LIBBY PURVES When Did You Last Hire A Plumber Because He Kept 2009: Concern Libby

LIBBY PURVES When did you last hire a plumber because he kept

Concern: Libby Purves is suspicious of officials’ freebies We’re very sensitive about snouts and troughs, these days.
Thanks to a healthily curious Press and the Freedom of Information Act, never a month passes without evidence that when it comes to high-class ligging, our betters are no better than they should be. Mention a free day’s shooting, a Test Match, the Royal box or a champagne brunch with the stars, and they’re down there as fast as their pinstriped little legs can twinkle. The pursuit of treats by civil servants is not quite as depressing as MPs rushing for the goodie-bags of office (I am still not reconciled to having paid for Margaret Beckett’s rockery, let alone the Home Secretary’s artistic interpretation of the words ‘main home’). All the same, one flinches at how much corporate hospitality gets sucked up by senior civil servants. When commerce lavishes fun and food on people who control large public budgets, the shadow of a twitching snout and the sound of slurping taints the pure air of Whitehall. Revenue and Customs sit in the best stalls with IT companies. KPMG takes Sir Brian Bender of the Business Ministry to the Chelsea Flower Show, Tate & Lyle pays up for Wimbledon and Vodafone waft him to the Derby. All declared, all pukka, all within the rules but all, frankly, a bit mystifying.
If the point is to have informal talks, it seems rude to the poor cricketers, ballerinas and jockeys if the chaps really sit there droning on about regulatory mechanisms. On the other hand, if the aim is to cement working relationships, you have to ask why talent and efficiency can’t do the job.

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