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Politicians and Personal Morality


John Simkin
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Over the last few months we have had several examples of politicians who have behaved in what some would consider to be immoral. First we had the case of Tony Blair who either lied to the nation or himself about WMD. Then we had George Galloway removed from the Labour Party after being accused of taking money from Saddam Hussein (this was not true and this week he won a libel case against the newspaper that first published this story).

A couple of weeks ago Boris Johnson lost his job in the shadow cabinet for lying to his leader, Michael Howard. Interestingly, Howard did not disapprove of the idea that he had been lying to his wife over his affair.

The last case has concerned David Blunkett, the Home Secretary. Blunkett has ordered an enquiry into one aspect of the case (did he fast-track the visa application of his girlfriend’s nanny). As he told reporters, “if I had been guilty of the offence I would not have ordered an inquiry”. Or in other words, I only ordered the inquiry after I made sure there is no evidence available that I committed a crime.

There is of course evidence that he did other things wrong. For example, he arranged for the taxpayer to pay for his girlfriend to travel to different parts of the country. He has admitted this and says he made a mistake. In other words he thought his girlfriend was his wife. This is an offence that most civil servants would get the sack over. However, as he is a minister, he is allowed to say sorry and can continue without punishment (he has agreed to pay back the taxpayer for the costs of these trips).

It has been revealed that Tony Blair knew that Blunkett had been having an affair with a married woman. He did not think this was a problem. Like Howard, the prime minister believed that not lying to him was the important issue. He, like Blunkett, thought that there was no problem with the fact that the woman’s husband believed that he was the father of his wife’s child. He only discovered that the child was not his when in a tantrum after his affair came to an end, he requested the courts to insist on a DNA test to show he was the father of this child and one that she is currently carrying. If must be the first case of a politician leaking information to the press that he has been having an affair with a married woman. Such is the vanity of middle-aged politicians.

According to today’s paper he has done this before. When he was Secretary of State for Education he had an affair with a junior civil servant. At the time she was living with a man also working for Blunkett. He did not complain because he thought he might end up losing his job. Maybe that was the reason why the woman also started the affair.

We are told by politicians that we should not be interested in things like this. The BBC in fact refuse the publish these stories for several days at the beginning of the scandal. I disagree. I think the personal morality of politicians has a great deal to do with the way they behave in office. It would matter if Blunkett was a teacher. It should matter if he is a politician.

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It is a shame that the most right-wing home secretary in my lifetime should get into trouble over his private affairs rather than his imprisonment without trial of suspects.

Either Blunkett or Johnson could legitimately have told both the press and the party leader to mind their own business over their private life.

If I were having half a dozen affairs with men and women all over West Sussex the head would certainly not see fit to question me about it ....unless of course it adversely affects my ability to concentrate on the job:)

It matters whether Blunkett had his hand in the till or abused his office. What he does in his own time should remain his own business.

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If I were having half a dozen affairs with men and women all over West Sussex  the head would certainly not see fit to question me about it ....unless of course it adversely affects my ability to concentrate on the job:)

It would matter if you were having an affair with a junior member of staff. In cases like these, there is always the possibility that the senior member of staff has abused his position. I was working at a school where the head of sixth form was having an affair with a sixth form tutor. The head disapproved of this and thought it might affect his judgement about sixth form issues. He was also concerned about the sixth form students finding out about this (he thought it was setting a bad example). The head told the man he would be unable to give him a good reference (at the time he was seeking a deputy head post). The man resigned and became an insurance agent. He also left his wife and children and eventually married the younger woman. Was the head right?

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If I were having half a dozen affairs with men and women all over West Sussex  the head would certainly not see fit to question me about it ....unless of course it adversely affects my ability to concentrate on the job:)

It would matter if you were having an affair with a junior member of staff. In cases like these, there is always the possibility that the senior member of staff has abused his position. I was working at a school where the head of sixth form was having an affair with a sixth form tutor. The head disapproved of this and thought it might affect his judgement about sixth form issues. He was also concerned about the sixth form students finding out about this (he thought it was setting a bad example). The head told the man he would be unable to give him a good reference (at the time he was seeking a deputy head post). The man resigned and became an insurance agent. He also left his wife and children and eventually married the younger woman. Was the head right?

I agree with Derek on this one. The Head in question had no business treating the Head of Sixth Form in that way. As long as the affair did not effect his ability to do his job, then the Head should not have interfered. Two consenting adults who work together having a relationship is not grounds for preventing a promotion of a colleague. If, on the other hand, the couple in question were openly parading their relationship in front of the students then they should have been reprimanded by the Head.

As for David Blunkett, I maintain that as long as the current situation does not imapct on his ability to do his job, there is no reason for Blair to dismiss him. If, on the other hand, Blunkett is found to have abused his position as Home Secretary by fast-tracking a visa application for his ex-girlfriend's nanny then that is a sackable offence.

Edited by Chris McKie
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If I were having half a dozen affairs with men and women all over West Sussex  the head would certainly not see fit to question me about it ....unless of course it adversely affects my ability to concentrate on the job:)

It would matter if you were having an affair with a junior member of staff. In cases like these, there is always the possibility that the senior member of staff has abused his position. I was working at a school where the head of sixth form was having an affair with a sixth form tutor. The head disapproved of this and thought it might affect his judgement about sixth form issues. He was also concerned about the sixth form students finding out about this (he thought it was setting a bad example). The head told the man he would be unable to give him a good reference (at the time he was seeking a deputy head post). The man resigned and became an insurance agent. He also left his wife and children and eventually married the younger woman. Was the head right?

I'm with Degsy on this one!

Some years ago I was questioned by my then deputy head about a rumour of an affair she had heard I had been conducting with a colleague. In answer to her totally inappropriate line of questioning I replied, "Yes I am but I can squeeze you in next Tuesday but only if you are desperate"

The Head John describes should have been subject to a grievance procedure :ice

As for Blunkett, if behaving like a jilted teenage girl is worthy of a sacking then sacked he should be!

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It is a shame that the most right-wing home secretary in my lifetime should get into trouble over his private affairs rather than his imprisonment without trial of suspects.

Agreed. However, we will never be able to get rid of him for things like this. As he told a reporter last week, how can I break the law when I am the one who makes it.

However, there is a link between his role as a right-wing Home Secretary and his behaviour with women. In both cases he is willing to abuse his power in order to get what it wants. This might involve sleeping with a young member of staff or it might be about getting a free holiday with his girlfriend.

The New Labour government is now acting in the way that Thatcher’s government behaved in the last years of her reign. It is the arrogance of power. Blair showed how he could get away with the most serious crime he could commit, lying to the people in order to carry out an illegal war, by rigging an inquiry.

Blunkett is now using the same tactic. He establishes his own investigation into his behaviour. He selects only one of the allegations to be investigated (the one he knows he can cover up). Other charges that he corruptly used his position to obtain free holidays (the trip to Madrid is vitally important to this story) and travel for his mistress (he was under the impression she was his wife) is ignored.

In other words he appoints his own judge and jury. John Gieve, the home office permanent secretary is given the job of selecting someone to head the investigation. Gieve has a vested interest in the home secretary being cleared of impropriety. Any ministerial wrongdoing would imply the civil service had failed in its duty to check these matters.

Gieve also has another reason to support Blunkett. His wife is head of the family department at the law firm representing the home secretary in his legal fight for access to Mrs Quinn’s child.

To guarantee the right result, Gieve therefore selects an old friend, Sir Alan Budd (they used to be senior colleagues in the Treasury) to carry out the inquiry. Can there be any doubt what the report will say?

Will Blunkett get away with it? No. Quinn knows too much. Blunkett will have to go. Only a prime minister is able to lie and cheat. Cabinet ministers have to fall on their swords.

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  • 1 month later...

I have a thing about U. S. presidents. Their power is awesome. Under some, it has been used wisely. Nowadays, things are different, our chief executive’s clout extends over the whole world. His power now is not just awesome, it’s perilous to human survival on the planet. Our citizens’ fascination with raw national supremacy, exotic weaponry, and peace through ever greater strength, is a fatal attraction leading us to what some predict is to be our doomsday.

Presidents the stature of Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt come to us only rarely; Franklin Pierces and Gerald Fords have more often been our lot. They served us well enough in everyday budgetary matters and the appointment of consuls. Unfortunately, we, the innocent general public, without sophistication to understand the complex manipulations of modern political life, are at the mercy of spinners, corporate media, and hampered by a herd of voters who can’t find Paris on the map. It’s enough to make an atheist turn to prayer to a God who shows little favor to the masses who adore him… her? Darn it, seems everything is in doubt.

The result is general cynicism and a move into anarchy—in no way to be confused with the political movement of that name. Those people are of a higher order than those of us who follow more conservative political parties.

The religious conservatives who now hold power in the person of Chief Dunce George Bush, practice one kind of anarchy—destruction and wild spending. Kansans practice another kind. Of them someone has said: “Who on earth would want health care when we can deny gays the right to marry?” Some person of advanced scientific knowledge practiced anarchy by mailing infectious anthrax powder to politicians as though those guys open their own mail. A mail room person died.

Powerful CEO’s do their part by pillaging their companies—often walking away squeaky clean. Jack Welch of General Electric gave some of his back, but that adjustment came about only because of a nasty divorce proceeding. If I can’t have it, I’ll get my satisfaction by denying it to you. The ultimate practice of this kind of anarchy is war, bringing out the basest of human impulses, so that torture and general cruelty become a part of the bag of tricks, and très patriotic.

Listen friends: we have a mess on our hands that will take some straightening out.

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