During the recent debates about MPs' pay, the point was made a couple of times that their European equivalents earn more. Now, when Guido has seized on the Chichester story a couple of days after he was condemned here, the defence is being made that this sort of behaviour is fine because the rest of the Europeans all do it. What piffling rubbish.
When Louis XIV was splurging the wealth of the French nation on Versailles, Charles II and James II huddled by the bleak firesides at St James' palace, a suburban semi in comparison. When Mad Ludwig of Bavaria was building his gilded fantasy castles around southern Germany, Victoria ruled smugly from a modest middle class house on the Isle of Wight. When Mussolini stole from the state treasury to build pompous and ridiculous fascist temples across Italy, Stanley Baldwin sprayed his roses for greenfly and donned his slippers to listen to the news on the wireless. When Ceaucescu bludgeoned his starving people to stick another thousand tonnes of pink marble on his vulgar palace, Margaret and Dennis did the washing up in the small flat above the 'shop'.
European politicians are regarding Chichester's embarrassment with amazement; as far as the French, Germans, Italians and Spaniards are concerned, the whole point of politics is the opportunity for corruption; they ask incredulously why else would anyone want to do it?
The point is, we're British. We're different. Our greatest folk hero is someone who serially humiliated those who stole from taxpayers. Chichester's porcine features do nothing but remind us of Guy of Gisborne. If the Queen uses a tupperware cornflakes box on her breakfast table and won't replace a rug until the hole has worn through to the boards beneath, we're not going to stand for some oikish MEP dining off gold plate at the public expense. We expect the Foreign Secretary to turn up at Downing Street in a black cab, and Camden MPs to jump on the No 24 for their daily journey to work. We just do.
Any politician who hopes to win a place in the heart of the British public really has to understand this.