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Saints would not make good politicians

February 24, 2008

I must say that the current controversy about the Speaker of the House of Commons using air miles for his family seems to be taking things to excess. You build up balances of these things if you travel frequently which by definition takes you away from your family. I have used mine to (i) get my children out to join me during holidays when I am working overseas and (ii) to fund trips to conferences or events which are worthy but cannot afford a fee. That includes the ones I earned as an IBM Employee. The more you travel, the more air miles you get, the more you are away from your family. There is a natural level of equity here.

To argue this does not of course justify abuse of expense regimes in public service. However the level of scrutiny of your private life and the level of control in the public sector should be a cause of concern. If I look in Britain alone for the last 100 years then the great names of political life (Gladstone, Lloyd George, Churchill) would not survive the scrutiny of the Fourth Estate. Mind you neither would the ethical standards of the press match those they expect of public servants. There has to be some sensible boundaries here; otherwise we will end up with a political leadership that is so bland as to be incapable, or so cunning as to be dangerous beyond belief.

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