Monday, 5 March 2007

Power corrupts …… More Thoughts

Yesterday I described how the abuse of power is not worthy of comment even in the more responsible parts of the print media.

In one example the UK government is unlikely to curtail the monopolistic activities of Rupert Murdoch’s UK media interests because they (government) need his media’s support to win the next general election. In a second example, John Major (former Prime Minister) states that the New Labour government froze out those parts of the media who didn’t report their stories in the “appropriate” way.

In neither example did the writer / interviewer comment upon the abuse: as though the abuse were so normal as to be unremarkable and acceptable.

Such abuse makes me (and many others) very angry. I expect more from the government. I expect truthfulness, straightforwardness and openness to these issues. I know these are characteristics sadly missing from Blair and his cabinet colleagues but my expectations shouldn’t be lowered because of their failings.

I’m saddened and angered by the inactivity of MPs in facing up to the issues involved but, really, I shouldn’t be. By doing nothing to Murdoch the ruling party benefits. By saying nothing the Conservatives know that eventually they will benefit from Murdoch’s endorsement and so they will not act. By abusing their power over the release of news stories the government benefits by manipulating media presentation.

Should I be surprised or saddened? No! We know how this government behaves. But there is more.

Do many of us not do this in our own lives – at home or at work? I have! For example, there are times I haven’t raised issues with my children’s headteacher because I knew that later I would need his support with other matters. I wasn’t prepared to risk that he would abuse his power. Also, as a parent, I am sure I have abused my power.

Should I not, therefore, have sympathy for our government?

Should I not understand their difficulties?

They are just like me – victims and abusers of power.

But they are not the same. They are in a privileged position. They operate at much higher levels. If I were to steal 1p I am a thief but if they steal £10million they too are thieves but at a much different level. We expect, require and demand higher standards from them.

We require the police to operate to a higher standard than the general public. They fail – how much / how often – is open to debate but, regardless, we demand that they aspire to these standards.

So it is with politicians. They have power over the general public and we must ensure that their power is not abused. They fail, we know that, but, as with the police, we must demand that they aspire to these standards. We must hold them to these standards. We must demand that the media highlight whenever these standards are not met.

The cynicism with which politics and politicians are viewed will not disappear until these high standards are met.

Until then, power corrupts …….

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