Allow me a moment away from our own Brexit turmoil and to focus instead on a nasty spot of rot right at the heart of the European Commission.
While the Brexit process has made some of the EU’s top brass more recognisable to a British audience, it’s unlikely that many could identify one of its most powerful and notorious ruling figures: Martin Selmayr.
Selmayr is now secretary-general of the European Commission, the most senior civil servant of the entire EU apparatus.
But the circumstances surrounding his appointment are mired in deep controversy. So much so, that the EU’s own watchdog, the European Ombudsman, has investigated the process and found that Selmayr’s promotion from Jean-Claude Juncker’s chief of staff to the new top role “did not follow the EU law, in letter and spirit, and did not follow the Commission’s own rules.”
Having previously advised on a more transparent recruitment process, the Ombudsman added “it is highly regrettable that the Juncker Commission chose not to implement this recommendation.”
The findings of a five-month investigation into the appointment of Selmayr also identified four acts of “maladministration” regarding the fast-tracking of Selmayr above his existing grade – running a coach and horses through established procedure.
At a time when the EU faces significant challenges from parties and movements incensed by its opaque and anti-democratic tendencies the Selmayr scandal appears particularly grotesque.
What’s more, the response of the Commission is wholly inadequate, saying only that they “take note” of the Ombudsman’s findings but “have a different reading of the applicable rules.”
The next time someone tells you the EU is a “rules-based organisation” just remember this shoddy scandal.
Murky water beneath the failed bridge project
Given that this scandalous vanity project has cost the taxpayer over £40m, it’s hard to disagree with the City Hall voices calling for an inquiry.
The Garden Bridge was backed to the hilt by celebrities and politicians blinded by the feel-good visuals and, we now know, blind to the serious problems that emerged very early on.
The web of intrigue, conflicts of interest, dubious processes and profligate expenditure has been pieced together by Will Hurst of the Architects’ Journal.
Readers of the Evening Standard hoping for an account of this scandal should turn to Hurst’s reporting – since they won’t find anything on it in the pages edited by former chancellor George Osborne, who nodded through the cash.
Corbyn wide of the mark with fat-cat attacks
Jeremy Corbyn enjoys talking about the fat cats and the undeserving rich but a new study suggests that the great British public don’t share his instinctive hostility towards those with the largest bank accounts.
Rainer Zitelmann, an economist in Berlin, commissioned a poll of people in the UK, France, Germany and the US to compare their attitudes towards the wealthy.
Respondents were asked whether they would support “drastically” shrinking the income of highly-paid bosses and distributing the cash among workers. Just 29 per cent were in favour compared with 54 per cent in France.
Only 20 per cent of Brits agreed that the “super-rich” are to blame for the world’s problems, compared with half of Germans.
Most interestingly, Zitelmann examined how much we envy the rich and measured the proportion of “enviers” to “non-enviers” – finding that while we Brits are quite relaxed in this area, the French were at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Kondo mops up tidy sums
Having observed the mountains of coverage given to “organising consultant” Marie Kondo, I watched the first episode of her new Netflix show, where she introduces people to her KonMari method of tidying.
With a liberal dose of pop psychology, aided by credulous couples who need to order their chaos, Kondo promotes her own theories and practices, which amount to folding clothes, organising kitchen drawers and clearing up the garage. This revolutionary theory has helped her flog millions of books. Hats off to her!
Deutsche launches exclusive club amid job cuts
Deutsche Bank is not alone in struggling to make ends meet in investment banking, and they’ve slashed thousands of jobs in a major overhaul.
Now top shareholders are calling for even more cuts. It seems as if things are more relaxed over at their wealth management division, which yesterday announced “the smallest and most exclusive private members’ club in the world” – popping up at an LA art fair. Room enough for DB’s remaining investment bankers?