It’s always dangerous to point fingers at the personal flaws and foibles of politicians – especially in the age of social media when the merest throwaway comment, often written at dead of night when drink has been taken, can be brandished in the cold light of dawn as evidence to destroy a budding political career.
But even those who take an indulgent view of the lax and louche morality of the political class will have to admit that the current season has seen a vintage crop of examples of the murky depths to which our lords and masters have sunk.
Most spectacularly, of course, Paul Flowers, the ex-Chairman of the Labour party’s private piggy bank, the Co-op, has taken the Co-op’s old slogan ‘It’s all at the Co-op – Now!’ far too literally and behaved by his own admission in a positively swinish fashion himself.
Reverend Flowers, an ordained Methodist Minister, may look like a bewildered and white walrus moustached former Colonel from Tunbridge Wells, but is in fact a Labour party stalwart from Yorkshire – which is apparently what got him the Co-op gig – with a penchant for gay dating sites and unwisely doling out some of his huge cash payoff in a drugs deal sting observed by the Mail on Sunday.
His sole banking experience, as the Co-op blew its members’ savings in even more expensive bad deals, was a four year stint as a cashier after leaving school. Jobs for the old boys, you see.
In the same week, Denis MacShame – oops, sorry – Denis MacShane (since he is entirely shameless) – another Labour stalwart from Yorkshire, and Blair’s former Europe Minister, belatedly, after months and years of strenuous denials that recalled Chris Huhne’s indignant protestations of innocence, finally admitted in court falsely claiming nearly £13,000 in expenses and is now looking at a possible jail term, joining half a dozen of his former Labour Parliamentary colleagues who have already done time over the expenses scandal.
Still with our Labour friends in the north, the Falkirk scandal, in which Labour’s biggest paymaster, Unite the union, tried to install one of their own as an MP, not by financial bribes, but by signing up Labour party members who did not know they had been enrolled, or who did not even exist – rumbles on, despite Labour’s best attempts to cover it up.
Meanwhile, lest the Cameron Conservatives start feeling too complacent, it should be recalled that three of Dave’s best chums from his social circle in the Oxfordshire woods known as the so-called Chipping Norton Set – his Old Etonian contemporary Charlie Brooks, Charlie’s wife Rebekah, former editor of the News of the World, and her erstwhile lover, Cameron’s former spin doctor, Andy Coulson, another ex News of the Screws Editor, are all currently on trial at the Old Bailey on trials arising from the Hackgate scandal.
Added together what all these disparate cases amount to is clear evidence that the political class has learned nothing from the tsunami of public rage that followed the outrageous revelations of the 2009 expenses scandal. In all three parties we have an amoral elite who have abandoned all pretence of decent behaviour, flout the law as the mood takes them, and treat us, the poor mugs who vote for them, with amused contempt.
And at the summit of the dung heap sits the most corrupt and crooked elite of all : the European Union, whose accounts have not been signed off by the European Court of Auditors for almost twenty years. If the EU were a business, the Fraud Squad would have been called in years ago.
In the early 18th century, Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, presided over an unprecedented corrupt system of patronage, jobbery and bribes , which enriched this Norfolk squire, allowing him to turn his country seat, Holkham Hall, into a place stuffed with art treasures, and in which, to quote Walpole;s own cynical words ‘Every man has his price’
Today, three centuries on, Walpole’s crooked edifice of corruption has been re-erected, And if our rulers have their price – its we who are paying it.