River Wissey Lovell Fuller

June 2009 Anglican Newsletter

June 2009

Keith has a view on the recent MP expenses scandal and wonders how the rest of us would cope with similar temptations.

Clive James, the Australian reporter, was presenting his 'Point of View' on Radio 4 the other day - I just caught the end of it - and he was suggesting that we might look again at our current anger with our Parliamentary representatives' abuses of the expenses systems that have been available to them in recent years. He wondered if we should not be more amazed at the fact of our indignation than at the causes of it. How lucky we are to have such low levels of corruption that we can get so incensed at this level of chicanery by our MPs. Some of them have been pretty bad and it seems clear that some heads should roll, whether by being deselected by their parties or by the electorate (or both) - even that some should be held criminally responsible. But most of the excesses have been just that - injudicious and immoral abuse of the systems, without breaking the technical rules. How many of us have done the same when offered the opportunity, whether as (for example) Civil Servants receiving flat rate allowances in excess of our actual expenditures or as corporate employees taking advantage of generous expense allowances? It is often cheaper for the organisation to give generous allowances rather than to maintain a system of detailed audit of vouched claims.

However, when it comes to right and wrong, relativity is really not permissible. You know in your own heart when what you are doing is not acceptable, even though it may be technically admissible. Defining what is right and wrong in a general context is awfully difficult - perhaps impossible. But every individual person KNOWS the quality of what they do as they do it. It is possible to persuade oneself in advance that a particular course of action is OK; but how often have I not had that sinking feeling when I have actually embarked on it, knowing that actually I have got it wrong? Sometimes it is only then that the realisation hits home, as often as not when it is too late to change it - but it is never too late to apologise and try to make appropriate restitution. I believe many of the 'guilty' MPs may be in that position.

In general, I think this is the time to be generous with our forgiveness of those who have been injudicious and to reserve our anger for those few who do seriously deserve it - always remembering that if they are evidently contrite, while it may be right to remove them from the offices they hold, we should still be generous in our acceptance of their continuing membership of our imperfect society.

Licensed Lay Minister

Keith MacLeod

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