An honourable calling?

THE Presidents of France and Zimbabwe are meeting in Paris.

Of course, one of these leaders would probably now be in jail for corruption if he hadn't won last year's elections, despite only polling 20% in the first round of voting.

The other leader is Robert Mugabe. Chirac and Mugabe are not the only leaders who have been accused of corruption.

The former German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, siphoned off millions of Deutschmarks to fight his campaigns and support his larger than life lifestyle. He was larger than life in every sense.

When the European Summit came to Cardiff in 1999, a special bed had to be constructed in the Marriott Hotel to support his enormous frame.

These tales contribute to a public perception that Politicians are, as late George Carmen QC said of Neil Hamilton, politicians are,

‘On the make and on the take.'

Corruption has always existed. Welsh prime Minister David Lloyd George took the whole thing to its logical conclusion by selling titles and honours.

How far is this removed from the peerages and knighthoods bestowed on affluent contributors to political funds in the modern era?

But for the most part our politics are remarkably clean, and our political leaders are not corrupt. Despite all the noise about ‘sleaze' and ‘cash for questions' in the 1990s, no accusation of major corruption going to the heart of government was ever made.

As for the current government, there was concern over the Bernie Ecclestone donation, and tobacco advertising in Formula One racing. But Formula One will not be exempt from the tobacco advertising man when it is fully enforced.

I may disagree with the Prime Minister on fundamental issues. For example, I do not believe that Britain should participate in military action against Iraq without United Nations backing.

But I do believe that Tony Blair is sincere in his political beliefs, acting in a way he believes is right. I believe the same is true of the two other major party leaders.

Political leadership is an honourable calling, because, as Edmund Burke said,

‘It is enough for evil to triumph that good men do nothing.'

Whatever we think of Tony Blair or George Bush for that matter, it is fundamentally wrong to try to give them some kind of moral equivalence with Saddam Hussein. Just ask the Kurds of Chalabi, 5000 of whom were killed with poison gas for opposing his regime.

Even President Kennedy was tainted by accusations of corruption. He claimed his father once sent him a telegram which said,

‘Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide.'
But, as leader of the world's most powerful nation, Kennedy faced the horrifying prospect of nuclear war with words that all our political leaders should remember at this time:

‘Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.'