The word sleaze became attached to politics in the mid 1990s when a series of scandals rocked John Majors government and as a result a Standards Committee was set up to monitor and recommend sanctions against MPs found to be in breach of the rules governing the conduct of elected representatives.
For 25 years such recommendations, usually involving payments for lobbying or commercial interests in conflict with their duties, have been rubber stamped by Parliament with a minimum of fuss.
Then suddenly last week, instead of accepting a 30-day suspension for what the Standards Committee report called an “egregious case of paid advocacy” for lobbying colleagues on behalf of two companies he was being paid more that £100,000 a year to represent, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson MP became the central figure in a shameful Government attempt to circumvent the rules.
What on earth possessed Boris to not only try to shield a mate from punishment by getting the rules changed, but to call a three line whip on the matter is utterly beyond me. It makes no political sense at all and for once I find myself agreeing with Kier Starmer’;s use of words – corrupt and contemptible.
The chances of the suspension being used by Paterson’s constituency to deselect him and force a recall were very slim given their sympathy for his family circumstances and even if a by-election was called, the Tory majority is easily big enough to withstand it.
But instead, Boris and his government chose to abuse the privilege that comes with that majority last week, seemingly oblivious to the outrage it would cause out in the real world.
The U-turn which came less than 24 hours later is meaningless because the damage has been done.
With enough power to push things through Parliament and actually get things moving after a period of argumentative inertia in the House, the Tories – and Boris in particular – has shot himself in the foot, inflicting even further damage on the tarnished reputation of politics.
Is it any wonder that so many of us distrust politicians when such blatant chicanery is carried out right under our noses?
And for what? Owen Paterson has now quit his seat so the by election will happen anyway and the campaign will obviously be all about sleaze.
With sponsors queueing up to sever ties with Yorkshire Cricket Club and the staging of internationals at their ground suspended, one of the most famous club sides in the sport is counting the cost of its interpretation of the word “banter”.
The B word is not judged by what is said necessarily, but rather whether those words wound or cause upset.
Once that happens, as was the case with the treatment dished out to spin bowler Azeem Rafiq during his time at Headingley, it’s not “friendly banter” at all, it’s abuse and should be treated as such.
The board’s refusal to take any disciplinary action whatsoever has caused untold damage to the club’s reputation and deservedly so.
Centuries of tradition don’t give you the right to behave as if it’s still the 19th century.
As a very small boy in the early 1960s I remember looking at an encyclopedia my cousin had and a page that predicted what was to come over the next century.
I was entranced by the prospect of flying cars, space travel and gadgetry that appeared magical.
But I’m rather relieved that I won’t be around for the reality, which looks likely to be closer to the 17th century than how my generation thought of a future.
Stupid TV quiz answers of the week
Q: Name a singer who started off in a boyband
A1: Barry Manilow
A2: H from Steps