Sunday, 24 February 2013

Why the British don’t have ‘good’ political scandals

What is it about the British and their political scandals? They are so minor key and grubby. No gross corruption or venality on the Berlusconi scale, just lies and odd sexual practices which should have stayed private.

For over 30 years, I have lived in Winchester; once England’s capital and the site of its most beautiful cathedral. In that time one local MP was driven out of the Conservatives for dumping his wife for “an American heiress” and behaving like a ‘cad’. Oh yes, I was there on the evening when Capt. John Browne MP was accused of being a ‘cad’ by a party member. There was an audible gasp among the 200+ party members. It was the absolutely worst thing that could have been said about him. After that, he was doomed.

A later MP, Mark Oaten, also a chairman of the Liberal Democrat party, admitted to a relationship with a rent boy in London which included very obscure practices. He retired at the last election.

Now in Eastleigh, our neighbouring constituency to the south, there is a by-election caused by the resignation of its high-profile MP and former government minister Chris Huhne. He recently pleaded guilty for ‘perverting the course of justice’ for making his wife accept speeding points for him. As a result of the conviction, he resigned as a Member of Parliament and is likely to be gaoled.

There is a continuing and bitter back-story of Huhne leaving his wife, the prominent economist Vicky Price, and taking up with a formerly bi-sexual political aide. It was Price who revealed in a Sunday newspaper that she had taken Huhne’s driving penalty to allow him to keep his licence. Both have been prosecuted.

A previous MP, Stephen Milligan, died in 1995 from auto-asphyxiation while wearing stockings and suspenders. There is more detail but it doesn’t add to the grubby awfulness of Milligan’s sad death.

According to The Economist whose Bagehot (UK politics) columnist was is sparkling form, the voters have a choice on February 28 between a LibDem who is “amazingly uncharismatic” and a Conservative who while “warm and articulate … (has) a shaky grasp of national policy and questionable judgment.”
As yet, their private lives have not been subject to prurient interest but watch out. Past performance is probably a guide to future news. Forget Westminster and all that ‘Mother of Parliaments’ fluff; for real British politics and its yucky scandals look no further than mid-Hampshire.

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