Recession backlash has yet to find the target

The backlash could get really ugly. Or else the inquisition will move on so fast that most will escape its lash. There are so many imponderables, like the length and depth of the recession itself. One person’s quest for social justice is another’s politics of envy. The old question arises – quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – who supervises the elites but other bankers, other politicians, other civil servants? Set a thief to catch a thief. Bonuses for bankers are a juicy target but can we do without the trade itself? The Spectator carries a vivid insider’s piece on the City’s “New Puritanism”. Can’t afford the coke any more, so they have to survive on great coffee. The spotlight is falling again on the public sector where the payola is far lower but the rules seem just as loaded in favour of the privileged… Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is the latest target, for claiming 22k a year within the rules for lodging with her sister. The peers accused of cash for amendments won’t be arrested but may be thrown out one day, some day …And now it’s the turn again of the civil servants:

Sir Brian Bender is a top Whitehall mandarin. So what was he doing at Wimbledon, the Derby and the Chelsea Flower Show?

HBOS invited the Treasury’s director for international finance, Stephen Pickford, to a reception in October and then bought him dinner the following month. A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The decision to publish this list reflects the government’s continued commitment to openness and transparency. All hospitality received is in line with guidelines set out in the Civil Service Code and Civil Service Management Code.”

Another wonderfully bland Treasury reply, unabashed at revealing the stubborn survival of the nexus of bankers and officials. Harmless little courtesy, or rank corruption? For a lot of this information, we have the Freedom of Information Act to thank. FOI is a two edged -sword. Designed to raise public confidence through greater accountability, its impact has been generally to depress it. Amazingly, the politicians who passed the Act have been among the most determined opponents of FOI in action. Guido Fawkes the anarcho-Tory blog describes the moves that led to a sharp U-turn over of exempting MPs from declaring full expenses, sparing neither side. You may think this odd for a group who are supposed to be keyed into public opinion. Or else it may dawn on you that many of them don’t care a fig for the public but want to stick their snouts in the trough as often as they can, before they lose their seats. This is what is meant by fin de regime.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London