Sociologists believe that we all need a “worldview”.
A basic scheme for how things work. This theory believes that once in place the worldview is very powerful within the human mind.
Moreover, people tend to ignore evidence that conflicts with their worldview.
The role of the intellectual is to pick up the discarded evidence and shake it in your face and make you pay attention. Finally you have to admit that your worldview is wrong. This is, sometimes, a painful and, always, a disorientating process to go thru.
Part of my worldview was that the reformation had carved a fault line thru Europe apropos public life and the ways that governments work.
Perhaps, it could be argued that the Reformation merely put a theological edge on deeper cultural differences that had already existed for centuries, but that is another debate.
My worldview of Europe north and south went something like this.
Northern Europe, the polity will be democratic and generally well run with a minimum of corruption. The electorate will be literate and informed and act as a watch guard against government exce3ss.
Southern Europe the polity will tend to be undemocratic-the last dictatorships to exist in Western Europe being in Iberia.
Even where democratic the system of government will be chaotic and wracked with corruption-Italy anyone.
So much for my view of politics across Europe.
In the south set against corrupt public servants and politicians on the take the pace of lifer is agreeably slow and nothing much is expected of you.
In the North of the continent if you are after bonhomie then Denmark might not be the place.
Everything-as they say-has a cost.
I had viewed the Anglo-Irish difficulties thru such a north south prism.
The Brits were clearly part of Northern Europe whereas the Irish seemed to have the Southern European mentality.
Laid back friendly, agreeable people culturally Catholic but especially in public life, prone to backhanders and not driven by a work ethic.
I had often remarked to fellow journalists in Ireland that there was a different code of conduct in the way that the Irish and the Brits “do” politics.
Resigning on a matter of honour-for example.
There is simply no tradition of someone standing up in Dail Eireann ala Robin Cook during the run up to the Iraq War and making a statement to the house that he cannot remain in government on a matter of principle.
Moreover when Jack Profumo was caught lying to the House of Commons over the Christine Keeler affair he resigned. It was-and everyone who heard is speech-knew this was the end of his public life.
In recent eyars I have noted that the resignation speec in the House of Commons need not mean the end of a politican’s career as it once did.
I have actually lost count of the times that Peter Mandelson has resigned over some scandal or other only to be allowed back into the government.
What was once exile for life from the mother of parliaments has become something akin to a sin bin for polticians when those evil hacks catch them out.
A naughty step for careless cabinet ministers.
I was instrumental in a cabinet minister losing his ministerial Merc in 2002 when I broke the story of Dr. James McDaid Td had made an outburst that those who take their lives by suicide were “selfish bastards”.
Actually he was quoting the mother of a young man who had died by suicide but he said that he agreed with her assessment of her dead son that he was indeed a “selfish bastard”.
He was demoted to junior minister for transport from the far sexier portfolio of Sport and tourism. A re-shuffle later he was out. He declared on national radio that he had been “sacked”.
There was been no way back for him.
If this Mandelson and McDaid wobbled my worldview a little my entire working model of this planet has been shattered by Hazel Blears, Keith Vaz and Dr. John Reid.
That well know scourge of the British establishment the Daily Telegraph has probably destroyed the credibility of an entire generation of British politicians with few exceptions.
Like all disasters-and this IS a disaster for the3 British political class.
There were fatal pathogens on the disaster scenario, but they had to come into alignment.
Sometimes the most telling is utterly prosaic.
Twenty years ago such a heroic act of whist blowing would have been physically almost impossible.
In the age of paper records this would have involved photocopying the contents of many filing cabinets-perhaps scores of them.
Then there would be the delicate matter of transporting-undetected-boxes and boxes of paper out of the palace of Westminster.
Now a simple computer disc is all that it took to destroy the credibility of an entire political class.
The last months of the John Major government the word “sleaze” was sued to gr3eat effect by Blair’s government in waiting.
The implication, of course, was that lot- i.e. the government-had their snouts in the trough, but we-the opposition-are clean and ethical.
What makes the Telegraph’s revelations so explosive is that they aren’t editing for party political advantage.
They started-quite fairly in my opinion-with the cabinet.
They have then moved to the shadow cabinet and other leading Tories.
The scale of corruption is staggering.
What is all the more jaw dropping is that Mps could enrich themselves into property millionaires at the taxpayers expense while “staying within the rules”.
These rules on parliamentary allowances were, of course, written by the people who benefit from them.
Not all British MPs have indulged them4reslevs.
Cabinet Minister Hilary Benn billed the taxpayer in one year for the hefty sum of £147. He provided receipts apparent even though under the rules an MP doesn’t have to provide a receipt for anything under £249.
He could, of course, made a statement under parliamentary privilege and blown the whole thing out of the water-he would not have had the fine details-but he would-surely have known some of it.
This was-I think-is better, much much better.
We know-we KNOW-that the entire British political class with every very few exceptions are corrupt, grasping and venal to an extent that no one had heretofore suspected.
This is what history feels like.
If the British people continue to vote for the likes for Hazel Blears, Geoff Hoon, Keith Vaz and Eric Pickles then we will know that the Brits-like the irish-dont mind if their politicians are corrupt.
I had once argued to colleagues here in Ireland that there was no British equivalent of Charles Haughey, Ray Bourke or Liam Lawlor.
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
All worldviews must be susceptible to evidence.
Worldviews, which ignore such a mountain of forensic details, stops being a worldview and simply becomes the mindset of a bigot.
British politicians are, as a group, prone to corruption.
That was a worldview shattering on the floor.
Now I need a new way to look at the world that includes those corrupt Brits.