If I raised this question with respect to leftie politicians I’d be accused of all sorts of one eyed prejudice. So I’ll raise it with respect to right wing politicians instead. John Banks is in the news again this morning for all the wrong reasons:
Banks says it with $11,500 of flowers
John Banks has racked up an $11,523 bill for flowers in his current term – including a $60 bunch to the Auckland City Mayor from office staff when he was ill. In the 12 months to this June, Mr Banks spent $4500 on floral arrangements for his Town Hall office. Some months he spent $500. …
Last month, Mr Banks admitted claiming $438.80 in entertainment costs after issuing a Super City mayoral campaign bulletin saying he had “never charged a sandwich, lunch or coffee to the ratepayers of Auckland”.
In late 2009, Finance Minister Bill English was in the spotlight for spending $4051 on flowers from January to November 2009. He was surprised to discover how much the flowers were costing for the office and requested the number and size of arrangements be cut. Ministers spent $52,000 on flowers in the first 11 months of the National-led government.
Is this really news? Arguably perhaps, in view of Banks’ sanctimonious campaign based on “never charged a sandwich, lunch or coffee to the ratepayers of Auckland”. But in the general case, e.g. the figures for English and the Nats, do we really want to know, do we care, how much public figures are spending on flowers? I don’t. The recent orgy of voyeuristic flagellation of MPs over their credit card spending cost we the taxpayer $61,000 to conduct. Was it worth it? Was it value for money?
I have a certain sympathy for MPs and their life in the public spotlight. Yes they should be accountable, but it’s a fine line between accountability and trawling through laundry. At the far end of the spectrum you get fringe nutjobs hiring private detectives to tail MPs and their families. All of it one big grey continuum. But in my opinion the pendulum has swung too far, and the coverage we are getting now is more about titillation than accountability.