Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cash and politicians


Funny how history repeats itself. In the mid 1990s the Conservative Party had been in power for over 15 years. It was running out of the drive to govern that characterises parties in their opposition years and in the early years of government. It was beset by scandals in which the disdain of certain ministers and members of parliament for normal standards of morality was clear. The prevailing attitude exuded by some was that "We are the natural party of government and we can do what we like. We are the law". When Labour won its landslide victory in 1997 there was a sense of a radical change in the political atmosphere. A party obsessed with money and the casual destruction of the common property of the country (e.g. the railways) was out. The incomers were unsullied and uncorrupted.
Or so we thought.
Now, with the expenses scandal (that covers all parties), with the astonishing perfidy of Tony Blair in taking this country to war in order to get rich personally on the US lecture circuit and through dubious political contacts (for no other explanation of the facts seems to fit) and with the news this week that some ex-ministers are hawking their favours to any lobbyist with a few thousand pounds to spare, we are close to stepping back 13 years. Then, the word "sleaze" was shorthand for the corruption of the Tories. Now it seems that the "new" Labour party is falling headlong into the same trap. And it really is the same trap. Cash for questions then, cash for lobbying now. Exposure by investigate journalists. Suspension of the offenders from their parties. The questions left hanging in the air over everyone else.
Britain is not a corrupt country. I have been driving for more than 40 years and have never once been stopped by the police in circumstances where a bribe would let me go freely on my way, Actually I have only ever been stopped twice, once when they were stopping everyone who looked young to ask if they were driving their own car, once when an alert officer spotted that my MG sports car lacked a road tax disc (I was racing up the M4 at all of 60mph with the roof down and it had blown off the windscreen). But I digress. We are lucky to have a fundamentally sound civil service and a free press. Our politicians sell themselves for amounts that would be considered pathetically small in some countries. Yet corruption is still corruption and they will pay for it at the next election. All we can say with certainty is that if Cameron's lot get in for a period of more than 10 years then we can expect another round of scandals around the year 2022. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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