Peter Cruddas has let himself down, he’s let the Conservatives down, he’s let politics down. In fact he’s let all of us down.
I’ve been watching this week to see what the fallout from the Sunday Times’ exposé on his cash for influence downfall would be. Fortunately for the Conservatives a fuel crisis/non-crisis has turned up at just the right time to distract most of the media’s attention from it all. I would suspect that the other parties have welcomed the distraction too, as this sort of scandal has a habit of dragging them all into it quickly.
Party funding and politics have always made for uneasy bed fellows. Funding is a necessary evil that allows the parties to operate, but can always threaten to be a master rather than a servant when those donating want something in return for their loyalty. Peter Cruddas was in a position of huge influence as the principal treasurer of the Conservative Party. It looks to be the case that this power went quickly to his head as he was only in the role for less than a month before he was forced to resign. His boasting of the access to the Prime Minister that he could provide, irrespective of whether it was true or not, was no way for any party treasurer to act.
The question we now face as usual when these things come around is just how much truth was in his words. If what he said was true then we have a real and deeply worrying scandal on our hands. If he was lying, then all he has managed to do is damage his leader’s reputation and further erode the public’s trust in politicians. We’ve been left wondering how much Tory policies are being influenced by big money and if corruption is close at hand. On Thursday in the Daily Mail, Lord Tebbit bemoaned the fact that previous structures that kept fund-raising on the straight and narrow in the past no longer exist. It is not the first time, he says, that David Cameron has blurred the line between party business and the affairs of government to his cost.
Of course, we’ve been here before. It’s not that long ago we had the cash for honours debacle under the previous government. It’s bound to happen again too unless the parties get to grips with this. Last year the Committee for Standards in Public Life published a comprehensive review on how to improve the funding of political parties in Britain. However, the recommendations were not implemented because the Conservatives and Labour could not come to an agreement on the details. Because they are funded in different ways with Labour mainly getting their income from the unions and the Conservatives from individual donors, they could not find a compromise that didn’t in their eyes give one side an advantage. You can read a more in-depth review of current party funding along with some suggested solutions at Make Wealth History.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear then that in a MORI poll, the only group of people less trusted than politicians is journalists. Over 70% of respondents said that they did not expect politicians to tell the truth. There is a serious problem with the perceived lack of integrity in politics that drags us all down. Nicky Gumbel, Rector of HTB in London, in his book, ‘The Jesus Lifestyle’ writes this:
‘We need to recapture a vision of an honest society where ‘our word is our bond’ and trust restored… King David said, ‘I know my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity’ (1 Chronicles 29:17). Integrity is something that pleases God at a personal level. But it is also vital for a functioning of wider society. Jethro told his son-in-law Moses how to share the burdens of leadership: ‘Keep a sharp eye out for competent men – men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible – and appoint them as leaders’ (Exodus 18:21, The Message).
‘In fact, integrity is a key to leadership. We read in Proverbs 20:28 that ‘Sound leadership is founded on loving integrity’ (The Message). Dwight D. Eisenhower, former US president (1953-61) and supreme commander of allied forces in Europe during the Second World War, said ‘[The] supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on… the football field, in an army or in office.”
How many politicians can you think of that live up to this standard? Certainly Peter Cruddas has fallen a long way short, which suggests he should never have been allowed to become his party’s treasurer.
We expect a lot from our leaders and rightly so, for whether they like it or not they set a standard for public life. We can’t expect them to be perfect and we should be forgiving when errors are genuine and they say sorry. If any party really made a sincere effort to get to grips with this and put integrity at the top of its agenda, it would surely win favour with the public. We are desperate for honest accountable politicians that we can trust.
I challenge all the parties to do all they can to work towards making integrity and the restoration of trust with the public key policy areas. We need to remember though that you can’t just flick a switch and turn integrity on. For any individual, integrity of life, words and speech come from an integrity of heart.
And that’s what we’re constantly looking for; politicians with integrity of heart.
Categories: Government, Morals & ethics, Party politics
A good article Gillan. Lets hope your blog gets some exposure and media return to the subject of integrity in politics. You are correct in saying this week it has been all about fuel shortages. A huge distraction as you say.
Integrity is not something political elites have full stop. They have shown this to be the case year in and year out. The only way forward is for individuals to stop being lethargic and indifferent and to start acting through their own integrity and showing the two party elites that they have had enough. I have been following politics for decades and the integrity and humility part of vocational politics have been circumvented for crass media sound-bites and playing to the audience. Something that George Galloway [the Islamic vote through anti-Semitism] and Alan Sugar [differently] have learnt to maximise to their advantage. Blair, when he came to power, had learnt this lesson also. He had absolutely no integrity whatsoever, as far as I am concerned, and sadly neither has David Cameron and his chums – though DC could prove me wrong in the long run.
The problems are many but one is that Christians in the UK have become once again obsessed with petty things and civil rights that set their teachings apart – sexual mores for instance via the emotional reaction to same-sex marriage. When their political leaders are corrupt and indifferent to the plight of the disfranchised, those on benefits and low paid workers, and when those same political leaders try to fragment and subvert the middle classes, and where such political leaders and their chums so absolutely no signs of integrity where are the Christian voices? It seems still emoting about who has sex with who and when, emoting over not being allowed to wear a certain piece of jewellery, emoting being disciplined for practising discredited counselling practices and for being told they have to abide by the law in not discriminating against others in the selling of their wears or services. When so much is going on it saddens me that this is all the Christian community can be bothered about. Their silence is deafening.
I think if Jesus was here, he’d agree with a lot of what you are saying. One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to try and get integrity in politics on the agenda in my own small way. Party politics seems so obsessed with putting the other side down constantly rather than building the system of government up. It really saddens me, although I have to say compared to the US we are vastly better. Maybe those who would be good leaders in politics are put off or are not allowed to rise up the ranks because they don’t play the system. I believe that there are some politicians who are honest and trustworthy, but as we see so often, many of them are not.
I agree with your comments about the church being so fixated on some issues that aren’t core to the gospel whilst other ones of justice and freedom get ignored. The church needs to make a big effort to engage with society and speak out against the failings of the ruling classes. I’m not interested in those who say religion should be kept behind closed doors because one of the functions of the church should be that of pricking the nations conscience and challenging things that erode the fabric of society. I don’t see atheists and secularists rushing to do this either. The church can’t assume it has the moral highground, but it should not be afraid of upsetting those in high places when the time is right.
I’m praying that God will give the church a big kick in the right direction.
Amen to that Gillan.
This is my blog from last week (March 27th) after the original story broke for http://www.2020UK.org which looks at the problem from the perspective of democratic accountability and the kind of leadership which seems to be lacking both in politics, and sadly, sections of the church too. The link is below
Michael, thanks for the link and for highlighting 2020UK. There’s some thought provoking stuff on the site and your article was very well written and helpful. It hard to know whether to laugh or cry at times with this sort of thing. Will politicians ever learn?
Pse see attached link to my blog for http://www.2020uk.org from March 27th regarding the funding scandals taken from the perspective of democratic accountability and lack of moral and political leadership on the issue.
The church needs to make a big effort to engage with society and speak out against the failings of the ruling classes.