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Chris Ford: Is Bill English From Dipton?

Chris Ford
Chris Ford

The expenses row which has embroiled Bill English these past few weeks has raised one pertinent question - is he really from Dipton? Or is he a good ol' country boy who merely has settled in Wellington but yet claims to be from Dipton for official purposes?

While Bill held a press conference yesterday afternoon (Monday) to try and bury this story once and for all, the Labour Party is still promising to release new documents showing that English may have rorted the system.

As Bill might have done his best yesterday to move the story on, Labour with its two biggest hitters Pete Hodgson and Trevor Mallard, will continue to dig dirt over this story in order to try and keep it in the headlines. After all Labour has begun to regain some lost ground in the opinion polls recently and one of the factors that has generated this momentum has been the Bill English housing story.

But as Guyon Espiner said on One Network News last night, Labour might still be taking a risk in pushing this issue as the public might tire of it and, furthermore, what Espiner probably didn't mention is that one of the oldest rules in politics is in play here - that of mutually assured destruction in that if one party publishes embarrassing material about a politician in an opposing party, then the favour could be returned in kind.

Therefore, Mallard and Hodgson (as well as Jim Anderton who has laid a complaint with the Auditor General over the matter) might be best to temper down things for a while as I can only bet that some Labour ministers might also have engaged in similar accomodation and other spurious cost-shifting practises when they were ministers. I can only guess that right now while Parliament is in recess, the National Party's research unit will be looking at past Labour cabinet minister's expense claims and looking to table them when the House resumes, that is if Anderton and co don't back off.

Having said all that, it has still been morally and ethically wrong for English to claim his Dipton residence to be his primary residence when he and his family actually reside in Wellington. At a time when English is overseeing cuts to public expenditure for night school classes, school-based therapy for disabled kids, and in tertiary education, he has been revealed to be nothing but a bare-faced hypocrite. After all, I doubt that any WINZ client would ever get away with being paid an Accomodation Supplement for a place they don't live at and, what's more, they would end up being prosecuted for it.

But as ever, politicians have one set of rules for themselves to live by while we ordinary voters and taxpayers have to live by another. It's time that this sort of rort was ended and as I have called for numerous times in this blog, it's time to use binding referenda for a really genuine purpose and that is to either approve or oppose politician's pay and conditions. After all, they are our employees and yet many forget that and do to their cost.

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