Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Corrupt MPs merely reflect the world around them


IN modern Britain, as the seasons change, the passing of time is also marked by another seemingly perennial event, namely a lobbying scandal involving Members of Parliament. 

The most recent involved a Conservative MP by the name of Scott Benton, who was caught on camera clumsily offering to lobby ministers on behalf of a fictitious investment fund, as well as to share market-sensitive information with and to ask questions on behalf of this entity in Parliament. This followed a similar scandal not a month before, in which senior politicians including former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock agreed in principle to carry out lobbying work for a fake South Korean consultancy firm in return for the payment of up to £10,000 per day. 

The response by the political class, including various media commentators and talking heads, was drearily predictable. Commentators of a conservative persuasion, such as Steve Allen on GB News, argued that the scandal showed that MPs needed to be paid more. Only a salary substantially higher than the £86,584 currently paid to backbenchers would attract the right ‘talent’ into Parliament, they asserted. Further, it was suggested that a hefty pay rise would reduce the need for impecunious parliamentarians to take on additional work outside Parliament which, it was claimed, they are virtually forced to do in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. 

On the other side of the political divide, the solution proposed was, unsurprisingly, more state regulation. Commentators on the progressive left, such as Gina Miller, insisted that the recent episodes  showed the need for the government to introduce ‘stringent measures to ensure transparency, fairness and ethical conduct’.

In other words the public were subjected to the same tedious repetition of threadbare solutions always wheeled out in response to this sort of tawdry scandal. The putative ‘right’ in essence proposed that we pay MPs more and let the market raise standards, while the progressive ‘left’ proposed that we further restrict our untrustworthy politicians in an ever more suffocating blanket of regulation and monitoring.  

However, both of these proposed solutions are based on viewpoints which are fundamentally flawed. Not only have both suggested approaches already been tried time and again to no avail. More importantly, both err in their initial assessment of where the root of the problem lies. The recurring scandals are not the result of a localised problem affecting only the culture and practices within Parliament. Rather, they are symptoms of a much wider sickness affecting British society at large. 

In his short 1943 book The Abolition of Man, C S Lewis noted that throughout most of the classical and Christian periods, the purpose of education was to train children in ‘ordinate affections’, that is to love the good and hate the bad. He was writing in opposition to the attempts being made at the time by educational reformers and academics to structure the education system in a way which, in Lewis’s view, would deny the existence of objective moral truth. Lewis presciently warned what the effects of such an approach would be: ‘We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.’

Sadly, Lewis’s warnings were not heeded. Rather, as the twentieth century wore on, the ideologically motivated distortion of focus within our education system continued apace. With it came a consequent failure to imbue future generations with virtue, and with the ability to discern the good from the bad. The position is now far worse than Lewis could possibly have predicted. Children are given to understand that there is no objective moral truth, and no objective right and wrong, but rather that all truths are equal. You have your truth and I have mine, they are told. Indeed, some university students claim that the very concept of objective truth is a racist myth. Further, we routinely see historical figures from our nation’s past, men and women who had often exhibited the virtues of bravery, self-sacrifice and self-denial, castigated and rejected as fitting subjects of emulation or respect. Instead, our young people are encouraged to look up to empty-headed ‘celebrities’, wealthy sports personalities, or LGBTQI+ ‘role models’ whose only visible achievement often appears to be the enjoyment of a niche sexual preference. 

The Christian virtues are sidelined by our progressive woke teaching establishment or, where they must be mentioned, are spoken of with disdain by our children’s teachers. Our young people are encouraged to conceive of success in life in purely material terms, the main aim being to make lots of money. And of course fame, no matter how ephemeral and fleeting, is considered by many to be a far more desirable goal than concrete achievement.

The truth is that our educational system, and more broadly our culture and society, has for decades now been turning out young people for many of whom the concepts of honesty, of duty and of service are entirely foreign. The character of our politicians can ultimately only reflect the character and morals of the wider population from which they are drawn. 

Thus, to quote C S Lewis again, ‘We continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible.’ We cannot expect our politicians to exhibit probity, integrity and self-sacrifice unless we in the population at large value those things, and inculcate them in our young. Until we do, I am afraid that the anger and disgust we feel at the occasional displays of corruption by our political class is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, no more than the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in the glass. 

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Adam Cross
Adam Cross
Adam Cross (pseudonym) is a UK qualified barrister who has practiced in both the public and private sectors.

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