original version of this post. In an unforgivable act of sloppiness, I'd made Richard Whiting the Bishop of Glastonbury, rather than the Abbot. My error was all the less forgivable because we Tylers once spent a day at Glastonbury wandering round the magnificent Abbey ruins. Fortunately pedant2007 has put us right.


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