by Les May
LADY Bracknell is one of Oscar Wilde’s most preposterous creations. Her ignorant and often absurd comments are a satire of Victorian aristocracy.
I was musing upon one of her more famous comments, ‘To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness’ after reading yet another instalment in the life of another preposterous, and entirely self-made, creation, Simon Danczuk MP.
To occasion an adverse comment about ones parliamentary expenses every now and then is one might say a misfortune. To manage it four times in eight months does seem awfully like carelessness with someone else's money. That 'someone else' being you and I of course.
It seems that Simon claimed some £10,000 for train journeys last year which was more than any other MP in the country. He claimed for 97 first class journeys in 2015/16, totalling £9,978 (£102.87p per trip) and he claimed for 26 standard trips at a cost of £1,248 (£48.00p per trip). So the ratio of the number of 'first' to 'standard' was 4:1. Worse than some Greater Manchester MPs but better than others.
Simon's defence was:
'I travel back and forth between London and my constituency more than nearly any other MP. That is because, unlike many of my colleagues, I hold an advice surgery every week without fail and often attend meetings in Rochdale in the evenings and weekends.” and “I never claim for more than the standard fare for a first class seat and I always pay the difference out of my own pocket”.
So that's alright then. It seems a reasonable enough explanation. But it does rather beg the question of where the figure of £9,978 came from. Are the Mirror and the Manchester Evening News just 'spinning' the story knowing full well that Simon did not claim some £5,300 of this money but paid it out of his own pocket? Or is Simon just putting his own gloss on the story?
We'll probably never know, (though we should). It's at this point where I imagine most people will make their minds up about this story based on past performance.
'Keeping your nose clean', not setting out to produce headlines or enhance your 'media profile', not setting out to profit from lurid stories about you in the media and having a reputation for being scrupulous in how you spend public money, are all excellent ways of ensuring that if you do occasionally have the misfortune to generate an unfavourable headline people are going to sympathise with you not damn you.
What's Simon's score on all these? A fat, round zero!
Seven Greater Manchester MPs Andy Burnham, Chris Green, Jeff Smith, Debbie Abrahams, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Kate Green and Liz McInnes only claimed for standard tickets. I'll remember this at election time.