I sometimes think that there's a chance Rod Liddle may become so contrarian that one day he ends up exactly where he started, in a bid to shock himself. Nothing wrong with a healthy dose of contrarianism, of course - and Rod is one of its greatest exponents. However, on the issue of MPs' pay he is just plain wrong.
In his latest Spectator Essay, he impressively manages to rebel against the public mainstream by joining the establishment instead - effectively becoming the only ewok to fight for the Emperor.
Jim Devine and David Chaytor — herded into a magistrates court to face
charges of defrauding the taxpayer with their MPs expenses claims.
Well, didn't we all - the Mother of Parliaments brought down to this, MPs elected to serve the people and defend the nation's interests standing accused of allegedly fiddling their expenses to rip off the taxpayer. But Rod felt ashamed for a different reason:
grunting like pigs — one man even wore a pig’s head to drive home the
point more forcefully.
Yes, to him it is the fact that the British people are starting to stand up for themselves against the political class which is the truly shameful thing about all this. I should, at this point, declare an interest in the topic - I was one of those people enthusiastically shouting "Oink!" at the MPs in question. For that matter, I will be outside Southwark Crown Court on 30th March to do it again at their next hearing, probably with a lot of other people.
Not only does Rod think that it is the public who should be ashamed at themselves, he even thinks that
twice their current salary...these people could be doing rather more remunerative work elsewhere
This tired old argument has several flaws. First, MPs are not underpaid. Our comparison with Parliamentarians in other countries shows that they are the fourth best paid in Europe - and Italy, which is at the top of the heap is not famed for its honest, corruption-free politics.
Second, even if they were underpaid, do we really want to be represented by the kind of people who respond to that situation by allegedly turning to defrauding the public to compensate themselves?
Finally, if they were so hard done by and could earn more elsewhere why did this motley troop not go and do so? None of them are distinguished by their record of taking a stand on matters of principle, so it's unlikely to be their love of the people or purist ideology that led them to allegedly commit these offences.
Given my long-standing views on the subject, it shouldn't be a surprise that I disagree with Rod Liddle on this one. The remarkable thing is that he actually disagrees with himself. Here he is on 31st October 2009 taking an eager part in the very same "every week is Hate Week" furore that he is now so appalled by:
Smith - the former Home Secretary who could not be entirely sure where
her home was. Appearing on Question Time on Thursday, her demeanour flitted between
confected contrition and self-righteous indignation...she smirked her way through questions about her expenses claims and
twice deliberately misled the public....
But tellingly, she was supported in all this by her opposition
colleagues on the Question Time panel. First by the brunette-bonking
comet-dodging weirdo Lembit Opik, who expected you to pay his police
fines. And also by the Tory’s Cheryl Gillan, who expected you to pay for
her bloody dog food. For her dogs, not for her. She doesn’t eat dog
food, at least not in public. The dogs are now dead, by the way, so that
should save us a few bob. Anyway, they were all agreed, these three –
Smith, Opik, Gillan – that the expenses business was a real scandal,
quite disgraceful, really can’t carry on like this any more, how we have
all let you, the voters, down. But they cheerfully exculpated each
other from individual blame, suggesting that the fault lay purely in the
system. No need for further recrimination on an individual basis: hey,
we’ve seen enough, it’s grim – but for the good of democracy, let’s move
...Are you waiting for the first prosecution, or maybe even the first
de-selection? Don’t hold your breath. They have managed to spin this
whole business into a strange and surreal place where Jacqui Smith and
Tony McNulty are the victims, rather than you.
Perhaps by 30th March, Rod will have gone right round this circle again and will be with me outside Southwark Crown Court. Don't forget your pig mask, Rod!