Nick Robinson is doing a radio programme on the subject of the wider impact of the expenses crisis. (Catch it if you can – re-run at 8pm R4 Monday 29th, also online of course. It’s not Bedknobs and Broomsticks by the way. Try Moats, Mortgages and Mayhem.)
I’ve yet to listen to the programme, only heard the trailer. So I’m guessing what you’ll say, Nick, and it’s too late. You played along with the crowd, and lost credibility. It was clear what was happening to many of us from day one, but we didn’t have a mouthpiece. (That is a crime in itself.)
You and other insiders would have known better than most about the integrity of the great majority of MPs, and about the damage this would do to them individually, their work as constituency MPs, the institution of parliament and the political process itself.
Well, now I’ve listened. I’ve heard Michael Howard quote the example of Ruth Kelly’s insurance claim, illegitimate according to the Telegraph, utterly proper in fact, I’ve heard the smug and greasy complacency of the guy I assume is the Telegraph’s editor, and I’ve heard Nick Robinson’s concern that every night of the story he’d go to bed worrying that he’d made the situation worse for a group of people he believed were for the most part in politics to do good. But ‘the facts drove the story’, he claimed. His definition of ‘facts’ in this case isn’t mine.
And I’ve heard his belief that if the story fuels an easy cynicism that politicians are all in it because they’re on the make, then it will have done damage. Lightly encoded we have Nick Robinson’s message. Damage has been done, and we know from the context that he believes it’s been done unfairly. What he doesn’t say is how extensive the damage is, which maybe we can look forward to in a sequel.
Nick Robinson’s an old boy of my school, OK some fifteen years younger than me I guess. So he’s a North Cheshire lad, and I rate him, and while he’s a relative innocent in this case (compared to some of the charlatans at work) I think he’s let us down.
I’ve written elsewhere on the subject of W.B. Yeats’ comment:
I hate journalists. There is nothing in them but tittering jeering emptiness. They have all made what Dante calls the Great Refusal. The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth.
( It seems that Pope Celestine V resolved the papal schism by resigning and leaving the way clear for Boniface VIII, who Dante loathed. For his cowardice, his refusal to honour his obligations, Dante consigned Celestine to hell.)
Nick, you sat on the fence. You were part of that great refusal. And the same goes for most of your colleagues. Maybe you’ll be spared hell. Hot air only in your case, no flames. But be careful.