Tuesday 31 August 2010

Daily Mail takes a "Do it yourself" attitude to healthcare

I try to make a rule of not blogging about the Daily Mail talking bollocks more than once a day because, quite frankly, it's even easier than predicting when a Pakistani fast bowler will send down a no-ball and, as such, not much fun. But hey, as Salman Butt would probably say, rules are there to be broken.

Today's paper has a special investigation into how the medical industry over-charges the NHS for products, an expose written by a medical sales rep. The headline?
In B&Q they cost 20p. So why does the NHS spend £99 for a screw to put in your hip?

Now, I'm no expert in medical matters. I watched a couple of episodes of Grey's Anatomy once (in my defence, I was drunk) and at university I lived next door to a couple of medical students (who, most of the time, were drunk), but that's about it. Yet I think even I can probably hazard a guess why the NHS's finest orthopaedic surgeons don't pick up their supplies at B-AND-FUCKING-Q on the way to work each day.

Even if you're not a complete fucking moron and still can't figure out why the NHS doesn't use bamboo garden canes from Homebase in lieu of hypodermic needles, you only have to make it to the fifth paragraph of the story for the author to answer his or her own question:
"We sell screws that are barely any different from the ones you see in B&Q, priced five for £1. Yet ours cost between £30 and £40 — each. And while they cost us, at most, £10 to make, we justify the mark-up because they are slightly finer. Oh, and sterile. "
Right. So they cost you £10 to make, and you sell them for between £30 and £40. Charging three times the manufacturing cost is certainly a hefty mark-up but it's not totally off the scale - nor does it compare to the 495-times difference mentioned in the headline. Plus, of course, the £10 cost of "making" a surgical screw does not take into account the scientific development and so forth that have to be paid for too. Nor the £100,000 salary of the sales rep - your average B&Q sales stacker isn't on quite that much, and your average B&Q screw is not super-fine (something that is more complicated and costly to achieve without losing structural integrity) and is not produced (and shipped and stored) in a sterile environment.

There's the root of a potentially interesting article here - the paper could take a serious look at the problem of medical suppliers charging unjustifiably large prices to the NHS, driving up the cost of treatment and reducing the number of patients who can be treated as a result. But this doesn't fit with the Mail's agenda. Far from it. The paper despises the NHS, seeing it as a socialist construct packed with "pointless" managers and bungling foreigners.

So this story draws the staggering conclusion that the problem lies with the NHS and that the only way to overcome it is for the NHS to learn "smarter shopping". The deranged commenters agree, one saying that supermarket managers should be brought in because they know how to drive down costs (chiefly by bankrupting farmers, but that's another story). The angle here perfectly reflects the paper's take on Avastin, the bowel cancer drug that costs £21,000 per patient. All coverage focussed on how evil bureaucrats at NICE were denying people the drug because it's too expensive. At no point did they question WHY it's so expensive.

As a final thought, can you imagine the horrified Mail headlines if it was revealed that the NHS WAS buying its hip screws at B&Q?

The Curious Case of the Bouncing "Elf and Safety Killjoys"

Those Elf & Safety killjoys have been at it again, this time "outlawing" a trampoline that a woman has erected outside her house every summer for the past decade. As the Daily Mail says:

"A childminder has been ordered to take down a trampoline – because youngsters could ‘injure themselves’ if they bounce off it and onto the grass. Sharon Farmer has put up the 14ft trampoline in communal gardens in Lewisham, south London, for the past decade, but has been told by housing association bosses she must remove it for health and safety reasons."
The Express is also up in arms, telling us that the "Nanny state" has outlawed communal bouncing in South East London. You couldn't make it up. Except, of course, you can, especially if you're a "Daily Mail Reporter", the byline they usually use when they've taken a story from a news agency or, more often than not, just ripped it out of a local paper without giving them credit. A local newspaper such as South East London's News Shopper, which first broke the story yesterday, and from which the Express and Mail directly lift their quotes without attribution.

Plagiarism aside, you don't even have to go back to the source material to spot the gaping hole in this story, you simply have to read to the end. In the final paragraph of the Mail and Express stories, a spokesman for the London and Quadrant Housing Association (AKA the Elf & Safety Killjoys), which owns the land that the trampoline is sited on, says:

"We have agreed the trampoline can remain until the end of the school holidays. The trampoline will be re-assessed next spring in conjunction with health and safety representatives."
So they haven't ordered the owner to take it down - in fact, they've agreed she can keep it in place until the end of the school holidays, just as she does ever summer. And they haven't "outlawed" it for next summer either, they've just said that they want to do a proper health and safety assessment before it gets used next year. All of which rather fails to stand up the Mail and Express headlines. But that's not the end of it - although the national tabloids are more than happy to lift quotes from outrages residents, they're not so hot on repeating in full what the Elf & Safety Killjoys have to say. Go back to the News Shopper and the spokesman's quote continues:

“The trampoline will be re-assessed next spring in conjunction with health and safety representatives to determine if there are any potential risks to residents from their use and, if so, what can be done to mitigate these risks. We will also be carrying out a consultation with residents at Sandstone Road to get their views on the trampolines.”
He's being quite clear that they're not banning the trampoline, or even planning to ban it, they just want to be clear about any potential risks and take steps to mitigate them. Which seems perfectly sensible, both to protect children from harm and to protect the housing association from legal action if a child is injured on their property.

But the Mail and the Express didn't get where they are today by being perfectly sensible. Or by telling the whole story. Or even by using the actual things people say - eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the quote marks in the Mail's intro: "...because children could 'injure themselves' if they bounce off it..." If anyone can point me to the place where the housing association use the words "injure themselves", thus justifying the Mail's use of quotation marks (normally used to denote, you know, 'quotations'), I'd be very grateful.

Friday 27 August 2010

Daily Pot exclusive: Kettle slammed over "being black" shame

The Daily Mail is throwing its weight behind England's efforts to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup, possibly in an attempt to make up for its Sunday sister's hugely unpopular attempt to hole the bid below the waterline earlier this year.*

With FIFA's inspectors in town this week, Paul Dacre's Barmy Army chose to highlight a major problem with the bid of England's main rival Russia, namely the casual racism that pervades much of the domestic game there.

Racism is, of course, something the Daily Mail knows rather a lot about. Which makes me wonder why the paper wants the World Cup here - after all, it would cause hundreds of thousands of foreigners to come here, some of them (gasp!) non-white!

*Interesting to note that the hundreds and hundreds of reader comments condemning the Mail on Sunday for running the story have now been removed from the site...

Thursday 26 August 2010

Tabloids not spooked by lack of facts, proof, evidence etc

The middle of August is always a slow time for the media, which goes some way to explaining why a woman putting a cat in a bin led bulletins on 24-hour news channels for much of the week (I'd have been more impressed if she'd put a bin in a cat, but there you go).

So editors up and down the land practically came in their pants with excitement when"real-life James Bond" Gareth Williams was found dead in his Pimlico flat earlier this week. Spies! Intrigue! Gayness! It's a story that has pretty much everything, which is why the press covered it all with such sensitivity.

Did Al-Qaeda bump off suitcase spook?
Asked the Sun website yesterday. Probably not, said the front page of, err... today's Sun:

Murdered spook was a cross-dresser
"MURDERED MI6 worker Gareth Williams was a secret transvestite who may have been killed by a gay lover, detectives said yesterday."
Ah, those pesky transvestite Al-Qaeda agents! A well-known issue among the Islamist extremist terrorist community. Incidentally, the "evidence" that proves the deceased was a transvestite is the claim that "women's clothes that would fit a man" were found in his flat. Well that settles it, then. By the time we get on to page seven the paper has decided to hedge its bets and created one of the most tabloid friendly headline-and-intro packages of recent months (which, unfortunately, is not online):

MI6 Gareth... Murdered by a gay slayer or a foreign spy
"Police believe transvestite MI6 intelligence expert Gareth Williams was killed by a gay lover - or a foreign spy."

Or, as the Mirror claims, one of his colleagues. Or maybe one of his friends:

"Detectives are investigating whether colleagues of codebreaker Gareth Williams, 31, are linked to the puzzling death ... Dismissing suggestions of an assassination by foreign agents as fantasy, security sources said it was possible he may have been attacked by a friend."
Or maybe a fucking Moomin, for all they know. The Star preferred to take a more mature, grown-up attitude to the case:

MI6 spy stabbed to death and stuffed in sports bag to rot
Classy. I'm sure his family were delighted to see that on the newsstands this morning. Plus, as the Mail points out:

"Toxicology tests have been ordered to see if Mr Williams had been poisoned. Lurid speculation that he had been stabbed or even dismembered was discounted by police sources."
It's little wonder the Mail has such disdain for "speculation", as all their coverage is totally rooted in confirmed facts:

Did spy's killer steal secrets?
Er, probably not. As the Mail's sister paper Metro points out:

"Nothing had been stolen".
However, the Mail has some lurid speculation to be getting on with:

"Police fear that his murderer could have taken classified material - possibly held on a laptop or MP3 player - which could be sold on to Britain's enemies."
And that's not the only thing the Mail is fearful of:

"One fear is that an area used by MI6 to house operatives ... had now been compromised."
Ye gads! Which treacherous organisation could be responsible for compromising national security in this way?

"The maze of streets around London's Victoria and Pimlico districts ... provide the ideal cover for safe houses used by MI5 and MI6. Dozens are owned by the Security and Intelligence agencies."
That little security titbit comes from, you've guessed it, the Daily Mail. The paper really goes to town on the issue, including helpfully telephoning the mother of one of Mr Williams's colleagues to ask if her son had been involved in a gay relationship with the victim - no room for lurid speculation here. It has also commissioned a piece on "the intriguing truth about life as 21st century spook". It notes that said life is "surprisingly mundane", with workers "spending their days in an office trawling through emails".

So, in summary, Gareth Williams was a real-life James Bond whose life and work was pretty mundane. He was stabbed, poisoned and strangled to death by a gay-slaying Al-Qaeda agent who was a colleague and a friend and police fear that secrets that were not stolen from his flat could be sold to Britain's enemies.

It's a classic example of the media having no idea what's going on, but having pages to fill nonetheless. In any high-profile murder case getting to the facts can be tricky for journalists, but when the victim works for Britain's most secretive employer they come up against a brick wall. At which point all they can do is guess, speculate, talk to sources who aren't actually connected to the case and copy what other journalists are saying, because if something's been said on Sky News, well, it must be true. Being accurate is no longer important. All that matters is being first with something, anything, so that a year from now when the case comes to court the paper can run a little picture of today's front page alongside a boast about how they "were first" with the news.

The result is a mess like this story. When you cross-check the stories against each other they quickly become ludicrous, but how many of each paper's readers will also look at the coverage in other outlets?

Quite aside from the factual inaccuracies, how traumatic must this be for Mr Williams' friends and family? It's bad enough that they've lost a loved one, now they have to put up with "lurid speculation" about his private life, ill-informed gossip spread across the newsstands, and disturbing headlines like that employed by the Star.

All hacks and hackettes on journalism law courses are told that you can't libel the dead. However, that doesn't mean you should go out of your way to piss all over their memory in order to stand up a sensationalist headline.

Monday 23 August 2010

Dubya diaries due on 9/11 (sort of)

It's taken Tony Blair more than three years since retiring to get his autobiography out, but George W Bush has been much quicker off the mark. Decision Points will be published later this year, just over 18 months after he left the White House. Presumably the lack of words containing more than three syllables - which are far too elitist for a down-at-home Texas boy like the Connecticut-born and Yale-educated Dubya - made the proofreaders' work much quicker.

Anyhow, the book is due to be published worldwide on
9 November. Or, as they'd call it in pretty much every country outside North America, 9/11/10. 9/11? He's publishing his book on 9/11?

I'd say it was a cunning attempt to link it to the defining moment of his presidency, but nothing about his eight years in power paints a picture of a man possessed of great cunning and understanding of the finer points of life in foreign countries...

Daily Mail still undecided on merits of mob rule

Last week two Pakistani boys, aged 15 and 17, were beaten to death by a 200-strong lynch mob after being mistaken for burglars. This, in itself, is depressing. The fact that the video of the killings is currently one of the most-viewed clips on YouTube is even more depressing in its own way.

The Daily Mail shares the revulsion felt by all right-thinking people, condemning the "horrifying" and "brutal" killings and noting that the Pakistani nation is asking itself how so many people could stand by without intervening. What kind of savage, backward country would allow such a thing? The Mail's online readers are in no doubt:

And Pakistan wonders why the world is reluctant to give them aid money when crimes like this go on in the street with no sense of law and order.
- Matt P, Wootton Bassett, 22/8/2010 20:42

"Is this what we are? Savages?" Yes, that pretty much sums it up.
- Peter, London, 22/8/2010 19:23

It is difficult to make a comment on this awful incident, where were the Islamic Imams when all this was going on? I can see why donors are scarce in helping Pakistan with flood aid, if this is a sample of cultural democracy
- lionel Clarke, macclesfield, Cheshire,

I'm more surprised that there actually people in Pakistan who have the decency to protest against this. As Bill Maher said - our culture is better than theirs, and we shouldn't be afraid to say it.
- Mephistophiles, Accrington, 23/8/2010

And who could possibly disagree? If a crime has been committed then the police should be called, the case should be investigated, and the suspect tried by a jury of his peers. Or maybe not. Because elsewhere in Mail World things are very different.

Sitting just below the Pakistan story on the Mail home page is the charming tale of a man who has been arrested after allegedly opening fire on a five-year-old gypsy child who "trespassed on his land" while
committing the heinous crime of... collecting ladybirds. Comments are not being allowed for legal reasons but the article oozes sympathy, noting that the shooter "must have been very scared", that he had been "plagued by break-ins" and that "gypsy children had cleared the shelves of local shops". Must've asking for it, then. After all, the kid was probably planning to steal the ladybirds.

For many years the Mail and its readers have idolised and fetishised another gypsy-shooter, Tony Martin. You may recall that Martin spent three years behind bars after being convicted of murder, later reduced on appeal to manslaughter, of 16-year-old gypsy Fred Barras, who shot in the back while fleeing Martin's farmhouse empty-handed. Almost exactly a year ago today, Martin gave an interview to the Mail in which he proudly stated that he had "no regrets" and suggested that he'd cheerily do the same again should the opportunity arise. Far from being horrified at this example of unrepentant vigilante justice, the paper described him as an "eccentric". The most highly rated comments under the interview stop some way short of condemning the killer of a teenage boy in the terms used to describe the foreign, Muslim killers of two teenage boys:

The guy is a hero ,in my book we need more like him.
- Peter, kent, 22/8/2009 21:17

I'm afraid I find it hard to sympathise with the victim, no matter how young.
- Catherine, York, 21/8/2009 14:08

His prosecution was an injustice at the time and it remains so. Enjoy a long and happy life Mr Martin, you did nothing wrong. As the support from these pages show, the people are behind you even if the discredited and bankrupt politicians are out of step.
- FU, Queensland, 21/8/2009 1:11

I dont think many people have any remorse or pity for those 2 thieves. Tony Martin is an inspiration to all law abiding citizens.
- dave, nottingham england, 20/8/2009 20:51

Tony Martin for Prime Minister!!!
- andrew, king's Lynn, 20/8/2009 20:54

And so on and so forth. The pattern repeats itself with every case where a householder is brought before the courts to answer for their actions after attacking a suspected criminal (and it IS "suspected", as I'm pretty sure we still have the presumption of innocence in this country). The householder is a hero, the victim had it coming, we can't expect the police to do anything about it so we have to take the law into our own hands.*

The coverage is presented this way because it fits in with the Mail's narrative on the state not just of this nation but of others, too: Britain is a wonderful, civilised place that is being ruined by Harriet Harman-style lefties, political correctness, a hopeless police force and a legal system that puts the criminal before the victim. So, if a Briton kills someone they suspect of committing a crime, they're a hero and all right-thinking people should support them. Meanwhile, Pakistan is a backward nation populated by savages who live in the dark ages and do awful things like take the law into their own hands. Clear?

*It's also worth noting that, in most cases, the householder is either cleared by the jury or cleared on appeal within six months. The fact that the Tony Martin case continues to occupy the public imagination more than a decade after Barras was shot dead shows how few people actually are jailed for such acts.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Telegraph Exclusive: Pope "is Catholic"

In today's Telegraph, religious affairs hack Martin Beckford applies his finely honed journalistic skills to the forthcoming visit by everyone's favourite Hitler Youth Pontiff and shares with his readers this astonishing revelation:

"Potentially the most tense encounter of the four-day visit will be the short meeting between the Holy Father, known for his traditional Roman Catholic views on sexuality and the family, and Miss Harman, the acting Labour leader who was a fierce defender of the rights of minority groups while Equality Minister."

Now, my knowledge of the Vatican's ancient protocols comes largely from watching Angels & Demons on TV after getting home from the pub the other night, but even I could tell you that, as a general rule, you don't need to point out that the leader of the Catholic Church tends to hold Catholic views.

What we really need Beckford to tell is whether Harriet Harman shits in the woods

Monday 16 August 2010


I don’t know about you but when I was younger my summer jobs generally involved pulling pints at the local, doing some painting and decorating and, for two joyous months, packing boxes at the Boots factory in Nottingham. Proving that it’s all about who you know rather than what you know, a young chap called Nick Clegg has landed the mother of all summer jobs by being made Prime Minister for two weeks while the boss is stuck at home waiting for the builders to arrive with his new kitchen.

As this government is all about being open and transparent and big society-y, the Cleggmeister is kicking off his fortnight in charge of the shop by taking questions from the public, via the modern interweb. Apparently still beaming with pride after the whole
#nickcleggsfault meme from back in the heady days of Cleggmania, the acting PM (who as No 10 are keen to point out is NOT acting PM, "the PM is always in charge, Clegg is just some guy we hired for the summer") have asked people to supply questions via Twitter, using the hashtag #asknickclegg.

Unfortunately the pesky denizens of the internet have failed to realise that this is a very important and grown-up exercise in democratic engagement, and are instead bombarding the not-acting-PM with questions such as:

Melonhead999: How do you keep your hair so soft and silky looking, what's your secret?

Irondanimal: How much weight has Dave gained since taking office?

humphreycushion: Why did the old woman swallow a fly?

Surells: When are you going to kill David Cameron and stage a coup?*

Albatross129: Are the rumours true?

Scalded_Bollock: Just how much of a twat is George Osborne? I mean, obviously he's a twat, but on a scale of one to 10?

Mount_st_nobody: Is it as painful as it looks?

And so forth, although oddly enough the moderator doesn’t seem to be putting these to him, instead sticking to ones about foreign aid and reducing the national debt and the provision of low-cost housing and blah blah blah snore... Though of course they did find time to ask the "What's your favourite biscuit" one, thus confirming that Britain's political leaders now live in fear of incurring the wrath of the Mumsnet empire.

Mind you, seasoned Clegg-watchers already knew that his biscuit of choice is a Rich Tea (when dunked) and a HobNob (when not dunked). At least he hasn't abandoned ALL of his pre-coalition principles...

*Never, silly, that would be like Eric killing Ernie, or Guilbert throwing Sulivan into the swirling propellers of the HMS Pinafore.

Sam Cam: let them eat cupcakes (from my lovely new kitchen)

Important "We're all in this together" news from the Daily Mail.

Today's paper contains the
shocking story of a family in London who are exploiting this country's generous benefits system. They live at the expense of the taxpayer in a taxpayer-funded Georgian townhouse on one of Britain's most exclusive streets and, despite already having two kids, have another one on the way! As if that wasn't bad enough, they've been given up to £28,000 of OUR MONEY to install a brand-new state-of-the-art kitchen - complete with granite work surfaces - simply because the wife "didn't think much" of the one installed by the previous tenants.

However, as the benefit scroungers in question are David and Samantha Cameron rather than a pair of Somali asylum-seekers, the Mail prefers to focus on the fact that they're also ripping out Tony Blair's old gym.

Friday 13 August 2010

CLG expenses part II: It's not waste if MPs spend it, OK?

Down at Communities & Local Government, all the Tory ministers have been getting terribly excited about yesterday's publication of all the department's spending from the past few years. The token Lib-Dem at Eland House, Andrew Stunnel, has been conspicuosly quiet, presumably having realised that a hefty chunk of the Yellow Peril's core vote are public servants who don't take kindly to being told that they're an over-pampered drain on the hard-working taxpayers of Britain.

Grant Shapps was particularly animated,
tweeting away about the importance of exposing Labour waste and so forth (for example the £675 electricity bill for the Fire Service College - why do trainee firemen need electricity, damnit!). The grammatically challenged "Welwyn Hatfield energetic and re-elected MP" was classed as an "expenses saint" by the Telegraph, so unlike CLG colleague Bob Neill he should know a thing or two about not misusing public cash.

But, as Homer Simpson said, even communism works IN THEORY. In reality, Grant was busy troughing away with the best of them.

Despite proudly boasting that he's never owned a second home (something 99 per cent of the British population could also brag about if so minded), Grant
pocketed £2,134 of housing-related expenses in 2005/06 and £3,244 in 06/07.

"Hotel bills" he says, from those occasions where he had to stay late in the office and missed the last train back to sunny Hertfordshire. Fair enough, I suppose, though it's worth remembering that the Tories have been
gleefully complaining about civil servants wasting money by staying in hotels when away from home on business. However, in 2007/08 his accommodation bill more than doubled, rocketing up to a whopping £7,269.

So what happened in 2007? Did the cost of hotels double overnight? Did he suddenly start working harder for the people of Welwyn Hatfield? Did the Commons have twice as many late-night sessions as in the previous two years? Or has it got something to do with the fact that in June 2007 Grant Shapps became
shadow housing minister? Joining the shadow frontbench team would mean spending a lot more time in London on party business - there are meetings to go to, news programmes to appear on, fundraisers to attend, parties to 'network' at, Murdoch executives to fellate and so on.

But as we all know, the rules on MPs expenses are very clear that the taxpayer can only be expected to pay up for expenses
"wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties" - in other words, they have to have spent the money on working as an MP, not as a shadow minister. It seems a little bit too much of a coincidence that Shapps's hotel bills doubled in the year that he became a shadow minister.

If he was strapped for cash, perhaps he could have spent some of the money given to him by
estate agents, mortgage brokers and property developers (who of course have absolutely no interest in Grant's housing brief), something his transparency-loving office refused to comment on.

Between 2005 and 2008 Grant's overall expenses bill also rose steadily, climbing from £95,827 to £127,152, including an annual bill of just over
£5,500 for regular travel from his home to his office, because it would be totally unreasonable to expect a man who earns just £65,000 a year to pay for his own season ticket. This means that in 2007/08 he spent almost £13,000 of our money travelling to and from work and staying in hotels while out late - something "wasteful" civil servants have to pay for out of their salaries, which on average are just under £23,000.

So remember: if a Civil Servant stays in a hotel while doing their job, it's waste. If an MP stays in a hotel while on party political duties, it's a legitimate business expense.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Bob Neill: being taken for a ride by the likes of us

Finally seeing your party get into government after 13 long years only to see a whole bunch of fun-looking jobs handed to the Liberal Democrats (the Liberal Democrats!) must be tough enough for mid-ranking Tories, but imagine how bad it feels when you finally get the long-awaited call from No 10 and discover that your years of loyalty have been rewarded by... being made Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at Communities and Local Government! Wooh!

It's no wonder Bob Neill is in such a bad mood, but it seems a little unfair to take it out on Civil Servants from the Government Office network (who his boss has just sacked) by publishing all their expenses online and complaining that they were
"quite literally ... taking the taxpayer for a ride"* by spending public cash on "fun" things like team-building trips to Blackpool Pleasure Beach. After all, on the list of fun things to do in life "spending a day at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with colleagues from work" is right up there with "cleaning up after a Conservative Futures party at a Lady Thatcher inflatable doll factory".

Still, kudos to Bob for believing in being totally open about how public money is spent. And he clearly believes in setting an example - drop by his
constituency website, type "expenses" into the search box and you're given a complete breakdown of all the taxpayer money he spent on... Oh, no, hang on, you actually get this:

"No matching records were found for your search."

Fortunately the Daily Telegraph has been more helpful when it comes to creating an army of armchair auditors. I know that criticising MPs over their expenses claims is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel (or harpooning great big blubbery whales in a kiddies' paddling pool in the case of Eric "Only Cabinet Minister Visible From Space" Pickles and his
£280 a month food bill), but in the spirit of openness and transparency I thought it only fair to take a look at what the honourable member for Bromley and Chislehurst has been claiming.

Bromley South to Victoria (a 20-minute walk from Parliament) takes a whopping 23 minutes, so obviously Bobby needed a second home in Central London, otherwise he might have had to leave home before 9am each day. So that explains why he had to claim £365 a week in housing costs.

What's less clear is why he ALSO charged the taxpayer £215 a week on "travel costs", given that:

a) He has a taxpayer-funded second home a short walk from Parliament precisely so he doesn't have to travel;


b) a Zones One to Five weekly travel card costs just £44 (with Tube included, obviously, so he could brave the District & Circle instead of facing that trek down Victoria Street.

Still, at least we can't accuse him of taking the taxpayer for a ride - it's pretty obvious that taxpayers were paying for him to go on one.

*I did cringe at the use of "literallty", which in this case would have involved the Civil Servants taking a bunch of taxpayers on The Big One. And if they DID do that, I really can't see what he's complaining about. Perhaps he's just jealous because Government Office for London never took him to Chessington World of Adventures.