the de facto President of Scotland, Henry McLeish, was caught with
his hand in the cookie jar and has now resigned. For 14 years, this
man had claimed the full allowance of taxpayers' money for running
a parliamentary office whilst sub-letting part of it at a personal
profit amounting to 36,000.
trouble was that he never told the Parliamentary Privileges Committee
about this little piece of business. He says that it was an administrative
mistake, everyone else believes he deliberately trousered the goods.
the expenses claim form has always been an immediate sacking offence
wherever I have worked. Indeed, one salesman in my last company
was sent packing faster than his feet could touch the ground when
his receipts did not match his claim. But, when one enters the twilight
world of politics, the rules of common sense seem to go out of the
in years to come, this sorry case will be presented at various Spin
Doctoring classes on how not to handle the media. The classic steps
of spinning were evident as the image-makers began to rotate at
near Dervish speed in a desperate attempt to protect their boss
— and I am thankful that they failed miserably.
they tried to repress the story with denials.
when the names of the companies who rented the premises began to
be revealed, the media frenzy began to turn supernova and the McLeish
team had forgotten to equip warp drive on their spin machine. That
led to an admission of a "mistake" being made and a derisory
9,000 was paid back to the Treasury.
good enough. The media and political opponents had sniffed blood
and the hunt was afoot. In a final death throe, the now flagging
spinners went into sackcloth and ashes mode by publishing a contrite
list of all details and payments received.
not good enough. He's gone and his spin-doctors may be looking forward
to practising their image techniques on their curriculum vitas.
The only honourable thing he did was to go before the light became
unbearable and further media revelations potentially damaged his
remaining political career for good.
worst thing in politics is not so much to plunder the public coffers
but to be caught in the act. That's rule number one and so far rule
number two is being hung onto like a barnacle — one may resign but,
if possible, never admit guilt. Mr. McLeish accepted responsibility
as the top of the chain of command, but personal sin is another
keep his lowlier job as Member of Parliament and we'll move onto
the spectacle of politicians feigning reluctance to take over their
buddy's job whilst salivating mentally at the prospect of being
top dog in Bonnie Scotland. So, rule number one for this scenario
is to lament the resignation of a good colleague — even one’s political
opponents do that despite having clamoured for the axe to fall.
number two is to avoid rushing in with undignified haste as a candidate
for the vacant job. The mourning period must be dutifully observed
in public whilst feverish lobbying goes on behind closed doors for
the approbation of colleagues (with perhaps the promise of a ministerial
post thrown in).
as we stumble out of the darkness of political ambition into the
light of day, what can I say about this Scottish parliament?
was hoped (not by me, I hasten to add) that this devolved government
would display all that is best in Scottish culture. I could have
saved them a lot of hand wringing by pointing out that the problem
with the Scottish government is that it is full of politicians.
Divest the parliament of those contents and it is a delight to behold.
not only politicians, but also a pretty low-grade roster recruited
from the ranks of ex-social workers, trade unionists and local government
councillors well versed in the art of town hall cronyism.
less said about standards the better. The dumbing down of political
morality means that what was unacceptable yesterday is perfectly
okay today. Once it was virtually an unconditional resignation for
a politician if he was caught playing the adulterer. But, as one
recent politician caught in this deceit said, "It's no big
deal, is it?" Called me old-fashioned, but if you can cheat
on your wife, I have no trouble in believing you'll cheat on anyone!
for me, I have little interest in who will replace their disgraced
colleague as First Minister. The mould of socialism is cast in steel
over here; it will be a long time before it is smashed in favour
of the individual self-belief and ability that once fostered such
great Scots as Adam Smith and Andrew Carnegie.
Watson [send him
mail] writes from Edinburgh, Scotland.