Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 26 February 2009

What's politics for?

Two completely different stories today (yesterday now) seemed to me to encapsulate the good and the bad side of contemporary politics in Britain (and both stories incorporate a bit of both).

David and Samantha Cameron - a family tragedy. Their eldest son has died at the age of six. At one level I find it entirely understandable that PMQs were cancelled this week as it would have been unthinkable for David Cameron to have been expected to 'perform' his role of holding the Prime Minister to account, having just spent several hours in a hospital the night before with a seriously ill child who did not survive his sudden worsening of health, which was already very poor. On the other hand, for the politics of the country to be halted in their tracks by the tragedy which has befallen one family, however prominent, seems somehow to be unfortunate - I know I will be regarded as callous by some for having these thoughts, far less expressing them. What I suppose it boils down to is that politics is ultimately about human interactions and how we organise our civic life and if it cannot accommodate the personal on occasion, then it would be a sign that we had somehow lost touch with what really is important in this life.

Lord Ahmed has been gaoled for three months - for texting whilst driving. Technically his texting was not directly responsible for him hitting Martyn Gombar, involved in another motorway accident earlier, but it is probably the case that Lord Ahmed's mind was on other things when he ploughed into the Slovak, who was trying to return to his car stranded, after the earlier accident, facing the wrong way in the third lane of the motorway from the hard-shoulder where he had earlier taken refuge; obviously Mr Gombar was very unwise even to attempt to return to his vehicle in these circumstances. Assuming the law banning use of a non-handsfree mobile telephone whilst driving is sensible (which I tend to), then Lord Ahmed's flouting of the law requires a powerful sanction and it is useful that the justice system demonstrates on occasion that the law applies to all of us, even to members of the House of Lords. On the other hand it is clear that he has been made a 'scapegoat' and that the man who was killed was not blameless either, at least in what followed his earlier accident, whatever the original circumstances of it. I think the relative leniency of Lord Ahmed's sentence is, whatever Mr Golmar's family may profess to believe, a clear indication that Lord Ahmed's public life is over; it is his "Profumo moment" if you will, although that gentleman went on to live a worthwhile life even after his public disgrace. One must hope that Lord Ahmed has the grace to accept his punishment, without appeal, and go on to lead the rest of his life with greater humility - and be thankful that he remains alive to do so.

(I heard about both rather late in the day, because I was without power for most of the day and therefore internet and television/radio access.)

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