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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Conscience and Compliance

The disgraceful expense claims made by some MP's have been truly astounding and I remain perplexed on how they have managed to get away with it. Having been exposed to a tight regime in local government where officers permanently scrutinise the expense claims of councillors, it begs the question what exactly has the Parlimentary Fees Office been doing? It seems they are either intiminated and in awe of MP's or believe that the 'Honourable Member' would not stoop to exploiting the spirit of the rules. Nick Robinson has a wonderful blog on the fate of the honourable member.
One of the most perceptive comments during the week came from Jonathan Aitken - there's nothing like a poacher turned gamekeeper for insight! - who said that the conscience has been replaced by compliance as the measurement of right and wrong. Its now not a matter of whether a course of action is right or wrong as determined by your conscience but rather, whether it is within or without the rules put in place by a compliance code. This cannot be right. I was reminded during the week by a well known BBC correspondent that the Corporation once had a training event for its journalists on accurate reporting and knowing the difference between right and wrong. His riposte was that he learnt that difference as a child in Sunday School.
Honourable Members who don't know the difference between right and wrong are ten a penny this week, they have lost the respect of the electorate and have brought the democratic process into disrepute. When it all is settled I hope they reflect on the damage they have caused and hope that in the European elections the electorate don't over react and vote for the extremist views of the BNP and UKIP.

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