back to article If they can break the law, why can't we?

Lies, spin and establishment contempt for the rules by which the rest of the population are meant to live, are nothing new. It is just possible, however, that the last few weeks have been a tipping point, with large swathes of the population now questioning just why they should adhere to the letter of the law when others don’t …


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  1. Rupert Stubbs

    Bad laws

    Much of the blame must be laid on the staggering ineptness of New Labour's haemorrhage of legistlation. For a party led by lawyers, they have shown themselves utterly incapable of drafting the simplest law, preferring to adopt a shotgun approach. Indeed, I'm not sure I can think of a single law they've passed (thanks to a huge majority) that hasn't had to be amended, repealed or generally ignored.

    The nadir was the recent Religious Hatred act, which was objected to by comedians on the grounds that they wouldn't be able to make fun of people any more. "Oh, don't worry about that", said the politicians. "We know that's what it SAYS - we'll just tell the police not to apply it to you."

    Bad laws are corrosive. They introduce doubt and ambiguity, and this distorts behaviour, both on side of the public, and on that of those enforcing it. We now no longer know whether we have freedom of speech, whether we can be extradited to another country for something that isn't a crime in this country, whether we can photograph a policeman beating someone up at a demonstration, whether our confidential details must be put on a government database, etc., etc.

    It used to be the glory of the English legal system - compared to the Napoleonic (European) - that what isn't expressly against the law is legal. New Labour (and the EU, to be fair) have tried to correct this by legistlating about everything they can - not a sparrow falls but the government must pass a new law to stop it happening again. There are now so many new laws that ignorance of the law - even for lawyers and judges - is inevitable, yet the effect of all this is to make us feel less in control, not safer.

    We can only hope that a new government realises that this is part of the contempt we feel for the authorities in whatever form. Both the Tories and Lib Dems have paid lip-service to restoring some of our freedoms and getting proper accountability - but we all know that these promises can be put off once they are in power...

  2. Matt

    Obey until...

    Most people obey the law until they come into contact with the police. As a law abiding citizen, when you've been stopped "Because I can" you quickly learn to tell them what to do.

    And there is nothing funnier than asking them which law they are stopping you under. If it's the terrorism one always ask for what makes you look like a terrorist (they will usually walk off quickly)

  3. Frank Silver badge

    A few points

    I think this is a well written and thoughtful article, but I'd like to raise some points about something the author said.....

    "...if the public reflected more quietly on the issues, it is probable they would not wish their own employers to pursue such a draconian policy either."

    There is a contract of employment between my employer and myself and either of us are free to terminate it under simple conditions within a short time. There is no contract between MPs and the people who voted to put them into Parliament. The people have to wait years for an opportunity to appoint a replacement.

    My employer has written rules, available for me to read at all times. The vast majority of these rules only apply during the hours of work when I am 'performing my duties'. Outside those hours, my employer does not care what I do. MPs pass into law, rules that apply to me 24/365 and give power to their agents (police) to make up rules on the fly with no consultation with me.

    (This is a turnaround situation where the appointee now has power over the 'appointer').

    The situation and the effects of the relationship between the 'people' and the MPs and their agents are totally unlike the employer/employee relationship. Hence you cannot draw working comparisons between them. The authors statement (in quotes above) would be valid for a relationship between two normal people or a person and a reasonably 'benign' organisation. This is not the case for Parliament and the people.

  4. Pete Silver badge

    public malleability

    Right now, the public is being told what a load of thieving, fraudulent bastards our politicians are (as we didn't know already). This has taken over from swine flu as the biggest thing on the news horizon - even though only a few weeks ago we were being told that the whole planet is doomed and we'll all have to stuff hankies up our noses if we want to make to to the newsagents without dying a grotesque and horrible death. No doubt in a couple of weeks time, the MPs expenses thing will have been forgotten, just as the row about bankers pay before that, and the "epidemic" of teenage stabbings in London, before that.

    By this time next year - when we'll have to have an election, if there hasn't already been one by then, most people will remember the expenses row and think "Oh, yeah .... bunch of tossers".However, by then the wind-up for the 2010 world cup will be monopolising the meeja and all these revelations will seem as distant and unimportant as Tony Blair is today.

    The thing is, most people don't care - about anything that doesn't affect them, personally. Yes they love to grumble in the pub and on the high street and a few might actually get off their arses and grumble on the internet - but ultimately it's like moaning about the weather: something we do as a nation, but not in the expectation that we can change it.

    As it is, there are only a handful of people who's opinions matter in the UK. These are the individuals who set the news agenda: a few foreign newspaper owners and a couple of anonymous (and so "right-on" and artsy it makes you sick) news editors on 24 hour news channels. Since these people decide what we will be told - and what political slant it will be presented with, they effectively decide what we all shall whinge about next (and to a large extent, which of our two identical parties will form the next indiscernable-from-the-last government).

    So what of the expenses row? Just like every previous case of political corruption and every one to come; nothing. It'll cause a few snouts to withdraw from the trough - to be replaced by new and more devious ones. It'll give rise to some procedural changes in a place that almost no-one has ever been to and the historians will write about it. So far as having any lasting effect on real peoples' lives - forget it. It's already yesterday's news.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    You may have missed the point

    This could well be a tipping point as you say, but you seem to have missed that a large percentage of the public are finaly fed up to the back teeth with the way our *servants* have been trying to behave as the master.

    This bunch of disingenuous prevaricating bastards need dealing with, a few resignations will not do, we should get rid of this den of scum and start again.

    flames, they all need to be sent to to hell

  6. Martin


    Great article. It is apparent tom me and many others i am, sure that we are very much living in a society were the "the elite" control the many.

    The behavior of so called public servants is despicable, although i believe many of them see themselves as public masters. With all the talk of last years expenses, what about the previous expense claims for the last 20 years or more of a long sitting MP. Where i work the tax office wrote to the finacial controller saying we could no longer get our 20 pounds Xmas food voucher, because this was a benefit in kind and was subject to taxation!

    I strongly think the more control and power the few have the more likely we will have a distopian police state. It is time for people to sand up and say no to whats basically a two party state. The Northern Ireland Assembly political model springs to mind as possible answer to power swapping between Conservatives and Labour.

  7. Darren
    Thumb Up


    very insightful, as time goes on I wonder where the more and more orwellian actions by the UK powers-that-be will end.

  8. David

    Good article

    That's what I like about The Register. When you're serious, you're VERY serious!!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how i see it

    ever since the hand gun theft, enacted by a bunch of yet-to-be-convicted theives and enforced by another bunch of same, i have had a pragmatic approach to the law.

    if it does not suite my purpose, i will ignore it.

    that view has in no way been eroded by the behaviour of our "government" or "the loyal opposition", rather, it has been re-enforced.

  10. jake Silver badge

    Because we don't have to break the law. Duh.

    "It still takes a certain amount of chutzpah to stand up to a police officer in a public place."

    OK, if you say so. Personally, I don't allow myself to be pushed about by petty officials when I'm not doing anything illegal.

    "Nonetheless, this affair is bound to filter into attitudes towards compliance with the law. After all, why be quite so accurate in reporting one’s tax affairs, when it is clear that those who pass the laws think it"

    "those who pass the laws think it" ... think it what? Methinks you're missing a wee bit there.

    You Brits need to get a trifle more coherent if you want hoi polloi to be in charge.

    Not that I think us Yanks are doing much better ...

  11. Martin

    its the degree they seem to be fiddling too

    'If you are alleged to have fiddled your expenses, you would expect a full investigation before you were fired'

    actually if i was alleged to have fiddled thousands of pounds I am sure that I would be out of the door before I could say 'it was a simple mistake'

  12. SuperTim
    Black Helicopters

    Open defiance = Death by taser

    Open defiance will end up in the deaths of many through so-called non-lethal weapons carried by facist bully-boys citing terrorism law. The British public are not so foolish or stupid to fall for such provocation, and are now sick of the one sided nature of authority that they no longer care for the rule of law. Most Brits will break any law if they think it is unfair unless that leads to definite arrest. There are fiew who would think twice when filesharing........

    The police will respond with heavier and heavier measures until a true police state exists. The instances of illegal searches, inappropriate use of terror legislation, violence against legal and peaceful protest and the increasing use of tasers against people who are unarmed and not dangerous means I am now more scared to walk down a street if there a coppers there than if there were the stereotypical terrorist intent on martyring himself at the exact point i walk past.

    Many people's experience of policing is a negative one, even when they are victims or innocent bystanders. In the past i have been subject to investigation for failing to provide my driving documents after witnessing an accident (boy falling off pedal cycle and hurting his knee). After they told me i had failed to provide i pointed out that i was a passenger in a car and the copper's face actually dropped at the realisation he couldnt then charge me, before rounding on my wife (who was driving). She has also been subject to a police check of her car when some drunken fool walking down the middle of an unlit road walked right in front of her. She swerved and only winged him, damaging her car in the process. The police were very keen to see if there was any reason to nick her. Her protests about the man's behaviour were met with "There's no law against being an idiot!". Clearly not, otherwise most of the force would be ineligible to join....

    The Government's approach to the banking crisis shows us where we all stand (the plebs who must support the fat cats when they screw up). The recent revelations regarding the us-and-them nature of MP's expenses further alienates many former law abiding citizens and there is much unrest amongst the natives. It is clearly a time for a wholesale change of both governement and law, and this is going to end up akin to the october revolution (except that we would overthrow in a more civilised manner).

    And before any knucklescraper asks.... No I don't read the daily fail.

  13. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    If it happened to me...

    "If you are alleged to have fiddled your expenses, you would expect a full investigation before you were fired. You would also hope for a warning for a first offence in most businesses, rather than summary dismissal."

    I'd expect enough of an investigation to prove that I had claimed and received the money in question. When all that has been done, if the claim has nothing to do with the job and amounts to a noticeable fraction of my salary, I'd expect to be fired and given the choice of "pay back all the money" (what do you mean you've spent it?) or face prosecution for fraud. That's also what my erstewhile collegues would expect. Why should their employer carry the loss?

    This is the case for a few MPs. *Most* MPs have not been so outrageous. *They* can expect a warning.

    That apart, I agree wholeheartedly.

  14. Diana Artemis
    Thumb Up

    Good article

    Congratulations to John Ozimek on a temperate, thoughtful and shapely piece of journalism. A joy to read, and full of good sense. We need this sort of intelligent writing, when so much written and broadcast journalism is currently playing to the gallery, and getting dangerously overheated.

  15. adnim Silver badge

    A lack of we

    They make the laws

    They enforce the laws.

    They judge those they deem to have broken their laws,

    They sentence those they say are guilty of breaking their laws.

    There is no "we" in any of the above, we are not involved, we have no say, we do as we are told.

    There is no "I" in any of the above, I am not involved, I have no say, I mostly do as I am told.

    Right then we know who we are and I know who I am but who are they?

    Hasn't it always been the case that the alpha male eats first?

  16. Dan

    'Cos they did

    I may copy the MPs and put all sorts of wacky expenses on my tax return this year. If the catch me I'll just plead ignorance and say "well I thought it was legal to do that since it's legal for MPs to claim those things as expenses".

  17. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    IT Angle

    Who will police the unpoliceable?

    I have visions of parole officers being recruited to jam the masses. Fancy being interrogated by some idiot savant refused promotion from the Job Centre?

    What will happen when readers of computer magazines realise they are being recruited for the BNP not the IT?

  18. Ian Bradshaw

    Lying Cheating Bastards

    "Claims that most workers would be sacked at once for bending the rules in the way that MP’s appear to have are likely misplaced, and if the public reflected more quietly on the issues, it is probable they would not wish their own employers to pursue such a draconian policy either"

    If I'd just made up a claim for a new laptop (substitute for mortgage) that didn't exist and pocketed the cash thank you very much and then go, 'oh, sorry, didn't realise that laptop I made up didn't exist' ... then yes, I would expect to be instantly dismissed.

    It's a matter of scale, these lying cheating bastards have been thieving more than a lot of people earn in a year. It's not as though they've just taken a few hundred by accident (when you would just expect a telling off).

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One rule for us, another for them...

    I think what grates the most with the exposure of MP expenses, is how all of them claim their actions to be a 'mistake' due to 'the pressures of work' and how they think (probably quite accurately thus far) that paying their ill-gotten gains back will be an end to the matter.

    What if an ordinary member of the public tried this? What if I didn't tell the council there was a second person living in my house for a year, and kept claiming the single-person rebate? What if I failed to tell HMRC my partner has got a job, and kept claiming extra tax credits I wasn't entited to? Or if I 'forgot' due to 'pressures of work' or because I wasn't 'good with numbers' to inform the tax people I made some capital gains last year?

    We'd have the book thrown at us. Penalties, court summonses, prosecutions, allegations of defrauding the public purse, threats of prison time. Why can't it be the same for them?

  20. chris

    Revolution anyone?

    Its a hard one to answer isn't it... should we break the law if those who make it don't follow it?

    "sinking down to their level" and all that rubbish...

    I'm not the one to make the decision, but i'd certainly join in with hitting a few police officers over the head. I've been wrongly arrested, searched unlawfully for a knife (seriously, I might have been 17 at the time but i've better things to do than go around stabbing people for the sheer fun of it), oh! and not to mention the fact that they don't half get upset if you photograph them... (its my new hobby)

    I make the prediction that by 2010 we will see a new Britain. One "of the people" where everything is fine and dandy, or one where its just going to get alot worse than it is now...

  21. Andrew Macrobie

    Scale ?

    "it is probable they would not wish their own employers to pursue such a draconian policy either. If you are alleged to have fiddled your expenses, you would expect a full investigation before you were fired. You would also hope for a warning for a first offence in most businesses, rather than summary dismissal."

    Had I fiddled my expenses to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds I would expect nothing less than an immediate dismissal - this, to me, would be in direct proportion to the level fraudulent actviity in which I had actively participated. I don't see how you can argue that the systematic and repeated theft of public funds /at this level/ by a number of individuals can be likened to claiming an extra few miles on expeses except for the basic fact that it's fraudulent activity.

    That's rather like saying one man murdering another is much the same as the mass murder of many indiviuals. They are manifestly different and should be treated as such.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This reminds me

    It is basically the exact same process that we have seen in Central-Eastern Europe in the past 15 years. It would be everyone's benefit if the establishment realized it, and did something in a timely manner, to avoid that road.

    The problem is, they seem to be too human to do that. Immediate personal benefits ALWAYS come first, and long term public benefit comes distinct second. The people that are able to switch this order are called heroes. And I cannot really see too many heroes in politics these days...

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Basic principles

    I think going back to two very basic principles should help a lot:

    - innocent until proven guilty. This one is where one also assumes a mistake before malice. This is the primary problem with the police attitude problem (because that's what I read into the incidents), somehow the police appears to address you with the assumption of guilt, naturally leading to immediate conflict.

    - everyone the same for the law. This is where the public anger resides. Everyone is monitored, except those that ordered it and the ones that do it. First off, CCTV has NIL preventative value (it's no comfort that my knife killer may be apprehended afterwards, thanks), secondly, that monitoring is not transparent - why can't I see what happens to that data? Why can the police kill people and get away with it? They are given special powers, but with that comes special responsibility - and that appears to have been lost on quite a few (not all of them, thankfully).

    One extra for bonus points?

    - transparency, transparency, transparency. The absolutely dramatic erosion of trust was initiated by New Labour introducing the "sleaze" factor when they were in opposition, and yes, the Tory party wasn't exactly above reprove. What is interesting is that (a) that party appeared to have cleaned up its act whilst, at the same time, (b) New Labour commenced their own version of sleaze the moment it walked though the doors at No10. Controls were disabled, press spin was introduced, the prevaling attitude was "control the masses with spin and fill your pockets while we can" - and it shows. M apologies for appearing politically biased here, but I am observing facts here. The Tories left an almost working IT environment - I have yet to see anything working under New Labour. New Labour started with a budget surplus, and have managed to urn it into the largest black hole in British history. Yet trice disgraced people like Mandelsson walk off to the EU to hold a well paid job at vast expense to the taxpayer. Blair goes to the one place which will profit from the crisis he caused in collaboration with Bush. Pensions, remember what those were? Who taxed the funds? Financial controls - remember those? The power of financial regulators is presently about as strong as that of the Information Commissioner - close to nil.

    It is a management dictum that ethics and attitudes flow downwards. If the top is replete with money grubbing, unethical people who try to hide their misdoing, lack of morals and breaking of laws (that is, the one they didn't manage to neuter yet) behind a wall of spin and silence it sets an example.

    One that business duly followed.

    One that leads to anarchy.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    If you think that's bad

    Try posting your annual cheque to the equivalent of your Inland Revenue when the guy at the top of it all is a known tax cheat. Populism and the so-called "Court of Public Opinion" is turning a great nation into a third-rate banana republic/kleptocracy no thanks at all to the same types of things you see going on in your country.

    A truly bitter example is immediately subsequent to that Treasury appointment, another appointment failed because the pol in question owed $120,000 in back taxes. He wrote a cheque and was cleared of any wrongdoing. If a regular citizen had that kind of tax liability, they'd be looking at prison time. If they had the money to pay it, they'd be investigated as having that kind of cash on hand when you're withholding it is viewed as evidence of wrongdoing by the same taxing authority. Our sniveling, panting, adoring media doesn't appear to be concerned, as the guy was of the right political affiliation, so we don't even have a useful press to put things right.

    It's not that we are holding our politicians to a higher standard and they fail -- it's that they fail to hold themselves to any sort of standard whatsoever and we all fail.

  25. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    Mass disobedience? Ungovernability?

    You say that as if it were a _bad_ thing. What obligation do the People have to obey odious diktats issued by a government that's become so vicious and oppressive that it's like a mad dog that needs killing, that makes one set of rules for itself and another for the People?

    Would that any of us over here in The Colonies had the cajones to disobey en masse in response to this kind of bullying. Sadly, I'm not holding my breath.

    Romantic as the idea may seem, nothing's going to change while we sit on our asses/arses and wait around for some caped knife-slinging bad-ass wearing a Guy Fawkes mask to show up and save us.

    Thumbs up, because people have a right to rise up when their government becomes "ungovernable". "Disobedience" is the right and duty of every one of us.

  26. robbie

    Quids pro quo

    I am planning to take a much more inclusive view in my own tax affairs: I am several years behind in my tax returns, and have been building a second house 80 yards from my first.

    So many changes are now possible to my accounting strategy that I could need several more years to finalise these tax returns; but since I know for a fact I've been spending more money than I've been earning it stands to reason that the taxman owes me money.

    By the time I've factored in Communications allowance and some creative "flipping", not to mention all the furniture, fittings and security system (Fido) and my faithful research assistant I anticipate a healthy payout from the rest of you, which I shall invest in RBS shares.

    Tux, 'cos it's still a noble ideal.

  27. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    It's one law for them...

    ... and another for us

    We are, it seems, supposed to be meek and obedient sheeple, willing to obey our "Lords and Masters" and not question their authority, but what we're seeing now is the sheep turning on the shepherd and his dogs and saying "Just a minute there..."

    We have seen the slow but steady whittling away of our rights, yet apart from a few of us, most people have not stirred from their apathy to complain and those of us who do are ignored or fobbed off with worthless platitudes that do nothing to fix the underlying problems.

    But, finally, people are starting to wake up because this recent scandal is hitting them in a sensitive spot, ie in their wallets and purses.

    The question is, though, whether there will actually be any *real* change from all this?

    Will we actually see the sort of reform we need where our government becomes truly representative of the people or will the changes just be cosmetic and the public slump back into their apathy again?

    YOU have the ability to do something, the intertubes give you that power.

    Write to your MP at and tell them that you're Mad As Hell and You're Not Going to Take It Any More!

  28. Sceptical Bastard

    Excellent article

    I return to the ranks of commentards after a couple of months' absence (Hi Sarah, did you think I'd abandoned you?) with the pleasant task of saying 'very well done, El Reg, another really good well-balanced article'.

    Less nobly, I also want a smidgen of "toldja so". Since my experiences of single-issue political campaigning and lobbying in the 1980s, I've consistently opined in this and (many) other forums* that by and large professional politicians (both in parliament and in town halls) are greedy, venal, arrogant, hypocritical, bossy, repressive, authoritarian, duplicious, rebarbitive scum-shite.

    Now it turns out that - though it's hardly a surprise - they are benefit cheats as well.

    Never mind public outcry, never mind the ballot box, never mind protests and demos - what is desperately needed is a long brick wall, a crate of cartridges and a dozen AK47s.

    * OK, 'fora' if you prefer your nits ready-picked.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    First they came for the hippies and the lefties...

    ... and we warned and warned that what they were doing to folks back in the miner's strike and at the battle of the beanfield and the anti-roads protests and raves of the early 90s was what they would soon be doing to everybody, and that the Public Order Act and the Criminal Justice Acts might sound like they were aimed at the convoy and the ravers but the new powers it gave the state would soon be applied to everybody, and that there was and is a deliberate culture of the police acting to suppress any kind of public involvement in any kind of protest or political activity and it will end in a police state with none of us having any real freedom at all. This is what thirty years of neo-liberal thatcherism gets you: a police state where we are increasingly becoming the serfs of our international corporate overlords.

    Wake up, it's too late. They already did come for you.

    (On the bright side, if you need any advice on chutzpah and standing up to the police in public confrontations, there are at least a few people with many many years experience of doing so to talk to....)

  30. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Blame the government

    And I do not just mean the current bunch of spivs

    The anti-terrorism laws are a prime example of making a hammer to hammer a particular type of nail, then expressing surprise when peter sutcliffe uses it for a completely purpose.

    You only have to look at the disaster of the CSA to see this in action, the well intentioned purpose was to find and make absent parents pay for their children.

    So the first thing they did was start throwing out previous divorce/maintaince agreements between couples and making them pay more.... then taking the extra payments off the parents benefit claims so that the child did'nt get any more cash in the end.

    And, of course, not bothering finding absent non paying parents because it would cost too much.

    But while the British people will put up with such stupidity by the government(largely by ignoring it), when the self rightous law makers are seen with their hand in the till, making claims for 2nd homes lived in by their partners, duck ponds moats, not declaring tax on monies earned from property development or employing their university based children as 'researchers' then the anger will boil over especially when spivs claim its within the rules, the rules made by themselves.

    And then the British people know that if we tried the same sort of behaviour with our employers, then we could be well on the way out of a job and more than likely, looking at a nasty bill and fine from the inland revenue.

    How the anger now being felt is expressed fills me with fear, all it will take is some far right party to make a some claims about 'honesty' and 'sweeping away the corrupt' and they could pick up a fair proportion of the votes... and I would rather see the UK in the hands of the current bunch of spivs and crooks than in the hands of the bnp.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aren't they about to commit suicide?

    Section the government.

    This should be an interesting one. Much more effective for removing them from office, and of course the drugs used are akin to water boarding style torture; doesn't look like much but it will wreck their lives.

    These techniques were used against one of the newspaper owners who won World War 1 thu' propaganda for us, highly effective means of removing people from power, no court, no jury, just two people is all it takes, MPs are claiming and acting as if a suicide is imminent, section them.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Timely bit of writing and not without merit. The subject is one that holds much interest for me as I've known career criminals and been schooled in economics and the rudiments of law. Without going off on a rant, I'd like to point to just one undercurrent evident to me, and to most others, but perhaps not as fixed on as its efficacy, scope and agency deserves. The arrival of Bush, Cheney and neocons like Rove in conjunction with 911 generated a social disaster. That disaster incurred a "gloves off" attitude and methodology to law enforcement and international relations that are just now beginning to be addressed. Because the Obama administration is the most powerful in the world and pretty much dictates to NATO and associated organizations that represent a military might equivalent to the legions of ancient Rome, the direction Obama is headed will necessarily strongly contrast with the prior administration. Such contrast will effect an us against them, dark against light, right against wrong line of sight that will engender reactionary tendencies. In the cross over from the policies of the prior administration dealing with the 911 to the attempts of the Obama administration to find a more conciliatory, lawful way the entire democratic world is likely to see in the "gloves off" policies of the recent past a duplicity and unethical undercurrent in the actions of elected politicians. While I'm overall in deep agreement with the commentator I worried we as a world, democratic population might see in the stark contrast between the two administrations and the reactionary policies against 911 justification for contempt and civil unrest that might be lessened if time is granted for the pass over from the tempo and themes of one set of administrative circumstances to a new, hopefully more lawful circumstance stemming from the "unprecedented" degree of oversight, transparency and accountability Obama has pledged to effect.

    Just a few cents from my over abundance of loose change.

  33. Maty

    hate crime?

    Much of the recent legislation which this government has passed is of two categories; 'we know what is good for you' and 'trust us to make sure that this over-broad legislation is selectively applied in your interest'.

    What appalls those members of the public who fell for this line (broadly described under the epithet 'Daily Mail readers') is the discovery that they can't trust their politicians, who are only human, and rather flawed humans at that.

    It's interesting that when the expenses row broke, the establishment's first reaction was to look to see what laws the person who leaked the information could be charged with. If we extrapolate the current trend a few years down the line, it is possible that 'protection of govt data' 'anti-terrorist security measures' and 'prevention of irresponsible reporting' legislation would have ensured that the scandal never saw the light of day.

    Hmmmm ... perhaps they could nail the newspapers under hate crime legislation. The scandal has not caused people to love their politicians very much.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    What do WE all think is a solution?

    I'm really very worried about the next election.

    Labour's love of legislating makes gives them a bad reputation, and on the other hand the Tory conservative stance of pro-business pro-tax, etc, means I can't really vote for either!

    I sometimes wonder if we had the China model if things would be any better. Given that our media basically control who gets into government, over a long period of time, we swing between Tories and Labour, both getting us into recession, because recession cannot be helped in a mostly capitalist world.

    Since most readers are likely smart, intelligent, IT people who are relatively clued up, have any readers got any ideas as to a solution?

    I think I'd like Lib Dem in, even if only for 4 years, just to have some change, and see if their man-in-the-middle and *mostly* reasonable answers to issues are what our country needs. I've never felt allegiance to Labour or Tories, but certainly the whole labour = 'working mans' party' did seem tempting for a long time to many of the population, as the going was good. Now we're back in a state again, and we'll vote Tory in.

    Given history shows us the majority of the public are a bit stupid, and just sheep, is this the time to emigrate?

    Note: I'm 99% sure Conservatives will get in the next election. For some reason we English seem to like them better, we should take after Scotland and just ignore them completely :D

  35. Paul

    I wonder if GB and his pals...

    ...have ever actually bothered to read 'Animal Farm' and '1984'? Shouldn't those be required reading for anyone entering public life?

    But of course, silly me... Even if they have, they wouldn't see any correlation between those two visionary tomes and their own behaviour. That would imply some sort of sense of responsibility.

    Speaking as one who maintains a 'second home' for work purposes out of my heavily taxed income, I can't see any reason why any of them should be exempt from fraud proceedings, and quite frankly they should all have all the allowances and exemptions taken away from them. If it's good enough for me to have to pay out of my own pocket, it's good enough for MPs.

    We desperately need to end the culture of 'all equal, but some more equal than others'.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    To the Policeman invoking the Wrong Law..

    In any given situation!

    And you Sir how am I expected to know whether or not you are not a Terrorist in disguise, especially as you do not appear to be responding in a manner which befits the current situation!

  37. Charles Silver badge

    A novel form of protest?

    Now, correct me if the laws say otherwise, but as I understand it, one is not required to answer police questions unless under arrest, and even then you may claim a protection against self-incrimination (depending on where you are situated). If stopped on the street, unless being arrested, one is not required to even give a name (providing automotive documentation--licenses, registrations, etc.--may be required if you're in a vehicle), and passengers are not obligated to give anything. I wonder if the next time a policeman wishes this kind of non-obligatory information from me, if it would be legal for me to CHARGE them for that information, claiming for example, "That kind of information is very private and very valuable to me. You must pay me (insert certain amount--fair or ridiculous, your call) before I will provide the answer." Call it what you will--insurance against identity theft due to public disclosure of private information, simply recognition of the value of your personal information, or something else.

  38. Sean Timarco Baggaley


    (With apologies to Private Eye magazine.)

    Number of ALLEGED expenses-twizzling MPs:

    NEW LABOUR: 60

    TORY: 48

    LIB-DEM: 10

    OTHER: 8

    (Total: 126.)

    Number of MPs in House of Commons at present: 646.

    Please note the qualifer: "ALLEGED". We cannot clean up the House of Commons by stooping to their level. As a people, we're angry, yes. But angry mobs can -- and do -- make mistakes in the heat of the moment. (Remember the "paedophile" / "paediatrician" mess a few years back?)

    Calm down, people! We need *considered* decisions. We may even need those radical changes and reforms -- the Lib-Dems have been banging on about just that for *decades*; how come none of you were willing to listen back then? (Come to that: why was New Labour ever re-elected after starting that illegal war in Iraq? Where were your high principles then, O England?)

    If members of our government are venal, corrupt and apathetic to the needs of others, perhaps it's because *we* have been just as venal, corrupt and apathetic to the needs of others too? We tend to get the government we deserve. If we want a better government, we have to be better ourselves.

    We cannot be judge, jury and executioner, no matter how hard the media implores us. Yes, there have been some shocking ALLEGATIONS, but I, for one, want to see hard evidence examined by expert, independent auditors' eyes first before I'm willing to pass judgement.

    And remember, 520 MPs are NOT on the list. Granted, 126 *allegedly* corrupt MPs is nothing to be proud of, (and it's quite likely that some of the remaining 520 are just better at hiding corruption), but it is NOT the end of the world.

    The greatest scandal of recent years is the sheer, bloody *incompetence* of our recent governments. It's hard to think of a single bloody thing that New Labour have managed to do *right*. (Ditto for the post-Thatcher Tories. It's easy to forget just how bad John Major's lot were.) We're in a dire economic mess and we *need* people with real financial chops to help turn this once-great nation around.

    The only voice worth listening to of late has been that of Vince Cable. Unfortunately, I can't stand Nick Clegg and his Blair-Lite cronies. If the Lib-Dems want power, they'd better bring the ill-treated Charles Kennedy back. (Yes, I'm well aware he had a drink problem. So what? Winston Churchill helped win WW2 while suffering from clinical depression! Frankly, you'll start a lot less wars if your foreign policy consists mostly of, "You an' me, pal! You're me best mate, Ahmedin--HIC!--Ahmadinnajacket! No, aye! Y'are! How... how 'bout another whiskey?")

  39. Pat

    Gotta make a start somewhere

    John your comparison is poor, though a good starting point for discussion. Remember that Brown-Harman-Speaker attempted to exempt MPs' expenses from the FOIA, remember that after that failed (thanks to Cameron and Clegg) they were going to heavily edit what would have been disclosed by the HoC and hide a lot of relevant information - I'd say that indicated unrepentant, organised fraud.

    What shoud not be forgotten is that not all MPs were involved in such snoutery, and even some who claimed large expenses supported the FOIA and transparency of MPs claims (admittedly probably under Cameron's and Clegg's instructions).

    Some media correspondents and some clean MPs probably had a good idea of what was going on, and the public certainly had strong suspicions that government under Nu Liebor was corrupt and self-serving, but what was to be done when this government appeared willing to cynically manipulate laws, police and media to hide or distort evidence on so many issues of importance to our nation?

    It is a great pity that the HoC could not come clean about their expenses if they sincerely thought they were in some way justified. We have only been able to discover the evidence through extra-legal means because Nu Liebor have subverted the rule of law. Are we supposed to ignore evidence of corruption when we at long last get our hands on it?

    We have seen the politicalisation of the police - how they were prepared to cover their identities when attacking protesters, and use 'anti-terrorism' legislation as a catch-all to intimidate and to prevent people recording evidence.

    We have seen our Ministers and their officials failing in their duty to protect the helpless from the violent, yet at the same time happily distort the law to force through mechanisms to spy on the non-criminal citizenry.

    Reporting by the BBC seems largely a publicly-funded unquestioning regurgitation of government propaganda.

    This suspect government gives public money to unelected bodies such as quangoes and the ACPO yet they are unaccountable; do you really think this is for the public good or are they serving this government's grubby purposes?

    As we had to rely upon extra-legal means then are the laws already flattened? How long before the brick hits a head rather than a window, and what will a jury decide about such an attacker? If it is to be seen to reassert the rule of impartial and fair law then the HoC needs a shake up to reassert its independence from the Executive, and Nu Liebor are clearly not the party to do it.

  40. Anonymous Coward


    I think it would be fair to say the majority of criticism is attributed to the current new labour government. However, I think this is unfair. The police have had their role changed over a very long period of time, partly as a reaction to the loosening of society's restrictions. However I really wish in many ways we were like some of the better countries.

    Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, even Iceleand, are said to be the best places to live ones life in. I don't think it's a coincidence that they all collectively have a different style of government when compared with ourselves.

    I'm 26, and I'm young enough not to remember much of the real politics involved when Mr.Major's Tory party were running the country. I think that's a serious problem, because if one takes the time to actually look back through history, although Labour have made serious mistakes for decades, so have the Tories.

    I was a ever so slightly disgusted to read about how the Tory party acted abroad. I no longer wish to stay in this country; especially with the prospect of a Conservative government, who may have a new happy front with David Cameron, but ultimately are the same party with the same ethos they have always had.

    I will make sure I'm back in the country for any election to show my disapproval of the way in which the police, in particular, have had their role role in society changed, and will not be voting Labour or Conservative. Any other party, even the greens, would be preferential to me. Obviously not BNP, but I would not merit them with reference as a 'party' of any sorts.

  41. Robert E A Harvey

    @ac "Basic principles"

    Another important one "The debt to society paid".

    When I was brought up it was drummed into us that someone released from prison had paid their debt to society and the slate was clean. Now we have sex offenders registers, and talk of a violent offenders register. People applying for jobs have to reveal their past criminal record. Persons wanting visas to work in the USA or Australia are refused for periods of imprisonment decades before. Even car insurance companies want to know your criminal history.

    The sex offenders one worries me. If, when people are released from prison, they are still a threat to young children Why were they released at all?

  42. Schultz
    Thumb Up

    Big stick

    So they used to carry a big stick but rarely used it in the good ole times of Winston, now they carry teasers and anti-terror paragraphs and use them all the time.

    What did Winston say about the big stick again?

  43. koyama


    what i find funny (well sort of) is that the lords does more for the common lad.

    nagging poor practice, etc.

    let me think, which house is supposed to represent the commons ... was it the lords? me dont thinks so.

    really really sad ...

  44. Anonymous Coward

    A sad, very sad, inversion?

    It is a serious flaw for sure and don't be put off by false apologies, holier than thou approaches.

    A truth is that almost any MP by virtue of being an MP with involvement in something deemed hot by the press will always be afforded airtime and print time. Joe public will alays be portrayed in the press as an angry mob.

    The inversion?

    Ideal model:

    Public bodies (MPs, civil servantry, ... ) exist to provide systematic services to beneficieries (us, the public)

    A perverted inversion:

    Public bodies (MPs, civil servantry, ... ) are systematic beneficieries with the public existing to justify their causes.

    No UK subject (important note: not citizen, we are subjects of HM) can expect to be treated with dignity. swiftly and with servitude by any civil servant?


    NHS: framed in post-war (1945) management structures with those nearest the front line incurring lowest income and those furthest away enjoying maximal income (ask your local district nurse for an explanation)

    NHS: NHS employees are primary beneficieries (the get paid). NHS users tend to be fodder to maintain NHS income structures.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    > as I understand it, one is not required to answer police questions unless under arrest

    Never forget that the police have their own means of punishing people who don't pay them the respect they are convinced they deserve. It's called "helping the police with their inquiries". Basically it involves being taken off the streets and confined against your will for an unspecified period. You will never be charged, or have the "protection" of the legal system. However you will be grossly inconvenienced and to all intents and purposes imprisoned without trial.

    They can and do use these powers on a regular basis - either in fact or as a threat to get whatever they want. Remember, the one thing a beat officer wants more than anything else is a collar - preferably early in their shift and definitely if it's raining. Buy being lippy, or refusing to co-operate you're a prime candidate for this kind of treatment - and have no recourse or remedy to avoid it,

  46. Uncle Slacky Silver badge


    ITYF it was Teddy Roosevelt, not Winston...

  47. j
    Thumb Up

    Excellent Article

    I think all Reg readers must have spotted the trend, but I had not thought about the long term implications.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where to move to?

    Serious suggestions are invited for where to go and live instead.

    The grass may look greener on the other side, but the reality might no be so different from here.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Doing the 'right' thing - but

    I hate the way the government justifies every actions as 'right'. The attempt to gain moral superiority is sickening.

    However, what is worse to me is the way this filters down to the police: they bend the law to get what they want. For a wonderful example, this post appears to be a comment by a policeman that shows how to ignore the wishes of a patient, and force him into hospital, even though he is at home. (

    "Practical and experienced street coppers will always find a way to make it fit. I usually arrest to prevent a breach of the peace, then arrest for S.136 once out on the street (in a public place) and de-arrest into the care of the ambulance teams"

    He bending the law: the mental health act does not allow a policeman to do that without a warrant. (Section 135 does allow force within the home, but it requires a social worker, a doctor and a warrant. Parliament has decreed this is necessary.) He is ignoring the will of parliament because he thinks he is doing the 'right' thing. He may well be, but it should not be up to him to decide.

    Can I bend the law, when I think it is the 'right' thing to do? The police should follow the law, and be seen to follow the law. Else trust breaks down: exactly what is happening here.

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Wake Up To The PsyOp

    Currently 80% of our laws are made in Brussels. When the final treaty is signed, 100% will be made in Brussels. Then they will shut Westminster down. The public, having been made to hate the government will say "Good job too!." This, IMHO is the real reason for the expenses saga.




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