Monday, 10 October 2011

Our turn to eat

I don't know if you've been following the Liam Fox story, but in case you haven't, the Secretary of State for Defence is accused of giving private advantage to his best man and former flatmate, Adam Werritty. When Fox was shadow Health secretary, Werritty was on the board of a health firm. When Fox moved to Defence, Werritty found a defence firm directorship: and Fox was a shareholder (which looks dubious enough).

Werritty ran Atlantic Bridge - a 'charity' which was recently disbanded when the Charity Commission decided it was just a dodgy political front (directors: Fox, Chancellor Osborne, the Education Secretary Michael Gove…) - from Fox's office, and it now seems like taxpayers' money was used to fund Werrity.

I expected this kind of thing to pop up pretty quickly. You have to understand the Tories - and to some extent their near-identical counterparts in New Labour. The Tories think that they're the natural party of government, and they believe that what's good for business is good for the country. Because they're a monetary and class élite, they don't have the self-doubt that - for example - Ernie Bevin or Atlee would have had. They aren't answerable to anyone. If they do it, it must be right. Their tribe gets its turn to eat: there are no moral qualms about this stuff - that's a liberal trait. It's just how business is done. They don't perceive wheeler-dealers as flies buzzing around the government cow as a pest, because that's just how business is done. Perhaps the aristocratic Tories like Macmillan wouldn't have behaved like this, because they distrusted the world of commerce, but the City Tories believe in jockeying for personal advantage: corruption is an alien term for them.

30 years ago, someone in Fox's position would have resigned at the first whiff of scandal to retain his and the government's honour. Those days are over.

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