I came into politics out of fury with a political elite which was positively trampling the principles of democracy and an open society. By 2007, what Labour were doing to our country was awful enough, but then the handling of the Lisbon Treaty was the final straw: what a witches’ brew of deceit, sophisty and betrayal surrounded that unacceptable affront to government with the consent of the governed.
I thought we could go no lower.
And then came the expenses scandal and I was ashamed to be on the candidate list. After much kerfuffle, we seem to be moving on. Certainly, MPs know they are on thin ice…
Yet here is a new low: a repulsive phone hacking scandal involving not just journalists, but also police and politicians. Anyone ought to be disgusted by the conduct of public life which is being revealed.
Of course we need investigations into the circumstances of this case and the conduct of the press but there is something wider at stake. We need to question whether a stong state of near total scope with so little real democratic accountability, coupled with such a short and continuous news cycle, can ever escape the incentives that the system creates.
The “Westminster Bubble” is intense and unavoidable. We may be lobbied by powerful interest groups such as teachers, health professionals or publicly-funded charities. Companies and industries come together to press their case in a kind of corporatist guild socialism. Think tanks keep yelling at politicians who are too busy to listen. The Party has its own demands for absolute loyalty to the line and to the Whip.
Amongst all this, our constituents are suffering real state failures. HMRC, in particular, is treating people abominably and every state-provided public service has its victims of inadequate quality or service. As I have written before, the state is in decline. The era of big government has run its course, together with the dominance of its client classes: the politicians, the journalists, the giant corporations which suckle poisonously at the teat of taxpayer-backed funding, the special interest groups without a care for others and all those who fear to make a living through voluntary social cooperation.
Layer by layer, the corruption of society inherent in big government is being exposed. Good.
Of course we need a free press to hold power to account — that is an essential component of democracy — but all freedom requires an objective moral basis if it is not to degenerate into savagery, exploitation and degradation of the human spirit.
We must rediscover and apply those values which have sustained civilisations through the ages.
The golden rule has been stated many ways but “do as you would have others do unto you” may be the most familiar. Naive it may sound but more ethical conduct is vital if we are not to discover that public life can go yet lower.