Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Campbell Bannerman, and all that's wrong with politics

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Bannerman's self-aggrandizing explanation for his defection to the Tories, there was one little piece which was missing. When selected as an MEP candidate, he signed a declaration which clearly said:

"Our MEPs will be expected to… remain as members of UKIP for the full 5-year term or otherwise retire from the Parliament"
Now, I accept that such a declaration may not have any legal force, and the courts may well view such an undertaking as being unenforcable. But haven't we heard all this before? The MPs who fleeced taxpayers with dodgy expenses were working 'within the rules', but such a defence hardly lead to public acceptance of their case.

The simple reality is that some things are clearly right, and some things are clearly wrong. If you sign such a declaration, you do so knowing what it means and, one would hope, with an intention of sticking by it voluntarily. To break such an undertaking on the grounds that it may be legally unenforceable is no different to the weasel words used by David Camoron to excuse the Tory's ditching of his 'cast-iron pledge' to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

David has said he's received no promises other than to be treated the same as any other Conservative MEP. In other words, he is guaranteed selection on the Conservative list for the next Euro elections in 2014: and with a very good chance of re-election in his new Tory clothes, with the likely retirement of 66 year old (ie 69 in 2014) europhile Geoffrey Van Order and his europhile conservative colleague, Robert Sturdy, who will be 70: UKIP can take an extra seat or two, and DCB'll still be in. Doubtless, it won't have escaped the Tories notice as to how useful it is to have a former UKIP MEP to boost their own faltering Eurosceptic credentials amongst their party faithful either.

Which brings me to the title of this post, or at least a part of it: all that's wrong with politics. The defection of a minor politician may be a small thing when viewed in the context of the worlds problems, but didn't we constantly hear during the MPs expenses scandal that it was all 'within the rules'? Does anyone reading this think that that is an acceptable defence?

The point is simple. Those who seek election by their peers - and certainly those who've been elected - should be prepared to not just follow the law of the land, but to hold themselves up to a higher standard. I've just finished reading a novel by Philip Kerr, and one phrase from it sticks in my mind: "We gave the people of whom more was expected severer sentences when they turned out to be crooks. Lawyers, policemen, politicians, people in positions of responsibility. They're the crooks who should know better."

When politicians have their next outpouring of angst, wringing their hands and wondering why the public don't hold them in the respect they feel they deserve, think of Campbell Bannerman. The Tories are as much at fault in this as he: they know, of course, of the existence of the undertaking, and aren't much interested in what he said previously, or whether, in defecting, he is proving that his word is worth little, if anything. Rather than forcing him to stand by his earlier committment, they are happy to take him because it helps in the game of party politics, the pastime of climbing the greasy pole which keeps the idiots in charge of our nation at the top. That is what's wrong with politics and politicians. Shame on David, for proving that his word is not his bond, and even more shame on the Tories, for simply failing to do what's right by accepting him.

1 comment:

  1. Despite the regular trashing of business by venal politicians, I do not encounter this sort of bad faith in the City. People stand by their agreements without resorting to the law in most cases and they work hard to avoid being seen as a cheat.

    If only politicians could behave that way!