Fast news

Flipping cheek

‘Vampires in charge of the blood bank’ comes to mind with news that two MPs on the parliamentary standards and privileges committee have made dubious expenses claims.

The committee is supposed to keep MPs in line. However, last week its chairman, the Tory MP David Curry (who only took over the job in October), resigned pending an inquiry into allegations that he claimed £30,000 for a ‘second home’ used by his mistress.

Now it seems that another committee member, Labour’s Andrew Dismore, ‘flipped’ two homes between one in his north London seat only ten miles from Westminster, and another in Notting Hill (four miles from Westminster) from where his partner ran a homeopathy surgery, claiming £65,000 in expenses for both properties. Dismore has criticised the proposed reforms in MPs’ expenses system – no wonder!

Engineered failure

The ‘hand of god’ turned out to be the hands of the US army corps of engineers, according to Judge Stanwood Duval. He accused them of failing to properly maintain New Orleans’ flood defences four years ago – when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and killed 700 people – rather than the floods being an ‘act of god’.

The floods caused an estimated $100 billion of damage to property but the previous Bush administration had refused to settle any legal claims in the absence of a judicial ruling.

However, many Americans will be wondering why the Bush administration itself isn’t in the dock after its disasters planning committee – FEMA and its Bush appointed chairman, Michael Brown – failed to plan for and deal with the emergency.

Iraq inquiry

Several gallons of whitewash were seen being delivered to Westminster as the ‘independent’ inquiry into the Iraq war, headed by Sir John Chilcot, got underway. The idea that a Gordon Brown appointed panel of largely career civil servants, the same caste who implemented the government’s decision to launch the disastrous war in 2003, is going to be ‘objective’ is risible. Not least, because none of the witnesses will be giving evidence on oath, and analysing the war’s legality is beyond the panel’s competence. Expect a few tut tuts about ‘faulty intelligence’ and ‘WMDs’, and then warmonger Tony Blair will be free to continue with his money making global tour.