I had a right old rant on The Underground Edition this week. You can hear the entire programme by going to the Celtica website. This one’s about politicians. Don’t you just love ’em? Here it is.
Of all the dishonest, fraudulent, duplicitous, underhand, sneaky, sly, devious, untrustworthy life forms its possible to imagine, politicians come at the top of the slimy heap, dont they? And what has prompted this most uncommon, totally out-of-the-ordinary outburst of really rather mild carping on my part? Well, our MPs, bless their lying, mendacious, disingenuous cotton socks, brought in a Freedom of Information Act. Great, you say. Lets have more information about what the great and the good are up to. Lets know what public bodies are getting up to, and what quangos and local authorities are getting up to, and what police forces and nongovernmental organisations are getting up to. And so it came to pass. You see, this 2000 Act, which amazingly hmm, maybe not so amazingly didnt come into force till 2005, obliges public authorities to release information. Thats what its about. We pay them to do their job. We want to know that theyre doing it. Before I get to my point and I will get there eventually Ill give you an idea how tardy many government departments have been. In 2006 alone, there were at least 749 times when these departments or other central government bodies gave themselves an extension of twenty working days which they can do, apparently to assess the public-interest factor when it comes to disclosing information. That means they took forty working days in all. Biding their time, or what? Yet the Information Commissioners guidelines clearly say these things should be dealt with in twenty working days. Only when public-interest considerations are particularly complicated should they grant themselves the extra twenty days. But they managed to do it 749 times. It fills you to the brim with confidence, doesnt it, in those we pay handsomely to work for us? Dont they just make you want to withhold your taxes?
Then they talk of cost. About six hundred quid an enquiry. But now the government is talking about effectively cutting back on that by adding officials time into the calculation. But officials are already paid to be officials. Thats what they are. Thats what they signed up to do. They are handsomely compensated for being seen as sad old farts. Its not only officials time, but ministers time, too, and the Campaign for Freedom of Information says ministers are only too willing to involve themselves when theres favourable publicity to be had. I bet they are. I cant pretend to understand the minute details of the entire workings of all of this Sir Humphrey would have done so, no doubt but it strikes me, and every sane person, as a huge dodge to get out of revealing embarrassing secrets. And by sane person I include you, because you must be sane because youre there listening to me. It stands to reason. Dont argue. Now, this cost thing isnt new. Its been talked about since last year, but now and this is where I reach my point a Tory MP has introduced a Private Members Bill, which was discussed last Friday and fortunately scuppered by its opponents that would have exempted MPs and peers from aspects of that Act even revealing their expenses. Were told by the Speaker of the House of Commons that Parliament will still publish these, even though it doesnt have to, so let us be thankful for small mercies. This wally whos introduced the Private Members Bill is afraid that letters written by constituents will get out. But theres already legislation to protect those. We know what they want to do, dont we? They want to keep their business interests and other nefarious activities a secret, thats what they want to do. The fact that anyone could even so much as think of wanting to exempt our servants, those we elect, from an Act they brought in to give us freedom of information makes you want to rip your head off in utter frustration. You know, politicians are a scheming, devious, calculating, manipulative, cunning lot of good-for-nothing reprobates and degenerates. Theres that old joke it always bears a repeat. How do you know when a politicians lying? You can see his lips moving.
And you cant imagine how good it feels to get that lot off my chest and once more put the world to rights.