Political corruption is endemic throughout Europe, and Britain can only boast that our populist checks and balances make it harder here for bent politicians to cheat, steal and defraud than elsewhere. Despite a Parliament-wide expenses fraud scandal in the UK, jut a handful of the most egregious thieves were jailed. The political establishment rapidly realised that the Commons green benches would be empty if all the crooked MPs were acted against. The rest remain on probation, watched by the hawks of a free press that they yearn to muzzle.
Elsewhere, auditors simply refuse to consider the EU's risible offerings of accounts. So mired by fraud and corruption, so deeply infiltrated by organised criminal networks, so abused by bent and hungry power-seekers are the Federation's finances that no one in Europe regards seriously their fatuous offers of financial records. The EU is corrupt to its core.
I must admit that my previous confident prediction that François Fillon would walk the French Presidential election looks somewhat shaky now. It emerges that he fraudulently bunged his family members hundreds of thousands of crooked stolen Euros on the pretence that they worked for him - much on the same basis that our MPs claim their young nieces are qualified parliamentary assistants worthy of a £30k salary. It's just theft. Just not the sort of theft that earned a young rioter who stole three bottles of water six months banged up in a Victorian cell with a Muslim rapist and a bucket to shit in.
So when Romania passed a decree legalising theft, fraud and crookedness by politicians and public officials provided the sums stolen came to less than £38k, bent little ears pricked up all over Europe. This may be small beer in the UK, where £38k is just a year's worth of flipping homes by our MPs, but in Romania it will build you a tasteless vulgar palace with gold taps and individual stables for the goats. I'll bet the EU nomenklatura were particularly interested; if they exempted all transactions of less than €0.5m from accounting transparency, they might just be able to find a bent auditor somewhere in Europe to sign off their accounts. All seemed well and establishment politicians and public officials were rubbing their hands.
Then the people of Romania took to the streets. The politicians remembered what happened the last time they did so, and rapidly backed down. The thieves decree was rescinded. All over Europe one could almost hear the gentle hiss as miffed politicians abandoned dreams of new scams and frauds and let the air out of the hubristic pomposity that criminal immunity confers. Little tear-soaked tissues were flushed from the cloaca of the Berlaymont. Empty Sancerre bottles crashed inverted into Westminster ice buckets. We, the people, have won this round - but the price of a Parliament free from corruption is eternal vigilance.