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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Just one amazing detail from Gyles Brandreth's Westminster Diaries

2015 is going well. I'm in front of a fire with Breaking The Code: Westminster Diaries by Gyles Brandreth, which is the most candid parliamentary memoir you're ever going to read.

I'm not one of those people who believe MPs are up to their necks in bribery and corruption but the entry for February 3rd 1993 contains a wonderful illustration of how people in institutions - all institutions - design things to make live easier for themselves.

Brandreth was a member of the Heritage Select Committee, which was chaired by Gerald Kaufman. He writes:
"Gerald and the Select Committee are off to the U.S. at the weekend, gathering evidence for our enquiry into the cost of CDs. Gerald explained to us that if we all went, the Budget wouldn't stretch to us travelling Business Class. He felt that those going would want to travel Business Class (murmurs of assent), so was anyonready to volunteer not to go? I put my hand up."
Was there ever a time when rational human beings thought that Parliament could make the slightest difference to the price of compact discs? And in that time was it really felt that a bunch of Parliamentarians could rock up in New York and be given access to some information about CD pricing that they couldn't have got back in Westminster? And how did Gerald Kaufman manage to keep a straight face while asking that question about Business Class?