His offence was foolish but hardly a crime. The Ministerial Code is intended to prevent conflicts of interest from arising. None arose. He entered every transaction into the register of members’ interests. He did everything he was obliged to and made a royal balls up of the discretionary bits. He’s been a grade A berk.
Does he deserve to have his career terminated, his reputation ruined, his earnings potential permanently curtailed? I don’t think so. What makes us so unforgiving of our politicians? Why are we so convinced of their venality that we can’t allow even a disabled man at the end of his tether some leeway?
We’ve become a blood-thirsty bunch, gleefully dissecting the blighted love lives (and failed diets) of celebrities and eviscerating our public servants for even the slightest departure from the kind of probity we long ago abandoned in our own rather less exciting lives. In public life we’ve exchanged the deference and unearned privilege of the past for the nastiness and unearned brutality of the celebrity era – and it’s not an improvement. It makes me feel slightly sick.