Patrick Mercer: Asking Questions Like It’s 1994

by George_East on April 30, 2014

Patrick MercerCash for questions?  Really?  Are MPs incapable of learning anything from the recent past.    Are they really that venal and moronic?   In the case of Patrick Mercer
it would seem so.  This is normally time to dig out that old quote from Marx about history repeating itself first as tragedy and then as farce.  But to be fair it was pretty farcical the first time round.

John Major leading a government of ‘bastards’ determined to humiliate him at every turn.  Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith (remember him?) taking cash in brown paper bags to ask questions on behalf of Mohammed Al-Fayed.  The Guardian expose, the denials, the failed libel action (a pattern that would be repeated a year later with Jonathan Aitkin), the 1997 general election with Neil Hamilton facing Martin Bell in his white suit.   The whole thing brought with it an air of political decay and a broken government.

Patrick Mercer, on the other hand, didn’t even manage to get paid for asking questions for anything real.  The whole thing was a sting by Panorama who set up a fake lobbying firm and allegedly paid him £4,000 to ask questions on behalf of Fiji and its re-admittance to the commonwealth (unbeknown to the Fijian government).

Like the Maria Miller affair, Patrick Mercer’s disgrace has showed that many MPs have learnt absolutely nothing from the scandals of the last couple of decades, seeing themselves as somehow above the law and their role as MPs as largely about lining their own pockets.    The whole thing has been made even more farcical by the sight of Neil Hamilton, now a UKIP spokesman, touring the newsrooms seeking to make political capital out of a Tory MP taking cash for questions.  This is firmly in Chris Morris territory.

At the time the John Major years seemed as possibly the lowest conceivable point in the recent governance of the UK.  A government led by a man wholly out of his depth that was more interested in internecine struggles within the Tory party than it was in running the country.

Intriguingly a recent opinion poll survey showed the British public rated John Major as a better Prime Minister than Tony Blair, I suspect a no little product of Blair’s apparent determination to be the worst ex-Prime Minister in history with his lobbying for dictatorships and seemingly limitless greed.

So perhaps the Mercer scandal is all part of a growing nostalgia for the Major years.  With Britpop getting saturation airplay at the moment on the radio (as it too reaches its twentieth anniversary), maybe cash for questions is all part of the 1990s revival movement.

And lets be fair although the Major government was in many ways a terrible administration, it pales when compared to the clueless posh boy uber-Thatcherites who currently lord it over us.    Ken Clarke or George Osborne at the Treasury is not exactly a difficult choice, if you were faced with it.

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