Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Compare and contrast

A lawbreaker:
A bus passenger is launching a legal challenge after being handed a criminal record amid a dispute over a 90 pence fare.

Tom Usher believed he had paid the charge by swiping his Oyster travel card as he boarded the bus in December.

But a spot check by an inspector found that the payment had not been debited.

Although Mr Usher, 37, still had £1.30 on his card when challenged and maintains that he offered to pay it as soon as the oversight was discovered, he was ordered before magistrates, found guilty of failing to pay the fare and fined £90 with costs of £100.

A lawmaker:

Giles Chichester resigned as Conservative leader in the European Parliament after a scandal surrounding expenses worth more than £145,000.

Europe's most senior Tory was forced to step down after Caroline Spelman, Conservative Chairman, demanded that he opened his books to Party auditors within 24 hours, for a "full explanation".

Mr Chichester had at first tried to shrug off a "technical breach of rules", which he claimed, had followed a misunderstanding of the Parliament's financial regulations.


Mr Chichester's case was not helped by comments he made while admitting a "mistake" during a television interview on Wednesday night.

"Whoops-a-daisy I am shown up to have made a mistake," he said, in comments that angered Conservative HQ in London.

Mr Chichester first admitted on Wednesday that he had broken rules over the last five years, after a change in financial rules, by paying the Parliamentary Assistant Allowance, worth an annual £160,000, into a family owned firm, where he is a paid director.

Between 2003 and 2007, Francis Chichester Ltd, the family company named after Mr Chichester's famous round-the-world yachtsman [father], received £134,499 in Parliament payments, according to figures seen by the Daily Telegraph.

During the same period, the directors, Mr Chichester and his wife, were paid £30,660.

Payments continued into the company until June 2008, taking the total sum thought to be under investigation by the Parliament authorities over the £145,000 mark.

The Parliament first contacted Mr Chichester 18 months ago about a "potential conflict of interests" but pressure built after media reports that Mr Chichester had paid the family firm £445,000 in allowances since 1996.

Another lawmaker:

Another top Tory MEP has lost his job in the second expenses scandal to hit the party in two days.

Den Dover has been replaced as the Conservatives' chief whip in Europe after admitting paying his wife and daughter £750,000 for work.

And another:
Michael Cashman, a leading Labour MEP, has paid his boyfriend more than 8,000 pounds a month from his taxpayer-funded expenses, the Telegraph can disclose.

Documents show that Paul Cottingham was given secretarial allowances worth £8,143 a month to administer in 2002. This was the maximum allowance available at the time. Euro-MPs can now receive an allowance for staff of £160,000 a year.

Back in 1696 Samuel Garth observed that "little villains must submit to fate/that great ones may enjoy the world in state". And boy, was he right! Whatever way you look at it, it is surely self-evident that the three MEPs listed above - not to mention the numerous other MPs and MEPs whose greed has been widely and extensively chronicled over recent months - are infinitely more morally culpable than Tom Usher. But he's the one with the criminal record, and they're the ones who are still "enjoying the world in state", and dictating how the rest of us live our lives, into the bargain.

1 comment:

Umbongo said...

I wonder if Mr Usher would have been challenged - let alone prosecuted - if he had been part of a gang comprising a dozen or so aggressive vibrant young men (or women for that matter). I think we would be justified in assuming that the inspector would have exercised his discretion and got off the bus.