27 Jul 2011

Now, when did I last see Granny?

Beyond your immediate work colleagues, your immediate family and or lovers, can you think of anyone you might have seen 26 times… or even 16 times in the past year? It’s tough to think of anyone. Sadly in these frenetic times one sees even one’s best friend far less frequently. Today I shall have a fast lunch with my best friend from university. Alas I have seen him fewer than six times since the coalition came to power.

Maybe the release of the lists of ministerial meetings with top level News International operatives needs putting into context. How often did they meet BAE Systems, or Tesco, or John Lewis, or M&S? Hard to imagine any minister meeting any of them anything like as often. And Labour’s figures in their 13 years in power will be no better.

We have always laughed up our sleeves at US corporate/political corruption. We have sniggered at Berlusconi’s antics in Italy. We have rarely inspected our own activities. Many thought it all much cleaner here and if it happened, it was generally elegantly laundered through the honours system so that no one much noticed. We were wrong, and wrong perhaps not to ask.

We have basked in the “Ministerial Code” which keeps all these things spotless…except can anyone remember the last time that a cabinet secretary ruled that the “code” had been broken?

Don’t expect anything quick from all this. We now have no fewer than 10 different inquiries under way, let alone the ongoing criminal investigation. In some cases it will be years before they report.

In the meantime, we must trust the oxygen of publicity. Will a  single minister dare to meet a single major Murdoch empire figure again? Will a single minister even raise the phone to one, let alone drop a letter or an email to one. Transparency, the watchful eye, the informed mind may, for now, serve to protect us from further compromise.

Now, how many times have I seen Granny in the past 12 months?

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