<Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece, and represents no more or less than one person’s view. It has been published with starting a conversation in mind.>
I tend to give political matters on this blog a bit of a body–swerve. Having stated that very clearly, the resignation of UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller the other day was welcome.
The full ins and outs of Ms Miller and her two houses, and how she claimed her expenses have been detailed in various newspapers. She particularly upset her natural ally: The Telegraph.
However unlike the MPs who judged her actions to be somehow acceptable and that she should repay some of the money and apologise to Parliament, I think the vast majority of those of us who have common–sense would simply say “There you go, the MPs are at it again and looking after themselves.
Maria Miller, in her 27 second “apology” to Parliament, was not even convincingly contrite. She made sure that she appeared like someone being forced to apologise. She did a good job on that score.
The trouble I have is that this Government has been stamping all over so called benefit cheats, benefit fraudsters, the alleged work-shy, and wasters: hammering the poor, disabled and the unfortunate in society.
This Government likes to peddle the myth that it is upright and does everything by the book, so all those disabled benefit fraudsters out there had better watch out- the DWP and its Work Capability Assessors are coming for you. Its harsh sanctioning of claimants in the system leaves people struggling.
Probably worst of all, considering how expenses have been fiddled in the recent past, those who have been put into straitened and frightening situations because of the Bedroom Tax will look at Ms Miller and her colleagues, from across the parties, and simply know that they have no idea of what is happening in real life.
Far be it from me to instruct Ms Miller, or any other politician, on the difference between apology and asking for forgiveness. It used to be something that we all understood.
So, for a moment, let me give her a quick recap: Apology is saying sorry. For some it is usually said with little or any contriteness, and can be done through gritted teeth with hollow words, all but saying; “I am only apologising to you because I got caught”. In this case she delivered her unblinking and unfeeling “apology” in 27 seconds. Invariably, apology is hypocritical and has no meaning to anyone.For ordinary folk it usually means that yet another MP has “got away with it”. No visit to the Police Station or cells for them.
Forgiveness is about asking those you have wronged, and committed crimes or offences against for their forgiveness so that one can contend with their conscience. So in recognising she had done wrong, by fiddling, she should have asked forgiveness of the taxpayers of the country for her offences against the public purse. So we can safely assume that there will not be any undertaking of a Restorative Justice Programme any time soon.
I think snow will fall in hell before that happens.
MPs should no longer be given the power to investigate themselves. This bureaucratic opacity only invites venality and corruption, and the knowledge that if they get caught, they will suffer no more than a slap on the wrist and told to repay some of the money.
Meanwhile in the real world, the disabled are being treated like fraudsters who are always telling lies and trying to steal, thieve and lie to get benefit in order to survive.
To any MP of any political party out there: Do you now understand why the disabled no longer trust you or the Political Classes when you have folk like Maria Miller who see it almost as a right to feather their nest with our taxes, but at the same time make life as difficult as possible; smear, label and suggest that the disabled are on the make?
To end on a more comical note; For those of you who are Harry Potter fans; How many of you were reminded of Dolores Umbridge – the sweetly chintzy, but totally malign headmistress of Hogwarts, as Ms Miller appeared in front of the cameras in her pink –checked twin set?