Thursday 2 May 2024

Compasses aren't easy to come by these days


The last Prime Minister but one seemed to believe that rules were for everyone else, but that someone who would be world king should feel no obligation to abide by them. That sense of entitlement was coupled with a sense of utter shamelessness; no matter how egregious his behaviour, he simply ignored all criticism and carried on regardless. For most of his life, it's an approach which worked. Being ashamed of nothing and willing to ignore all criticism meant that most problems eventually ceased to be newsworthy, even if people kept muttering darkly about them from the sidelines.

Whilst Wales’ new First Minister isn’t in the same league as Boris Johnson, his approach to the large donations received from a convicted environmental criminal seems to be modelled on that used by Johnson – ignore it and hope it will go away. Sooner or later, he assumes that his critics will simply give up – they don’t have the votes in the Senedd to force him to do anything, as long as his own side continue to vote the right way, despite the obvious misgivings harboured by some of them. The opposition parties will presumably continue to make their repeated demands for an investigation, although it's far from clear what the point would be: what would actually be investigated? The First Minister himself has repeated, what is beginning to seem like endlessly, the mantra that ‘no rules were broken’ and nobody seems to have any clear contrary evidence of any breach of any rules, whether rules laid down by the law, the rules of the Senedd, or the rules of the Labour Party.

The complaint, however, isn’t that he behaved in a way contrary to any rules, but that his behaviour was unethical and inappropriate, something which anyone capable of feeling shame might see as being far worse. It is, though, something which is much harder to ‘investigate’. Whilst the feeling that it was indeed both of those things might be near universal outside his own immediate circle, whether behaviour is considered ethical or not is ultimately a subjective issue rather than an objective one. For those – a group which presumably includes the First Minister – who believe that ethical behaviour is simplistically defined as doing no more than avoiding any breach of rules, his behaviour cannot be considered to be other than entirely ethical. For those who expect that people who would lead or govern us should be expected to possess a moral compass of their own (and know how to use it), abiding by ‘the rules’ is never going to be good enough.

Given the ethnic background of both the First Minister and the current Prime Minister, the old adage about the colour of pots and kettles seems singularly inappropriate, but in an outbreak of what one might instead call ‘Comparative Hypocritical Immorality and Pomposity Syndrome’, the PM who happily accepted either £10 million or £15 million (his oft-demonstrated inability in basic arithmetic prevents him from knowing which, but he’s well and truly had his CHIPS either way) from a racist and misogynist has demanded an investigation into a FM whose willingness to accept tainted money from a criminal has so far been limited to a ‘mere’ £200,000 (although that limit hasn’t, so far as we know, as yet been tested by any higher offer). Is Brexit to blame for the current shortage of moral compasses, or is there some deeper problem at work?

1 comment:

John Dixon said...

Gav said:

Mr Gething's insistence that rules have not been broken does sound very much like something a Pharisee might say. They didn't get a good press either.

And saying that all this is just a distraction from bigger issues does invite the response "yes indeed, but it's your mess, sort it out."