I feel mildly disappointed, a bit naive and very disillusioned when I think about British politics these days.
I am referring, of course, to the latest scandal to hit our Members of Parliament.
Three former cabinet ministers, fervent supporters of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, have been caught in a clever TV sting where they admitted on camera that they would be interested in using their political experience in the interests of what turned out to be a fictional American venture capitalist company.
This new Gang of Three, Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, were all going to stand down at the next election any way, they were yesterday’s men as far as the Brown administration was concerned but they were still elected MPs when they turned up to these meetings and will be until the date of the Election is known and Parliament is dissolved.
Geoff Hoon, the former Defence Secretary, rather disarmingly apologised on the radio this morning and said that he acknowledged that he had made a mistake and that he had been “showing off.”
All three of them have made a big mistake but at least he was big enough to admit it.
These politicians!!!! What are they like!!!!
In his own defence he said that he was leaving Parliament anyway and needed to find himself a new job for the time before his big pension kicks in.
I could see his point but, as with the other two, I couldn’t help wondering why they were leaving politics.
OK, Geoff Hoon was a luck-lustre Defence Secretary, Patricia Hewitt was an incompetent Health Secretary and Stephen Byers was a slime-ball as Trade and then Transport Secretary.
In my naivity, I wonder why it isn’t good enough to be a back bench MP. If you want to be a public servant, to help influence the political future of the country and if you want to help your constituents – all claims regularly made by our MPs, then why do they have to go just because they have lost favour at the top table?
If there was ever a time when it was important for Members of Parliament to stand up and be counted as honourable, free-thinking and incorruptible public servants then it is now. Byers, Hewitt and Hoon, could have stood again as senior and experienced back-benchers but, of course, we now know that instead of that, they have decided to use their experience to chase a bit of extra cash.
Maybe their former leader, Tony Blair’s rush into money-making, his reported £20 million earnings since leaving office, has led them astray.
In many ways, no one is much surprized by Mr Byers’ comeuppance. He was the man whose assistant suggested that 9/11 was a good day to bury bad news and, we know from some of the other dirt that still clings to his boots that he is not a man over-scrupulous in the art of political manipulation. Let’s put him to one side and think, good riddance. He is what my grandmother used to call a toe-rag.
Geoff Hoon, was, let’s face it, a man over-promoted and often out of his depth. A decent bloke no doubt and no great loss to politics.
Patricia Hewitt is the real surprise here.
I remember her when I was a young political researcher and she was the then Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock’s press secretary. She was always charming, helpful and effective whenever I had reason to talk to her, she seemed bright and intelligent and she was always as good as her word if she promised to deliver her boss up for an interview.
In those days, Neil Kinnock was fighting to save the Labour Party from extinction at the hands of the so-called Militant Tendency who wanted to transform it into a Marxist debating club.
Patricia Hewitt, with a history of working with Liberty and Age Concern, was the very image of a bright eyed enthusiast for the energy and vision that Neil Kinnock brought to his party so I was not surprized when, Neil Kinnock out of the equation, she became a minister in the Tony Blair administration.
OK, she may not have been a great success as a cabinet minister, but I would never have predicted that she would have sold her soul for a few American bucks.
The extent of the shock is reflected in Neil Kinnock’s remarks this week when he called the actions of these three former ministers, “repulsive.” That is quite something coming from him when referring to his former aide.
He is right too. It is repulsive when our politicians reveal themselves as self-seeking, money-grabbing and foolishly vain mortals. That is also what makes me feel disappointed, naive and disillusioned.
Let’s try to elect a new bunch in May – but as Mrs Hewitt has demonstrated, power corrupts.