12 May 2009

Dredging the Parlimantary moat!

Stories of securing greedy sinecures and enjoying quiet patronage always seems to me natural Tory territory. And as the saw runs, everyone turns Tory in office in the United Kingdom. However, my ideas here are probably haunted by images of ramrod Pitt the Younger – and for we Scots, Lord Advocate Henry Dundas – subtly dispersing public funds with a view to securing political stability and an eye, naturally, to acquisitive self interest.

Its often helpful to have a knack for literary good timing. As luck would have it, I just finished John Galt’s much neglected political novels, The Member and The Radical, published together by Canongate. Whose of you with Ayn Rand enthusiasms (towards whom I can feel only polite commiseration) you may recognise John Galt as the name of a character in Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. As far as I can deduce, this is merely an accidental identity of name, signifying no particular relation.

In the real world, Galt was born in
Irvine in 1779 and produced a number of novels. Both the Member and the Radical concern politics before the Reform Act of 1832. The Memberin particular, addresses itself to the corruption of the politics of the time.

The protagonist, Archibald Jobbry MP, buys himself a seat in a Rotten Borough basically to fend off his grasping relations, by tapping into the common wealth and dispersing it cannily towards his dependents. Although he doesn’t have his moat dredgedor glut himself on curries to the tune of £800 – by keeping a literary straight face and giving Jobbry the good conscience of his larceny – Galt stings. Even outside these times of greedy tribunes helping themselves, it is worth a read for those who enjoy pursuing the more neglected corners of Scottish literary life. Also, I can’t quite think of an earlier novel which is quite so political in its nature, addressing itself to the institutions of parliament. For that alone, I’d urge the curious to take a peek.

On the present penny tumult tearing at the sphincters of the Westminster “political class”, one can’t really do much better than the Daily Mash in summing up the cant denials and crapulous attempts to vindicate themselves by rule while simultaneously denying authorship. Silence gives consent. Over their expenses, corporately, MPs were very quiet indeed, exempted a few more honourable exceptions.
As to the allocation of damage, as I say, I find that Tories do sleaze stories better. Hazel Blears dab-handing is just too grubbily acquisitive, too obviously in it for the cash. Moats, manor houses, tennis courts, chandeliers, swimming pools? Now we’re talking. To borrow from Galt again, in his Last of the Lairds a character says of ducks revelling in the rainfall that they are “as garrulous with enjoyment as Tories in the pools of corruption”. In the present atmosphere, perhaps moats of corruption might be more apposite.

Political Dissuasion is right to pose the question, how tough are we on our own representatives? Do we find their excuses more plausible, because we like them? Do we prosecute our judgements against our enemies more fiercely, deaf to reasonable exculpatory circumstances, because we don’t? For what it is worth, for my money Salmond is making a craven calculation that amidst the reigning disorder, his own indiscretions will he trampled into dust by the crowds chasing Labour government coinguzzlers and Tory purseliners. The impending European Elections seem very firmly in view. I for one don’t find that terribly satisfactory.

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