It’s been an interesting couple of weeks during which my desire to accept that people generally act honourably and to the highest professional standards has taken some big hits. At heart I’m an old fashioned kind of guy and really want to believe that people will do their jobs properly and behave to a high professional standard without my having to get involved. Sadly it seems that more often I have to push, press and get involved to ensure that actually happens.
Having lost patience with Birmingham City Council’s treatment of my grandmother I became involved in resolving certain issues. Suddenly things started moving. It’s amazing what can happen when you make a formal complaint to the Chief Executive, especially when that complaint is backed up by one’s own professional knowledge and experience. It’s a shame that I had to get involved because the concerns of my elderly grandmother and my mother were not being properly dealt with.
Now they are being properly dealt with, my “persuasion” has uncovered what could be a few contractors being slapdash because “it’s just work for an old dear who won’t be with us much longer so don’t bother putting in too much effort” or could be continued failures to adhere to acceptable standards.
That is for Birmingham City Council to decide after the matters I have complained about are satisfactorily resolved.
The other issue which has ignited public anger is that of MPs’ expenses. The fallout from this issue could continue for some time yet. Politics and Parliament have been tainted muckspreadered by this issue. Helipads, duck islands, second homes, furniture, televisions, all stuff I’m sure we’d love to have ourselves have been funded by the taxpayer. Some MPs have recanted and paid money back, others have stood down. Whether such decisions were their own or prompted by some behind the scenes “persuasion” we may never know.
Julie Kirkbride is one MP who has been caught up in this story. The wife of soon to be former Conservative MP Andrew MacKay, some may see Miss Kirkbride as already implicated by her association with Mr MacKay. Her own use of expenses hasn’t helped the case for her defence. Miss Kirkbride’s behaviour this morning (as reported by Guido Fawkes) won’t have helped public perception of her either.
Iain Dale has written a defence of Miss Kirkbride. He also points out that the movers behind a petition against Miss Kirkbride are prominent members of the local Respect party, a fact which doesn’t seem to have been noticed by the media reporting on this story. Perhaps they should report this as it could be seen as making the motives behind the petition purely political. Miss Kirkbride put her side of the story in an interview this afternoon.
Ultimately I think that too much mud has been thrown and, however good Miss Kirkbride’s performance as an MP may be, it isn’t enough to wash off that mud. The perception of politics, Parliament and MPs is at an all time low. For that to improve there needs to be a clearing out of anything that represents the awful taking advantage of the expenses system. A clearing out that needs to be seen to be happening.
I’ve written a few pieces about professional standards and hearing Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 asking “If you were in an MP’s position wouldn’t you take advantage and claim for everything you could on expenses?” almost sent me ballistic. No I would not look to take advantage of that system. It’s called openness. It’s called honesty. It’s called respect. It’s called professional standards.
The Telegraph isn’t untainted despite having broken the story. It has its own agenda. Be sure to check out the comments after the article.
Watching Grumpy Old Men last night, Jeff Randall said that the UK press are world beaters at character assassination and destroying careers. He’s right. So I’ll give the last word here to Iain Dale, who is spot on when he says
By the way, perhaps we can now look forward to the following being subjected to twenty minutes of aggressive questioning about their own claims…
I could go on. But I won’t, the media herd has collectively decided on the name of its next scalp and will do everything it can to serve it up on a platter.
I’d like to see Ed Balls added to that list and given the same treatment that Andrew Mackay and Julie Kirkbride have been given.