Iain Dale has stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest.
Wendy Alexander was a politician clearly out of her depth as Labour leader in Scotland. But she was not on the take. And for that reason alone, I take no joy in seeing that her career in politics has been brought to a premature end.I think it's fair to say that most of Iain's commenters aren't quite so sanguine.
This one is typical:
I would have more sympathy with your gentle views if ordinary citizens were also treated so indulgently. Members of a political class which has created many offences of strict liability, where lack of criminal intent is irrelevant, are entitled to precisely as much sympathy as we would get if charged with such offences; i.e. none, zero, zilch, zip, nada.I appreciated the post on Big Rab's site:
If ignorance of the law is no excuse for us, Iain, why the hell would it be an excuse for the people who make the law? If our inability to understand their confusing and contradictory legislative excretions is no defence to us, why the hell should it be a defence for them?
I worry, as you Conservatives get nearer to power, that you do not have any better attitude to its use and abuse than the petty tyrants who govern us now. Please differentiate yourselves clearly. We want to believe. We want to give you a chance. But your apparent sympathy with the devil is not going to inspire much confidence.
Anyway getting back to wee Wendy. She is a university educated, bright and intelligent person. She has a staff at her disposal, paid for by the tax payer whose duty is to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed. The rules and regulations she was subject to were no worse or more complicated than those inflicted on the rest of us. Those rules and regulations were voted through by politicians just like her.I think Iain's right to say that Wendy didn't consciously set about to line her pockets at the taxpayers' expense. But it's clear to me that politicians like Wendy really don't understand that even when they do obey the rules they're living off the rest of us. Or at least off those of us who pay taxes. And contrary to what seems to be believed down south that includes plenty of us here in Scotland.
Sure let us simplify rules and regulations as Ian Dale suggests. However lets do it for everyone and not just the political class.
So is it simply a matter of making sure that MP's, MSP's and MEP's obey the rules? I don't think so. Of course, they should obey the rules but I believe that more is at stake. The real question is this: what is the state for? How big should it be? What are its proper functions? Removing my anarcho-capitalist hat for the moment I'd say that the state should do no more than organise protection against aggressors - domestic and foreign. That's it. Nothing more. No state provided education, health or welfare systems. In such a world politicians would have an extremely limited role. Almost all would be part-time and furthermore they should be financially self-sufficient. There would be no need for aspiring politicians to seek campaign funds. They would be chosen according to their achievements in the "real" world.
Would Wendy be elected in such a society? Probably not. But hardly any others from the present crop would be chosen either.