Wednesday, September 22, 2004


The father of my best friend at school spent many years of his life as a ship’s telegrapher, in the days when they used Morse code. He told me a story about a friend of his, also a telegrapher, but on one of the prestigious Atlantic liners.

It was customary in those days for each telegrapher to sign off each message with a four-letter personal code. This man always used to use the letters WGAD. My friend's father used to get relay messages from him and, living through the momentous events of the time, got such news as "The King is dead. WGAD", "Earthquake in Peru - many dead, WGAD", "War broken out, WGAD". Always, whatever the message, it was followed by the same four-figure code.

On the occasion of this man's retirement party, my friend's father commented on how he would miss seeing these messages with the familiar operator code. Only then did our man let him into the secret. It wasn't a code – it was an acronym, standing for "Who Gives A Damn". "The King is dead… WGAD", this man’s "take" on the world.

Into that category comes today’s news from The Daily Telegraph (and other newspapers): "EU fails to recover £1.8bn in false claims".

According to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, at least £1.8 billion paid in inflated claims to Europe's agro-industry has never been recovered by Brussels even after the exposure of the abuses, according to a report by the the European Court of Auditors yesterday.

Apparently, the Court found that 83 per cent of all inflated farm payments under the CAP discovered by auditors since 1971 had never been paid back. And, surprise, surprise, the worst offenders have been Italy, Germany and Spain.

Many Eurosceptics get terribly excited about this further evidence of corruption, but I find it very hard to do so. When the whole of the EU's political system is corrupt, and it spends now over £80 billion a year of its own budget, together with countless more billions of member states' money, what is a mere £1.8 billion between friends? Even if it was returned, it would only be spent on an equally corrupt project.


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