Thinking For The Individual

Formerly known as 'Thinking For The People', this site offers some reflections on the state of British society and her people from the perspective of a libertarian Conservative with a passionate belief in the pillars of freedom and responsibility.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

How The Little Men In Government Must Grow

As the issue of peerages ‘sold’ to Labour donors in return for pre-election loans has been splashed all over the news for the past two weeks, and now that it is starting to muddy the waters across the whole political spectrum, I am tempted to ponder the histories of our great statesmen of yesteryear, for whom scandal and sleaze came as second nature, but who are still endowed with a golden reputation in the common consciousness of our society.

David Lloyd George was a man who, when he wasn’t cheating on his wife, used his prime ministerial patronage to sell honours, and in far more explicit a fashion than this government is accused of. Winston Churchill was a drinker and almost went bankrupt by being incompetent with his own finances. Lord Salisbury was unapologetic when it came to his blatant nepotism. Gladstone, meanwhile, regularly took prostitutes home to Downing Street.

The fact that statesmen such as these are admired today, whilst their modern-day alternatives are reviled for even the slightest association with that kind of sleaze and scandal, is enough to annoy any politician today. Whilst vice in politics back in the days of the great statesmen is today looked upon with nothing more than a wry smile, today it incurs the wrath of all, with no exceptions.

But most of today’s politicians will just leave it at annoyance. They will still go on making money wherever they can, forgetting their marriage vows with anyone who comes along, and getting involved in all kinds of repulsive behaviour most of us wouldn’t even know how to get into.

That politicians today are held to the highest of standards by the press and the public, no matter how hypocritical some of these standards are, should be enough to compel them to rise up to those standards and be truly good, decent and virtuous people in conducting the nation’s affairs.

The lesson to be taken from the way a Cabinet minister is castigated today for any whiff of corruption, whereas in the past he would have been left to enjoy all the sex, cash and bad behaviour he could ever want, is reason, if reason were needed, for the politicians of today to rise above the way politics in Britain have turned today, and stand up as bastions of integrity and respectability in a society which has lost its way.

That’s why the real reaction to the latest honours scandal should not be to tighten up the System to make wrong-doing impossible, but for our statesmen to tighten up their own hearts and minds so that they themselves would never do wrong. Integrity is something that those in a position of power must come to possess themselves. That is a far more profitable approach to the prevention of scandal than simply putting in place safeguards against those who clearly do not possess the slightest integrity.

So perhaps the best way for politicians today to rise into the realms of statesmanship is perhaps to take on a very difficult, but very worthwhile challenge: to be virtuous, to be upright, to be great men!

That’s how the little men at the top of our nation’s public life today will become great.

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