The British people ought to be ashamed of themselves, going on and on about expenses for dog food and the like claimed by their MPs and paid for by taxpayers. Don't they know that the financial crisis is serious and this is where they should be concentrating, rather than looking for where their money went? Can't they see that European elections are more important than scandals? Is there no one to protect the reputation of politics before it is sullied? Finally, given that the legitimate, yet still outrageous expenses claimed by certain British MPs are in the region of 4,000-5,000 euros, what we are seeing is a clash of civilizations. Haven't these people learned anything from Greece's own brand of open-handedness, where only misappropriations of around or above 1 million euros are considered a scandal?
We all know the British like to focus on minutiae. They are concerned, for example, about the damage a scandal can do to democracy. One MP, Douglas Carswell, wondered how well ministers can manage the country's finances when they are so obviously incapable of managing their own. Even the prime minister and the parliamentary speaker did the unthinkable (for Greek standards) when they actually apologized to the people, while Junior Justice Minister Shahid Malik did the most outrageous thing of all: He resigned!
Of course, if we want to be completely honest, the rage of the British people is so great that it borders on the puritanical. In the case of Malik, his sin was that he was tight-fisted with his own money (keeping a small apartment in his constituency) and overly generous with that of others (keeping a large house in London, paid for by taxpayers).
Between puritanical outrage and large-scale misappropriation of public funds, where is the middle ground? Naturally politicians should not be expected to go around dressed in rags, but, on the other hand, we should not be ignoring the mismanagement of public money, especially in the midst of a deep economic crisis.
«Kathimerini» English Edition, 21.5.2009