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Par for the course

Rust regulars will scarcely need reminding that I bow to nobody in my cynical contempt for the British Establishment and its political classes.

They’re all too prepared to lecture the British public from their pompous Mount Olympus all-expenses-paid dining table about how theirs is the highest calling known to man – and how those of us who fail to turn out to vote at election times are ‘failing in our fundamental civic duty, specifically the democratic rights for which millions of servicemen and women sacrificed their lives in WW1 and WW2 and elsewhere throughout history’ – and yet, at all other times other than General Elections (i.e. when they need the public’s vote), simply carry on living the high life at Westminster, clothed in an invisible cloak of self-entitlement, without more that occasional passing and insincere nods to principle, integrity, financial or moral probity.

In short, they’re playing a hypocritical real-life Game Of Thrones, taking part in a massive con trick upon the British public in which they’re all ‘on the inside’ and justifying their personal privileges by reference to the supposed legitimacy granted them by the ballot box.

The four series of Armando Iannucci’s brilliant political satire The Thick Of It (broadcast between 2005 and 2012), starring Peter Capaldi at Malcolm Tucker, Number 10’s chief ‘enforcer’, began as a cult show of the ‘guilty secret’ variety but then gradually attracted near-universal popularity.

It was sharply-observed and very funny, of course, but on top of that, for the bulk of the viewing public, it remorselessly and hilariously took the mick out of the British political classes (albeit to a degree so extreme that nobody took it seriously because of its ‘you could not make it up’ quality), whilst the political classes themselves also loved it because they thought it was simply the latest off the production line of great BBC factual documentary series down the decades.

Without doubt the Daily Telegraph’s ‘MPs expenses scandal’ of 2009 was a watershed moment – probably the greatest expose of its type in British history.

duckIt demonstrated, with bells on, that if anyone actually ever lifted the rock of Westminster and peered into the dirt and creepy-crawlies scrabbling around thereunder there was virtually nothing left in the world that would surprise anyone. The political class hated the ‘Torch of Truth’ being shone upon its murky practices, naturally, but by then the chickens had definitely come home to roost [probably in the floating duck house costing £1,600 claimed on expenses by Sir Peter Viggers, the rather grand Tory MP for Gosport]. People began to switch off and turn away from the political process and particularly those engaged within it.

Arguably, this has directly resulted in developments such as the Brexit result in the recent UK Referendum on the EU and the current travails of the Labour Party.

It must have been highly frustrating for those few politicians and others who had actually gone into politics with the sword of righteousness in their right hand and a desire to enter public service for the good of their fellow men and women – but the trouble is, when you’ve got bad apples in your barrel, over time their bacteria and process of degradation affects all the other apples around it. And when your bag of apples on the sideboard passes too far beyond its sell-by date, and is heaving with off-putting gunge, it gets consigned to the rubbish bin … no doubt some good apples still trapped within it, but sadly that’s what tends to happen when contagion sets in.

Perhaps the aspect of political life that will always remain in my ‘Top 3’ pet hates is the honours list.

We’ve all shaken our heads at the way they’ve been dished out down through history – we need only give name-checks to David Lloyd-George (who practically published a ‘going rate’ list of what it would cost for anyone with sufficient money to buy titles, knighthood, gongs and decorations of varying degrees of status and importance); Harold Wilson’s infamous ‘Lavender List’ of dodgy pals, courtiers and others who he put up upon his departure as Prime Minister; and, of course, Tony Blair [need I mention more than his name?].

Never mind Theresa May, our new Prime Minister, having to deal with immediate big issues such as Brexit, Hinkley Point, HS2 et al.

She’s now got to deal with the pile of disgrace that former PM David Cameron has so conspicuously left upon the doorstep to Number 10 – i.e. his version of the traditional Prime Minister’s supposed ‘resignation honours list’.

What I will always fail to comprehend about the average British politician (and Mr Cameron is very much one of those) is how they seem to have the equivalent of a full-frontal lobotomy as regards what is right or wrong – or perhaps that should be ‘any sense of how their actions will be perceived by the British public once they become known as one day they assuredly will’ – the moment they get into any sort of power.

It’s as if, once they get the keys to the toy shop, they cannot stop themselves doing whatever the mood of the moment causes them to do. Smashing up all the toys, if necessary. Their sense of self-awareness – if they ever possessed one – gets surgically removed, resulting in a total disconnect between what they’ve ever said or committed to previously … and what they want to do now. Consistency, continuity, principle and integrity inevitably get sacrificed upon the altar of pragmatism.

I’m not normally a fan of the Daily Mail, but here’s a link to a suitably-outraged piece posted today upon its website, written by a number of journalists, that sums it up rather neatly – DAVID CAMERON SYSTEMATICALLY DESTROYS HIS OWN LEGACY AND REPUTATION

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About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts