I thought I had left his behind until I heard Phil Woolas on Radio Four this morning offering this explanation of why the (apparently misguided) public are so angry:
We have an allowance system that some people see as an expense system
My blood is boiling. Mr Woolas that is exactly what you do not have. You have an expense system which covers expenses wholly, neccesarily and exclusively incurred in the course of performing your parliamentary duties up to a maximum allowance of £24K per year, or whatever the relevant figure is. You do not understand the rules of the system you have been abusing. If you havent incurred the expense under the rules, you do not even begin to submit a claim. The "allowance" is a maximum, not an aspiration.
It is not independent auditors (at further expense to the taxpayers) that we require to sort out the system - it is a basic standard of honesty and integrity amongst each person who submits a claim. It isn't rocket science, and it occurs every day in every company up and down the land. They don't announce to shareholders that they are going to employ a whole new set of auditors to keep the employees honest - they just employ honest people. And fire those who are found to behave otherwise.
But I guess if a Cabinet minister does not even understand the rules within which he claims he is acting then the problem goes much deeper than expenses. At least Mr Woolas had the decency to apologise for what he had done:
- "I am sorry if I have caused embarassing headlines".
He said. What a dissapointing day.