Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Welcome back, the Passive Tense

Liam Fox, disgraced former Defence Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons today. It was an extraordinary performance, notable mostly for its gushing sentimentality, cynicism, and a bitter attack on the press for holding the powerful to account (which was the subject of today's The Only Way Is Ethics class).

But amidst the bluster was a perfect example of what I like to call the Politicians' Passive:
The ministerial code had been found to be breached and for this I am sorry. I accept that it is not only the substance but perception that matters and that is why I chose to resign. I accept the consequences for me without bitterness or rancour.
It's a masterpiece: not 'I've done something wrong' but 'the code had been found to be breached': that's four verbs in eight words! He's not sorry for what he's done, he's sorry for this mysterious finding that the code had been breached (by whom?). The implication, of course, is that he did nothing wrong. That impression is reinforced by 'not only the substance but the perception that matters': he resigned, he says, because people 'perceived' that he'd sinned, not because he actually had.

So to sum up: giving privileged access to special interest groups (a gruesome crew of arms dealers and pro-Israel lobbyists) without oversight isn't wrong. But being caught is.


Grumpy Bob said...

It's worse than this. The whole Atlantic Bridge/Pargav/Werritty affair goes deep into the Conservative Party, according to today's Grauniad.

I find Fox's expressions of injustice and hurt rather appalling, as is the general sentiment that since he didn't personally benefit financially that he didn't do anything wrong. Well in my book financial irregularity would have been the least of it.

The Plashing Vole said...

Me too: it's a far deeper corruption of the body politic than a couple of blokes making money. It looks like the political process has been hijacked - just like the US.