Sunday, 10 May 2009

These scams are atrocious. Worse is the lack of remorse

[...] Full exposure of the expenses racket has illustrated the alarming extent to which so many politicians have lost touch with any ethical bearings, with any feel for what it is tolerable to the public, and even with any sense of self-preservation. The scams are bad enough. Worse is the total absence of any repentance. They have had weeks to consider how they would answer public revulsion when they were caught with their hands in the voters' pockets. What was required was a display of contrition. Yet the ­collective response has been to try to brazen it out.
Lord Mandelson, ever a man to think attack is the best form of defence, lashes out at the media, as if the disgrace was the exposé rather than that exposed. From most of the rest of the government there has been either skulking silence or a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that there has been any wrongdoing.

Caught in flagrante, they do not bow their heads in shame. Their answer to public disgust is to thrust two fingers at the voters. Everyone hates them; they don't care. Read more
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John Thomas said...

These articles talk about "wrongdoing" and "conscience" and suchlike. Is it not the case (and always has been) that political ideology - which these people serve - is amoral? And therefore it is meaningless to talk about them "behaving badly" or "doing wrong". They are just politicians doing politics. Expect no more. Hasn't Lord Carey written about the collapse of Parliament's moral authority? Surely this was an old unplublished article he found in his drawer - the reality happened a long time ago.

Richard Brown said...

Personally, I find it very difficult to get worked up about MPs and their expenses, when they're only doing what the rest of us do. If you discovered that your employer would pay for your new duck house, hedge trimming or second mortgage, no questions asked, what would you do?

And please don't, as John Thomas mentioned, expect politicians to have any Christian morality in a post-Christian world. Their defence is 'those were the rules, and I abided by them' - that's their understanding of morality. As they spend their lives making rules for the rest of us, that's what their understanding of morality has become.

Don't expect, either, such an inconvenient thing as a conscience from which their morality derives. The post-Christian world doesn't have such a thing - never having been taught the difference between right and wrong. Politicians, unfortunately, only reflect the standards of the age they live in - moral outrage has a strong whiff of hypocrisy about it.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Richard, actually clergy live with quite a complex system of expenses, which, whilst less-generous than for MPs (we don't have a 'second home' allowance) does give us 'perks' not open to others.

Some of these expenses are covered by PCCs, and therefore subject to their scrutiny, others are not payable by PCCs and are down to us, our consciences and the tax man.

Personally, I have always taken the view that I should stick to the 'letter of the law' on this, not just because of the legal implications (though I would rather sleep well at night), but also because this is right.

To give an example, clergy are not allowed to claim their internet subscription as an expense of office. To me, this is ridiculous. But 'them's the rules', so I don't claim.

Where Gordon Brown is getting it wrong is comparing a 'gentlemen's club' arrangement with what he wants to see - different rules. I would put it to him that in a gentlemen's club, people behave like gentlemen and don't need rules to make them behave the right way.

That, at least, is how it ought to work, and perhaps once did.

The missing ingredient, in my view, is the notion that one is in politics to serve one's country - but that would be a whole other post.

Richard Brown said...

I'm not wishing to cast aspersions on clergy, or indeed anyone else with a conscience, and indeed Gordon Brown - the 'son of the manse' may still have one. However, these things appear to be few and far between in Parliament, as they are in the rest of society. We get the politicians we deserve.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Richard, I agree with you on that one!