Moral decline

DigitalHousesOfParliament After a very enjoyable trip away, a return to Britain once again sees me having to face up to the country’s moral decline, specifically our politicans and what seems like a truly shameless display of snouts-in-the-trough expense account fiddling. I find numerous small items of marginalia interesting, such as:

1) The role of the Telegraph in this. After the rockiest of rocky patches over the past year or so, in which this paper has begun to resemble a kind of downmarket tabloid in broadsheet format, this is a good, old-fashioned print scoop (unlike their feeble attempt to spike the MacBride story), for which they should be congratulated. I wonder in passing precisely how much money must have changed hands for this rather spectacular piece of chequebook journalism – nobody is going to hand over a disc of MPs’ expenses purely out of altruism – and also why on earth they find it necessary to take a moral line, given that journalists are notorious for passing off just about every kind of vice under the sun as expenses.

 2) Some of the items claimed for. I honestly don’t know whether it’s worse to have claimed thousands of pounds for a moat and helipad, or to have made claims for packets of crisps and bathplugs. The first implies a kind of blithe disregard for the realities of how people live today; the second an obsession with taking every single penny from the taxpayer for every aspect of their everyday life.

3) The fact that all the three political parties are equally damned, with Labour perhaps slightly more so due to the fact that a) they’re in government, b) there are more claims and c) they’re the ones who apparently seem to have the widest range of opportunities for criminal prosecution.

4) ‘People are outraged and shocked’. Really? Certainly the extent of what’s gone on is surprising, but natural British cynicism towards its political classes certainly indicates that what has gone on shouldn’t really amaze anyone who has ever read a tabloid paper before.

Talking of moral decline, I made the mistake of going to see Angels & Demons at the weekend. It’s slightly better than The Da Vinci Code – as if it could ever have been worse – but it replaces tediousness with ludicrousness, as well as a very strange final act plot development where a character goes from being uber-heroic to villainous in the space of around ten minutes. Tom Hanks is as bad as he was in the first film, and despite the fact that just about everyone realised the original’s central flaw, that shedloads of exposition do not make for thrilling cinema, the sequel seems content to maintain the ‘you know…you also know’ school of dialogue. Ron Howard, fresh from the success of Frost/Nixon, at least bothers to put in a few sequences of suspense and action this time round, but they’re not executed with any pizzazz or interest. If only they’d let Brian de Palma have a go.

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