You’d have to have your head tested…

Posted on: 18th May 2011

Originally posted on June 1st 2010

“You’d have to have your head tested to become an MP,” said a political commentator on the radio this week.

How should we take this? Was it a lesser-spotted, fledgling of sympathy and understanding against the vast, caustic and unstoppable crude oil slick of malice and vitriol?

Or was it a deeply wounding criticism of MPs as people who must, by definition, be at least a few egg sandwiches short of a modest picnic?; people whose judgement is so evidently flawed, they just can’t see the obvious futility of their task, the impossibility of ever being able to please their tormentors; and whose irrepressible optimism dupes them into believing the preposterous notion that they can “please all of the people all of the time”.

There was a moment. There in the Rose Garden of Number 10 when the Clegg/Cameron show introduced the “New Politics”. That sense of camaraderie, shared jokes as well as, of course, the shared credit and shared blame. The sense of another new dawn.

It was like the New-Labour, New-Britain honeymoon of 1997. And all of the other new hopes going back, time immemorial.

This week’s resignation of the impressively bright and, in my view, well intentioned new Cabinet Minister, David Laws, has produced headlines announcing an early end to the new Coalition Government’s honeymoon.

Most reasonable people wouldn’t want to know nor would care about aspects of his private life which have been exposed by the media. Some MPs may naively believe that they are entitled to a private life – and, indeed, they should be.

One of my colleagues made a point of promoting his private life. A succession of cheeky girls, weather girls and others with a regular spread of pictures in coffee table chat magazines.

Others, like David Laws, kept his private life entirely to himself. Whether he had done anything improper with his Parliamentary Allowances is a matter which he has placed in the hands of the independent Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

There have been many before Mr Laws, and there will be many to follow. Those who set absolute monastic perfection as the standard will be always astonished and disappointed. Those elements in the British press who have prospered by acting as the nation’s moral Taliban will thrive in this fertile environment. The fact that the same Daily Telegraph that castigates MPs is owned by a pair of tax exiles who have cleverly avoided paying their dues but who delight in pointing out the failings in others is merely a point of note, rather than headline grabbing news stories, it seems.

Perhaps there are people who never make mistakes, or have contradictions between principle and practice.

They might consider a career in politics…after making sure that they have had their head tested first!