I’ve been thinking about Liz Truss and the Case of the Purloined Dressing Gown. Quite a few column inches have been expended on this story. The £12000 expenses bill presented to Liz Truss after she clearly partied hard at Chevening House in Kent while she was campaigning to be Prime Minister For A Day.
An awful lot of said column inches have the sympathetic tenor of “Who hasn’t done this kind of thing?” and “We’ve all done a bit of hospitality lifting…”
Except me. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. But there is a class of person who feels entitled to a long list of things that aren’t theirs. They live in that rarified world of privilege gifted to mediocre white people by mediocre (“elite”) universities and family connections forged at posh country house weekends. I always think this kind of thing – and I’m really thinking here of the £120 bathrobes rather than the £12000 excessive partying – is symptomatic. Of what? As Arwa Mahdawi points out, it’s grubbiness and greed, but it’s something else too. It’s glee, and it’s contempt.
It reminds me of what I considered to be the most emblematic of all the MPs’ expenses claims exposed by the Telegraph in 2009. It wasn’t the duck house island or the moat cleaning, or whatever. It was a packet of ginger crinkle biscuits, costing 67 pence. I believe there were also claims (made by other MPs) for a Kit Kat and a chocolate santa (59p).
Austin Mitchell laughed off the biscuit claim, among many other things, but it speaks more loudly than anything else of the absolute contempt these politicians hold for the people and institutions they’re meant to serve. Only the little people pay for their own biscuits.
Truss behaved like a first year Oxford undergraduate at her first posh house party, running up a bill she clearly thought somebody else would pay. (Alternatively, a just-signed talent show winner who doesn’t realise that all the expenses are coming out of her advance.) It feels like there was a kind of gleeful rampage at Chevening, an echo of the atmosphere of hysterical entitlement that occupied Downing Street during the Johnson era.
And I’m afraid that amused newspaper columns about how “we’ve all” nicked things from hotel rooms are coming from the same place and the same rarified social class. They’re all parasites, aren’t they?