There’s an old joke about politics – politicians are people who think that:
- Ethics is a county in the south of England
- Morals are paintings on plaster
- Scruples is the Russian currency
Unfortunately it seems that this joke is rapidly becoming a reality – within 48 hours we’ve had two Chief Secretaries to the Treasury who’ve had, shall we say, slight incongruities in their financial backgrounds. Ignoring the red-herrings that have been tossed around about David Laws’ sexuality, the bottom line of this is that it appears that the Liberal Democrats didn’t audit the financial backgrounds of their senior members – something that both Labour and the Tories did in the aftermath of the expenses scandal. It shouldn’t have been rocket science for the Lib Dems to do this; indeed, I would have thought that it should have been pretty easy and straight forward to achieve; after all, there were not as many LD MPs as Tory or Labour MPs, and over the years we’ve often been regaled by the Liberals with how they represent honesty and integrity against the perfidy and entrenched privilege of the other two major parties.
Well, a quick exposure to power has revealed the the LD MPs have as many financial ‘D’OH’ moments to deal with as their blue and red colleagues.
Perhaps Nick Clegg honestly never believed his MPs would play fast and loose, perhaps they genuinely didn’t think they’d done anything wrong. Perhaps they never expected to gain power and so come under public scrutiny – but the Lib Dems are now under the same sort of withering fire from the media as Labour and Tory MPs were at the start of the expenses row. I’ve already suggested in a previous post that Laws has bought the Coalition in to disrepute and has carried over the issues surrounding the integrity and financial probity of MPs from the last parliament in to this one. Now that Danny Alexander appears to have dropped the ball as well, it does begin to look like there is a systemic problem at the heart of the Liberal Party which needs sorting out if they’re to retain the moral high ground they’ve previously had.
I’ve found it interesting this evening to briefly debate the issue with Liberal Democrat apologists on Twitter, whose main argument has been to try and sidestep the allegations Alexander’s financial irregularities by trying to focus attention on the tax status of the Barclay Brothers who own the Daily Telegraph, who’re publishing the Alexander information. The difference is that the Barclay Brothers did not get elected to Government on the back of people’s despair over MP’s expenses. Neither do they run the country.
To all members of the Liberal Democrat Party. Fix this mess. Audit your people, come clean, accept that some of your folks have issues that need addressing and address them. Don’t try and bullshit us with claims of homophobia (for Laws) or feeble attempts to blame the messenger (for Alexander). I hope that the Alexander issue IS something out of nothing, and that the situation is satisfactorily explained to us over the next day or so.
But let’s just say I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, how many Liberal Democrat MPs are left who can take the job on?