Let’s face it, British politicians are the Lilliputians of the world of political money scandals. However much time journalists spend muckraking, whatever misconduct is uncovered, it is almost always small fry. Our politicians, for the last decade or more, seem incapable of corruption on a grand scale.
Where is the Randy "Duke" Cunningham of Westminster? The former Republican congressman pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4m in kick-backs. He cavorted with prostitutes (feeding them grapes in Hawaiian hot-tubs) and used private jets — all on the expense account of defence contractors. He did not need his party leader or a standards commissioner to tell him to step down.
Where is the William Jefferson of Westminster? The Democratic congressman is in court fighting charges of bribery after the FBI raided his house and found $90,000 in his freezer. Cold cash, as they say.
And who could match James Trafficant, the toupee wearing Democratic congressman who was sentenced to eight years in prison for bribery? As well as taking kick-backs, the Congressman forced his staff to toil on his Ohio farm. He was so fond of his job, the House had to vote to expel him — after he was convicted. (He had one vote in his favour, would you believe.)
I do not mean to make light of Labour’s donations problems — the Abrahams episode, the cash-for-honours allegations, the police investigation into late-declarations by Peter Hain. Nor do I want to excuse the conduct of Derek Conway, the Tory MP who seems to have given his son public money for no good reason. (Guido Fawkes has some humble opinions on this matter.)
The comparison merely puts our home-grown scandals in perspective, and maybe helps to clarify why we should care at all. Even if British misconduct is on a smaller-scale, it still involves big misjudgements by our elected officials. That should interest us all.
(For those who are interested, the AP put together a handy list of congressmen convicted of crimes since 1970, which you can see here. There are more than a dozen convictions, including extortion and sex with an underage campaign worker.)