Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt, Geoff Hoon and Margaret Moran, remember those names; they belong to the four stooges who broke British democracy once and for all with their greed and stupidity.
They were caught out in a ‘sting’ operation run jointly by Channel Four and the Sunday Times offering to use their influence as members of parliament, and in the case of Hoon, Hewitt and Byers as former ministers of the crown in return for generous fees from lobbying companies.
Stephen Byers, charmingly, used the phrase that sums up their tawdry attitude to the public trust by describing himself as a ‘sort of cab for hire’, for a fee of around £5000 per day he would happily tout the interests of anyone who paid him around Whitehall. For all I know he would even south of the river after five o’clock, something real London cabbies never do, but they, at least, are trying to make an honest living.
Not surprisingly the Tories have seized on this latest incidence of Labour MP’s on the fiddle to claim the moral high ground, even though their own benches are home to more than a few ‘cabs for hire’, with Sir George Young, their shadow leader of the house calling for the matter to be ‘fully and impartially investigated’.
Good luck with that, as the saying goes, because at the moment there seems to be little enthusiasm on the part of the government for an enquiry, maybe there are a few too many skeletons in the Labour Party cupboard for that to be advisable this side of an election. Deputy party leader Harriet Harman said the issue had been looked into and that she was satisfied that any decisions made had been free from the ‘impropriety’ alleged by the media.
Well that’s ok then, we won’t worry our fluffy little heads about this any more and get back to being enthralled by the antics of the various leaders’ wives; as John Wayne might have put it the hell we will!
Last summer we all found the MP’s expenses scandal with its duck houses, bath plugs and mucky movies mildly amusing, how very small beer British political corruption seemed in comparison to that in other European countries. This time round we could comfort ourselves by saying that this sort of thing always happens when a government is running out of steam.
We can dredge up memories of the cash for questions scandal that did so much harm to John Major’s government during its dog days, in particular we will recall Neil Hamilton and his too close relationship with Harrods owner Mohammed Al-Fayed, we didn’t much like him then but his willingness to turn himself into a figure of fun since has won him a soft spot in our hearts.
It all contributes to the lie we like to tell ourselves in this country that politics is really a sort of Carry On film complete with sex scandals and dodgy characters out for the main chance. If that’s what we want to go on thinking after this latest debacle then we’re wrong; dangerously so in fact.
This is not something out of an Ealing comedy; it is a serious threat to our society and the democratic values upon which it is based. There is a real risk that Byers, Hewitt et al are low down on a rotten totem pole of potential corruption that reaches to the heart of government.
Gordon Brown may well be able to dodge holding an investigation into the activities of ex ministers for hire; he won’t though be able to escape the judgement of the public at the ballot box, even if it is expressed by record numbers of people not bothering to vote at all. Even that won’t end the problem though; a parliament largely filled with shiny new MP’s untainted by any hint of corruption will still be at a disadvantage caused by the people now heading for the sunset, or the Lords, with their pockets stuffed with cash. They will lack the one thing necessary for truly effective government; the trust of the British people.
And another thing:
Scientists have discovered yet another miracle weapon for combating obesity, it is, wait for it; seaweed.
My guess is that it stops you getting fat because it tastes so god awful nobody in their right mind would ask for seconds of any dish in which it had been used as an ingredient.
The death was announced this week of Harry Carpenter, for many years the voice of boxing on the BBC. He was, by all accounts, a true gent, a man who knew and was loved by everyone who was anyone in the fight game over the past fifty years, not least because he mastered the difficult trick of combining knowledge and passion for his chosen sport with an ability to share both with the viewing public.
How very different from the loud and excitable presenters covering sport for television today for whom the audience are only bit players in the epic drama of their personal ambition; truly we will never see his like again.