Lord Carey: Parliament has lost its moral authority
Lord Carey speaks of the issue of MPs' expenses having ‘shaken trust in politics’. He referred to their ‘clawing greed’ at the heart of Westminster's ‘culture of abuse’. He said many MPs had come to see their allowances as a ‘right rather than a privilege’, and contrasted the spectacle of ministers ‘cringingly" justifying their expenses while their constituents suffered as a result of the recession’. And he questioned whether public trust in politicians could ever be restored following the exposure of ‘systematic abuse’ of the expense system.
He also called for the police to be brought in to investigate some blatant cases of fraud. He said: It is not just the clawing greed of painstaking claims for such minor items as tampons, barbecue sets and bathrobes, but also the egregious way some have transferred allowances from one second property to another - enabling them to refurbish homes at public expense, then sell them for profit." And he notes: “Coming at a time of financial crisis and political betrayal of the Gurkhas, this threatens to be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back."
It is a sorry state of affairs when ministers no longer resign over great issues of state – policy failures or the misconduct of those who work in their departments – but are forced to do so over bathplugs, tampons, porn films and kitchen units. Parliamentary debate is no longer so much concerned with the common good as with common-or-garden goods. The philosophy of politics has given way to DIY, shopping lists and sickening assertions that ‘they acted within the rules’. It is no wonder that people perceive so little that differentiates Conservative from Labour, Right from Left, or good from evil. These great adversarial battles of morality and conviction have been subsumed to a soap opera of trivial entertainment: Parliament has become another Big Brother House, and we are well passed ‘deeya wun’. In fact, we are at year 12, and it is time for a vote of eviction.
Politics may always have been corrupted, but it has always been substantive, vibrant and intellectual. That dignity has diminished, the glory is departed, and we are left with the sordid and squalid. The inspiration and the greatness have ceased: we are left with the mediocre, uninspiring and embarrassing. The modern political class is responsible for stifling political discourse and for the catastrophic failure of Parliament to be able to govern with moral authority. They are perceived as lazy, petty-minded scroungers, uncaring and unconcerned by the everyday afflictions of those they purport to govern.
Most damningly, Lord Carey warns: "And let us not forget there was a time when to become an MP was seen as a noble and honourable way of serving your country. Ask yourself now whether men or women of integrity from whatever walk of life will want to touch political office?"
And the politicians have no-one to blame but themselves.
Thank God that George Carey has dared to say what Rowan Williams would not.