Sunday, May 10, 2009

A balanced Booker …

… looks at the EU's unbalanced books through the saga of Marta Andreasen.

But before he gets there, he remarks that "evidence mounts on all sides as to how Britain's standing in the world is in sad decline." Thus, Booker writes:

After 10 years as the world's fourth largest economy, we have now slipped to sixth place behind China and France. In Wednesday's Daily Telegraph, under the heading "The UK will be missed on the world stage", Irwin Stelzer wrote about the failure of our military missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, and lamented Britain's retreat from an effective role alongside our US partners. On the same day, Max Hastings reported a similar story from America itself, where he was shocked to find how far we have lost the respect earned in the days of Mrs Thatcher.
So we come to the Andreasen saga, familiar to most readers of this blog, and for those who need a refresher, Booker's narrative serves as a fresh reminder, trailing the publication of her "shocking new book, published tomorrow, entitled Brussels Laid Bare."

The strap-line, however, for once accurately sums up the message of the column. "EU's former chief accountant has laid bare endemic corruption," it says, "but our own politicians are too emasculated to care."

And that really is the point. Andreasen describes events which started in 2002, with her involvement in the continuing scandal of the EU's unaccountable accounting system. When she began looking at the EU's accounting system, she saw that it was a shambles. Between the 2000 and 2001 accounts, €200 million had gone missing without explanation. She was told these were "loans" which had been "written off". Senior officials were authorised to hand out huge sums without any proper records being kept. Accounts were kept on spreadsheets which could be accessed and changed without leaving any trace of who made the changes.

But, after all these years, nothing has changed, and nothing will change. Andreasen dismisses the EU as "irredeemably corrupt and unreformable." The tragedy is, writes Booker, "that our own politicians are so emasculated, reduced to expenses-fiddling zombies by this strange form of government we now live under, that most neither know nor care."

The expenses controversy is the wrong issue. Even when it is sorted, and a new intake of MPs joins the gravy-train, all nicely house-trained as they line up each Monday to present their chitties in triplicate to the form monitor, so that they can collect their pocket money, we will still be members of an organisation that is "irredeemably corrupt and unreformable" – and we will remain so because our MPs permit it.

The issue is not why are we paying their expenses. The issue is why are we paying their salaries.