It has come to a pretty pass when one yearns for signs that those who govern us can relate in any way to the people they claim to serve.
I've always been fairly sympathetic of politicians who fall foul of sex, drugs or alcohol. After all, politicians are supposed to be like the rest of us, fallible. And now our glorious leaders have, in one day, demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that not only have they forgotten who they serve, or why, but indicated that they have lost touch with any sense of morality or honour.
Exhibit number 1, the decision by the Serious Fraud Office to bring their enquiries into alleged bribery by BAe of various Saudi nationals to an end. Bribery is a crime in this country, and we have always been proud of our national reputation for financial integrity. Our civil service is famously free of the levels of corruption apparently to be found elsewhere, our banking and legal systems considered to be of international repute. And now the Attorney General, acting with the authority of the Prime Minister, calls off a legitimate investigation because 'the Saudi government don't like it'.
I may be being terribly naive, but what else might the Saudis not like? Does this mean that our principles are something to be jettisoned as soon as they become expensive? Have we taken the stance that our willingness to sell our national virtue is not at question, merely the cost?
Exhibit number two, the candid admission by Mr Blair's spokesman:
"The prime minister explained why he nominated each of the individuals and he did so as party leader in respect of the peerages reserved for party supporters as other party leaders do. The honours were not, therefore, for public service but expressly party peerages given for party service. In these circumstances that fact that they had supported the party financially could not conceivably be a barrier to their nomination"
is even more worrying. What service did these people given to the Party? Write policy, represent a constituency honourably, run campaigns or contribute to the running of the Party in some tangible way? If writing a big cheque is seen as party service, then those who are so cynical about our political system will be quite justified in saying, "I told you so". Perhaps those who genuinely believe in the idea of public service have got it wrong, we should make a lot of money instead, and buy ourselves the right to pass legislation on behalf of the rest of us. We would be respected far more by our erstwhile socialist friends, and we wouldn't have to deal with common people.
I feel sorry for my Labour friends (and I do have some). They work hard, campaign for things that they believe in, and then watch as their leadership demonstrate their utter contempt for anything that represents a sense of public conscience. Hey guys, can anybody spell 'hypocrisy'? Better still, can anybody in Whitehall define the word?
How interesting that you and I should both link the same two stories in the same way. Yes, a sad day for Britain's reputation for honesty if our Attorney General is to cancel a legitimate fraud investigation while Number 10 is admitting our Prime Minster has had his collar felt (ever so lightly!).
If I can take issue with a couple of points (visit my blog if you want to see all the areas on which we agree), “writing a big cheque” is of course a valuable contribution, and without big cheques we would not be able to afford the various people, whom both you and I know, working hard in Cowley Street for Liberal Democracy. It may not be the only way to contribute, but I don’t see why spending an hour delivering Foci is more valuable than spending an hour at work and paying for Foci to be delivered.
The point is that seats in the legislature should not be sinecures handed out by party leaders (including our own). By all means give our titles, just as hereditary peers have titles, but like OBEs the should be nothing more than badges which one may wear with pride. The upper chamber should be filled by a more mature means – might I suggest election?
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