The ugly mug of international sleaze reared up at PMQs today. Mike Kane got things going by calling Nigeria ‘fantastically corrupt’. This was his diplomatic welcome to the West Africans arriving for tomorrow’s ‘Anti-Corruption Summit 2016.’ The purpose of the jamboree is to confirm London’s position as the epicentre of dirty money by holding an honesty seminar for the world’s most dishonest people.
The knees-up will take place in the soup-kitchen surroundings of Lancaster House just behind the Ritz. After breakfast, participants will collect their passes from the near-derelict Duke’s Hotel, St James’s Place. Anyone eager to avoid the queue will have pre-bought their ID on the black market. With Piccadilly and Bond Street just a short drive away by armoured car, the wives and mistresses will be able to spend some quality time browsing through panda-fur slippers and tiger-skin clutch-bags while their menfolk tinker with the final communique and proceed to the champagne networking session afterwards.
Dressed in Panama hats the leaders of the world’s newly reformed dictatorships will take the ‘0.7 per cent pledge’ which limits their personal income to a relatively modest slice of Britain’s GDP. After supper at a low-budget Michelin-starred restaurant, the penitent kleptocrats will enjoy a rare visit to their penthouse apartments, in nearby Kensington, purchased with cash looted from the very orphans who adorn the adverts of UK charities. The following day, Learjets will take off from private airfields all over England and carry the naughty pilferers home to their twinkling palaces crammed with Second Empire furniture, platinum cutlery and moon-rock chessboards.
A measure of scepticism about all this is inevitable because the politicians are tootling so loudly on their trumpets. Cynics are bound to suspect that the gold bath-tap brigade are jetting to Britain simply to replace an obsolete system of secrecy with a more efficient apparatus of expropriation and concealment. Two decades from now the progeny of today’s embezzlers will be back to atone for past sins and to pledge themselves afresh to candour and transparency – from the back of their chauffeur-driven Bentleys.
Squeaky-clean Cameron wants to win as much goodwill as possible from the quest for fiscal purity. Donkey-plodding Corbo tried to get his hoof-prints on the subject as well but he succeeded only in delivering his most slovenly and ill-disciplined performance yet. Verbage spilled out of him in great meandering sheets of unfocused bilge. The Labour party must be embarrassed to have such a chuntering mega-gob on their membership list, let alone as their leader. He was like a half-drunk jazzman solo-ing in his bathroom without any awareness he was being listened to.
Canny Angus Robertson fared better. He described London flats as ‘vessels to conceal stolen wealth’ and he said that crooks squirrel money away in ‘luxury stores, car dealerships and private schools.’ Yet by pre-fixing ‘London’ to his list of suspect businesses he betrayed himself as a political libeller posing as an ethics lecturer. He postulates a financial utopia without explaining how it might be enforced – unless the seller turns sleuth. The Chelsea head-master must ascertain that fees are sourced from honest incomes not from arms-deal backhanders. The Knightsbridge realtor must mount a global investigation into every cheque offered for every million-pound broom-cupboard. The Harrods shop-girl must quiz each customer about their links to international crime before gift-wrapping the diamond nose-tweezers or the gold-thread boxer-shorts.
Robertson knows that if ‘London’ were to impose a stricter regime of scrutiny the tainted loot would migrate to softer terrain. Like Edinburgh. And how soon would Holyrood act to turn back the inflow of billions? That’s the trouble with funny money. It puts a smile on your face.