Paterson, corruption and a dearth of parliamentary decency

What do you get when you cross entitled, greedy men with positions of power?

Our parliament, apparently. Who would have guessed?

As a British citizen whose rights and interests are represented in Parliament, I am appalled by Owen Paterson’s conduct. It undermines the democratic system, and – as phrased by the report into his actions – “has brought [parliament] into disrepute”. It’s a disgrace.

But there’s also the cynical side of me. The side that can’t help but laugh at Johnson’s attempt to act so shocked at the revelations – even going so far to say that there is no corruption or underhand dealings going on. I know it’s November, but I think pantomime season is still a little way off, Boris.

Then a bunch of Tory MPs (and one lonesome DUP) voted to protect Paterson. Who were we kidding, thinking he would be reprimanded for such behaviour? Owen Paterson was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, how did we really expect him to be disciplined by a PM who emptied the jar into his handbag? (Yes, I’m sticking with the use of a handbag). I almost feel sorry for Paterson. He’s like the unpopular kid who gets caught doing the same misdeed as everyone else but gets turned in whilst the other kids watch on – all rather glad it was him, not them.

Ministers eventually u-turned after public outcry (“sorry Owen, take one for the team old boy”). But let’s face it, it would have been rather hypocritical for many MPs to have voted for the suspension of Paterson given more recent accusations against figures such as Sir Geoffrey Cox, who breached parliamentary codes by using his Commons office to do external legal work, something explicitly banned by parliamentary conduct codes (Cox has denied any wrongdoing).

Aside from the grey area of second jobs, the behaviour of MPs has been under more scrutiny after reports of the drunken misconduct of 3 MPs on a military visit to Gibraltar. To commemorate Armistice Day, no less. Apparently, all duties and responsibilities of parliamentarians are suspended when you’re in the airport lounge, chucking back pink-gin-and-lemonades (this absolute speculation, based on nothing but wishful thinking and patronisation).

Just as the rest of the respectable world meets at COP26, debating how best to handle world-destroying threats to our ecosystems, the British government is squabbling internally about sleazy drunkards and crooked degenerates. Whilst 4.3 million children currently live on the poverty line, our MPs are selling out to corporate greed. The basis of all political authority (sorry to get all politics-student on you, but hear me out) is that we give up some of our individual freedoms in return for the services and protection of the state. This is – or should be – a give and take relationship. It’s not a take, then take some more situation.

Our MPs serve us. It is their duty. At election time, after they’ve won, or whenever they’re giving a speech about their job: they feed us drivel about what a privilege it is to serve. But isn’t it so handy that they forget this when it isn’t convenient for them?

Unfortunately, the Paterson revelations weren’t shocking. But on a lighter note, the real surprise was that MPs could afford to get drunk with airplane drinks prices.

I’m so glad tax payers’ money is not wasted.

Image via Flickr

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