Well what a kerfuffle! As if we didn’t have enough to lambast politicians about in the last few weeks we have seen the most significant rejection of the political elite since the Restoration in 1660 and there isn’t a whiff of regicide; and as yet not even one hung, drawn and quartering.
The real question is why? There is no doubt of the scale of the Telegraph’s scoop. And the planning with which they have executed the campaign. There is also no doubting the public’s thirst and hunger for every embarrassing morsel of flipped mortgage, flat screen decked, Kit Kat munching, unwanted duck house.. However I can’t help wondering whether there is a touch of the zeitgeist to all this? Would the public have been quite so morally outraged this time 18 months ago? Pre Crunch, pre Crash, pre shredding of the fat cat bankers. It is easy to understand the sporting appeal in watching the right honourables squirm, but if one examines the facts and not the feelings, are we in danger of a touch of hypocrisy?
In a recent YouGov survey 30% of respondents thought it acceptable to fiddle one’s expenses; 13% said that they will look to exaggerate claims even more as the recession takes hold. UK companies lost £2bn in fraudulent expenses claims in 2008 (that’s more Kit Kats than we stock!) This survey covered both the public and private sectors, so the argument of it being taxpayers money still stands. It is also clear that some of the MPs, even with the nature of their claims, believed they were operating within the rules.
None of this makes it right but perhaps it makes it representative – which is in some cases is something politicians strive to be!
For small businesses such as ours I don’t think that expense fiddling is so endemic. We have better visibility, tighter controls and probably a tighter P & L. Certainly stationery, even if just pens and pencils will deplete at a rate that exceeds productivity and there will no doubt be other areas of expense that are more susceptible to abuse, however it is not something that keeps me awake at night. Now I don’t for one moment think that the exposure, embarrassment and resulting reform of the expense management process for our politicians is not just. And I have little if any sympathy for those that have played or abused the system to complement already significant wealth. I do however, with both eyes on our own business, wonder whether as a country, community and economy we can afford to lose focus on what is really important.
The crucifixion, resignation and reformation that is the daily ritual, may offer some welcome distraction from the doom and gloom but I can’t see it creating badly needed jobs, convincing the bankers to increase lending facilities to small businesses or creating the growth that Oh My Darling so optimistically forecasted in the budget..
At the end of all the miles of column inches and news reels I am left wondering whether it is now time to try and get back to business?