Why can’t pollies behave themselves? Or is that hopelessly idealistic? See, I was brought up in the belief that privilege entails responsibility: that if you get the goodies that go with rank, status, trust and probably a certain amount of power pertaining thereto, it’s your job in return to be worthy of it to the very best of your ability.
But these days, it seems that politicians in particular are ignorant of that whole concept. Perhaps it’s the rarefied atmosphere of The House itself that does it: that heady business of belonging to an exclusive club, where you can strut the (sic) hallowed halls and smile benignly at lesser mortals there by invitation rather than right. No doubt some of them are well used to the taste of silver spoons, and have sailed through life wielding them like cherry-pickers to harvest the best for themselves on every occasion. And conversely, some of them have fought tooth and nail to climb the tree the hard way, and have every intention of reaping as much as they can while the going’s good. Or perhaps it’s just too much discounted grog in the members’ dining room, what would I know. But whatever the reason, once the righteous euphoria of success gives way to complacency (about a month) there’s always a hard core that sets about lying, cheating, rorting and generally squeezing the system for as much as possible lest it all be snatched away at the next election.
Generally speaking, polly peccadilloes fall into three categories: hiding assets, rorting the system and creating sex scandals. Mr & Mrs Joe Blow probably find the first the least acceptable. Why should they, they think, pay their hard-earned taxes to provide handsome (and ever-increasing) salaries to people who could obviously buy and sell them several times over, and are still greedy enough to lie about it? And it’s pretty obvious too, they think, that these people act in their own interests and not ours. No surprises there, but we don’t want it waved in our faces.
Rorting the system is slightly less heinous, because we’ve probably all fantasised about it (provided we could get away with it, of course), and in some echelons, it’s almost regarded as sport. But Mr & Mrs Blow aren’t too keen on the fact that polly rorting involves things like trips to the Maldives and houses in Spain rather than basic necessities like food and mortgage payments. They also point out that if they indulged in it, they’d be punished, but politicians are usually protected from such indignities, and once the tumult and the shouting dies, they carry on as before. Now that’s just unfair!
But sexual indiscretions are altogether different. They’re becoming so commonplace that Mr & Mrs B shrug and say, ‘Ah well, everyone’s human’. Nnnah. If they can’t control the less glorious aspects of their humanness for the length of a political term, it does rather undermine their claims of honesty, honour and unimpeachable moral fibre, which is hardly desirable in those purportedly leading the nation. And besides, they look such fools when they’re found out, and who wants to be represented by a fool? Even the most spiritually beautiful liaison will look pretty tatty around the edges when the press gets hold of it – as they inevitably will given the unconscionable amounts of time and money both parties spend digging the dirt on each other.
So here’s an idea. Every political office should be issued with a large (and compulsory) poster that says Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion. Although unfortunately, the cynic in me suggests that even if they knew the saying (it’s been around since 61BC), they’d assume it didn’t apply to good ole Caesar himself (or herself as the case may be.) I guess they’re too hooked on Veni, vidi, vici…