THERE must be a reason we like to think that there’s some honour in public life. There must be a reason we feel that those who decide to work for the benefit of us all are deemed to be “honourable”.
There must be, but right now I’m damned if I know what the reason is.
Benjamin Disraeli said there was no honour in politics but there is some, so it’s said, amongst thieves.
Is that where we now stand when it comes to those in whom we put our faith as working for the common good? Can it be that the long-term cynics in society, those who have always believed that no-one does anything without it being for their own gain, are actually correct?
Every time a politician – be it an MP, MSP or councillor – is discovered flipping houses, claiming expenses for ridiculous items, asking to be paid £5000 to make a speech, avoiding paying tax or declaring they can’t possibly live on £67,000 a year, the word “honourable” is further tarnished.
Every time a public body – be it a council, the police or the fire service – seeks to obfuscate, to avoid giving information, to refuse to admit to mistakes, anything honourable about their place in society is diminished.
Since the Westminster expenses scandal, the banking crisis, the BBC’s entanglement in the Jimmy Savile revelation, the media’s phone-hacking crimes, even the decision to award the World Cup to Qatar, people’s faith in public bodies and in the people who represent them has collapsed quicker than the oil price.
The actions this week of two former foreign secretaries, Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, formerly of this burgh, add grist to the mill that “they’re all in it for themselves”.
And how can you argue against that attitude when an MP’s salary – around three times the average wage – is apparently not enough for them to “scrabble around” on? How can you argue that these are decent, upright, moral individuals when they want to charge thousands for the access they can supply to people in government? You can’t.
There is no honour in cash for access. There is no honour in greed or arrogance. There is nothing honourable about declaring your job as an MP leaves you with plenty of spare time in which you can represent the interests of anyone other than your constituents.
Similarly there is no honour in making a grieving family wait nearly six years for the answers to how their firefighter son died – and then at the last finally admit to mistakes. This is how the Scottish Fire Service treated Ewan Williamson’s family.
There has been no honour in the way Police Scotland has attempted to duck serious questions about its controversial stop-and-search policy when it involves very young children.
Being honourable is not just about being held in high esteem, it’s about having the kind of qualities which ensure you know what is morally right and in acting on them.
Of course public life is full of people like that – it’s always those who fail to live up to that standard who tar the rest with the same brush. That might be unfair but when it feels as though every week heaps more dishonour upon our public bodies and institutions, the stain of shame taints all.
Politicians have the honour of being able to change people’s lives for the better. MPs have the chance to do that and be paid a reasonable salary at the same time. If that is not enough for them, then rather than bring the whole system into disrepute they should do the honourable thing and let someone else take their place.
Who’s the boss around here?
THINGS are heating up in Edinburgh West in the run up to the general election.
Not only has the SNP opened its neon-signed bedecked campaign HQ next door to the sitting Liberal Democrat MP’s staid constituency office in
St John’s Road, it turns out Nationalist candidate Michelle Thomson, above, used to be Mike Crockart’s boss when both worked for Standard Life.
Wonder if she kept any of his old appraisals?
Legal firms get a business bounce
THE trampoline centre in Portobello has long been a kids’ favourite – especially for birthday parties. Never heard of any broken bones emanating from there, but then it’s not on the scale of the new Ryze centre in Dalkeith.
Yes, the number of accidents compared with the numbers who have gone for a bounce is miniscule, but for every person injured a broken bone is a major event.
Now it transpires the place opened without the proper licence from Midlothian Council. The phones in legal companies who deal in accident compensation will be in meltdown.
There’s a cold front blowing in from the Met Office. Staff are getting stormy about their pay freeze and will strike in the hope of applying a little atmospheric pressure on the government. In the meantime, if you need a forecast you might find them propping up the isobar.
Jamie has left a vital legacy
DESPITE the grief, the family of Jamie Skinner should be proud of itself and its defibrillator campaign.
Countless sports facilities now have these life-saving pieces of equipment installed and the city council and the Scottish Ambulance Service have announced they will install one in every high school in the Capital.
While the Skinners would much rather have their smiling, football-daft son at home with them, being an awkward teenager and growing into the man they hoped he would become, Jamie’s tragic death at the age of 13 from a cardiac arrest while playing football has not been in vain.
He has left a vital legacy.