The new politics and poor Malcolm Rifkind
In the cash for access scandal, Malcolm Rifkind got caught on the wrong side of history. He's not corrupt in the legal sense. But the people are rising, and their definition of corruption is very new and dangerous to the old guard
It is surely hard not to feel sorry for Malcolm Rifkind. Caught in a sting operation in what is now billed as the "cash for access" scandal, his career, and his future, is now in ruins.
He has led an honourable life: he hasn't committed a crime, or even, so it seems, broken any rules -- and that's more than can be said for many in the Westminster Village. We've seen MPs and advisors to MPs sent to prison in recent years. As sure as night comes after day, others will follow.
What did he do wrong? Here's what: he got caught on the wrong side of history.
It is fashionable to say that our members of parliament are all a bunch of scoundrals. If only we could go back to the golden age!
But there was no golden age. MPs today are probably cleaner than ever. It's just that the world has changed. The deference has gone. "Ordinary" Brits simply won't stand for corruption in our political and business establishment any more. Perhaps in the past they would have shrugged it all off.
But now the social media revolution has empowered people and given them a new confidence. The bright light of publicity can be shone in places that used to be dark and murky.
In the legal sense, Rifkind is not corrupt. But in the popular perception, his oh-so-confident pronouncements about his ability as an MP to access the establishment, for a fee, on behalf of a big business interest look shockingly corrosive of the meritocratic society that we are led to believe we live in.
Rifkind, like his Labour counterpart Jack Straw, doesn't get it, because the new political revolution that we are living through makes no sense to him. This isn't his world.
This is a world that is happening to Malcolm Rifkind, rather than the old world which he and his ilk were part of, and thought they could control.
Malcolm Rifkind isn't a bad man. He's just par for the course in the status quo (soon to be) ante.
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