After an hour I drifted off to sleep and woke again at 7am to hear the Today programme interviewing "Sir" Malcolm Rifkind MP and Jack Straw MP about their cash for access activities. Whereupon my worries dissolved. Thanks guys.
Corruption is an interesting word. It originated as a description with physical rot affecting a fruit or vegetable, progressed to describing sepsis affecting the human body, and is now more often applied to the body politic.
Dictionary definitions of "Corruption" vary somewhat:
American Heritage is unhelpful :
1a. The act or process of corrupting.
1b. The state of being corrupt.
2. Decay; rot.
Collins is similarly non-committal:
-the act of corrupting or state of being corrupt
-moral perversion; depravity
-dishonesty, esp bribery
-putrefaction or decay
-alteration, as of a manuscript
-an altered form of a word
Oxford is a bit more on the case:
Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
Macmillan goes for it :
1) dishonest or illegal behavior by officials or people in positions of power, especially when they accept money in exchange for doing things for someone
And Transparency International is in no doubt whatsoever:
Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.
It hurts everyone who depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.
There is a prima facie case that says that Rifkind and Shaw have been caught abusing their position for private gain.
Now MPs are entrusted with power by the people, with the job of representing the well-being of said people.
The remarkable thing about the Today interviews with Rifkind and Straw was their total lack of shame. Straw tried to spin it to blame the "bogus" businesspersons who caught him out.
Adam Ramsay has a good take on it on Open Democracy: "Like toddlers being told off for putting their fingers in the chocolate spread, they simply don't see what the issue is". To them, it's normal. In fact it is not. The sting approached 12 MPs: 6 did not respond, 4 refused, and Straw and Rifkind walked right into the trap, because for them, the culture of corruption is normal.
The fact is that it seems completely normal to some MPs that they should routinely have expensive lunches with super-rich people and world-dominating corporations, to take holidays on super yachts and in villas belonging to multi-millionaires. Normal that they should converse with the impossibly rich, rather than the ordinary people they are paid to represent.
What then is the answer? Clearly, MPs should be barred from having any job or position apart from their job of representing the people. Rifkind says business and professional people would be unable to live on a paltry MP salary of £67,000 per year plus expenses. If this is case they should resign immediately and find a job that will keep him in the manner to which they are accustomed. Thay should not, repeat not, prostitute themselves (and in Rifkind's case, British ambassadors worldwide) for private gain to anyone who has a bit of cash to spare,
There is another issue, apart from these individual MPs holding out their begging bowls. Political parties take big money from business. It would be absurd to argue that this does corrupt the decision making process. The obvious answer is to cap donations from individuals and businesses to very low levels, and instead fund political parties out of taxes, according to electoral support. Unfortunately parties are so hated because of corruption, people hate this idea, so that corruption gets worse. But it has to change.
MPs to have only one job - that of MP
Political parties to be funded only by tax money.
So we have made a start on dealing with corruption for monetary gain in Westminster. There are probably other proposals on the table.
In the next post I will deal with the hidden corruption of sexual abuse of children in Westminster.