Ben Lowry: Far from being a victory for high public standards, Damian Green saga shows the hatred of politicians

The episode that has led to the resignation of Damian Green (seen above in 2012 with police officers unconnected to his office raid controversy) has highlighted the muddled public morality that now prevails over sexual matters. Photo: David JonesPA Wire
The episode that has led to the resignation of Damian Green (seen above in 2012 with police officers unconnected to his office raid controversy) has highlighted the muddled public morality that now prevails over sexual matters. Photo: David JonesPA Wire

No doubt some people think the downfall of Damian Green, who was in effect deputy prime minister, is a triumph for high standards in public life.

It isn’t.

It is another body blow against democracy, and another victory for the almost demented dislike that there is of politicians.

They are deeply distrusted, yet they are often committed to public service in a way that is rare now across a swathe of society.

As Edwina Currie recently said, a woman who did in fact have an affair when she was an MP, most politicians are dull people who are more interested in arcane legal amendments and parliamentary texts than they are about sex.

Yet these often honourable people are now subject to a scrutiny that almost no-one else in society would accept.

The world’s richest countries already have legions of mediocre people in politics who make bad decisions, often because they fear public opinion.

Look at what we already know about the RHI ‘Cash for Ash’ saga to see the kind of losses to the public finances that can be racked up by incompetent governance.

Now, with men and women (but mostly men) being driven out for indiscretions, even fewer people will come forward for elected office.

Already the brightest and best in the professional classes are too money oriented, you could even say too selfish, to consider serving the nation in politics.

Imagine for a moment that Damian Green did view legal pornography, which he says he didn’t, and then in a panic told a lie about what police had told him about porn on his computer (his lie, remember, was about what officers initially divulged about finding porn, not about whether he viewed it).

And then consider the possibility that his lapse in judgement in viewing porn happened at the same time as he held down a hugely stressful job and worked long hours for modest pay (by the aforementioned professional levels).

For those failures he has been hounded out of office by a disgraceful abuse of confidential information obtained by police officers during an investigation.

This has happened not long after another senior government minister, Andrew Mitchell of Plebgate, was forced out over a contested altercation, which included a police officer lying that he witnessed it.

In another walk of life, Mr Green might well have been sacked if porn was found on his work computer. It would depend on the exact circumstances in each case.

But if you want an illustration of our muddled morality on such sexual issues, consider a TV drama that aired last week, called ‘Love, Lives and Records’.

It is about the life and goings on in a registry office.

In the show, which I had never seen before but happened to watch days ago, a character called Kate has sex in the office with a colleague (who was not her partner). This was filmed on CCTV in the strong room.

Another female colleague, Judy, who is depicted in the drama as vindictive, seems to have anonymously circulated the footage to people.

Kate owns up to her boss and admits that she did indeed have sex. It was a moment of weakness at a time of stress, she said, and she was ashamed and sorry and mortified.

In the series Kate is depicted as conscientious: at home a caring mother, at work tough but fair.

Judy, the woman suspected of exposing Kate’s cavorting, is depicted as self righteous and mean.

And guess what? Judy is so judgemental she won’t perform civil partnerships for gay people.

The overall male boss of both women rules in Kate’s favour. He forgives her lapse of judgement.

Not only that, he promotes her, and launches an investigation of Judy, to see if she leaked the CCTV footage of the passionate sex.

If so, he warns, she will not only be sacked, he will contact police.

Now imagine for a moment a TV series in which a conscientious, kind, hard-working person has a moment of weakness at work and gives into their physical desires.

They don’t go so far as having sex in the office, they just look at porn.

Then imagine that the said person apologises and their boss is entirely forgiving, and chooses instead to investigate the person who leaked the fact porn was viewed.

And then imagine that the TV series depicts this hard-working, sympathetic person, who succumbed to a moment of sexual weakness, as a male Tory MP.

Hard to see, isn’t it?

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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