"On my honour I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people at all times and to obey the Scout law."The Scout law was in fact a series of ten commandments, not like those Moses brought down from the mount because old B-P knew a thing or two. There was nary a "shall not" in all the ten Scout laws, each being a positive rather than a negative. The first of those laws was, "A Scout's honour is to be trusted".
That word again - honour. Now, I would guess that we all know what the word means but I'm also pretty certain that most of us would have difficulty in defining honour succinctly - in, say, fewer than a dozen words.
There was a time - or so I am led to believe - when a gentleman's word was his bond, when it was a matter of honour to keep a promise, to do the right thing. Frankly, I rather doubt that ever was the case and that the current time is no worse than any other from the past as far as honour is concerned. But I do wish that our politicians would set a better example. We elect them to make laws and to govern the country on the unspoken understanding - a gentlemen's agreement, if you will - that our Members of Parliament will act with due honour.
It's five years now since that was shown to be a forlorn hope, five years since our free press discovered that our MPs were claiming all sorts of expenses to which they were not entitled and, albeit quite legally, engaging in what is now known as "flipping" the house which they declared was their main home with the one used solely for the business of Parliament. Some MPs have been found guilty of fraud and jailed, some have been made to pay back thousands - sometimes tens of thousands - of pounds, and many have since found other employment.
Five years - and still very recently a Minister of State has been found to have been claiming expenses in a distinctly dodgy way. When one newspaper started asking questions, that Minster's aide spoke to the paper and allegedly "flagged up" the fact that Maria Miller, the Minster concerned, was also responsible for looking at new press controls. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards ruled that Mrs Miller should repay £45,000, but a Parliamentary committee reduced that to £4,800. The also flipped her homes so that when she sold her Wimbledon house for £1.2 million, she avoided paying Capital Gains Tax.
In my naive way, I would have expected Mrs Miller to have behaved honourably in the first place and to have been squeaky clean in claiming expenses and not flipping homes, especially in the light of what has happened over the past five years. At the very least, she should have resigned as soon as she was ruled to have acted wrongly. But no, she hung on to her job as Minister for Culture until at last the pressure on her was too great and she resigned yesterday.
There are among us those who try their utmost to conduct themselves honourably, to do the right thing. Is it so very wrong of us to expect that our politicians will set a good example? Or am I being hopelessly naive?
Just to lighten things up a bit, here is a picture I took on the way back from Eastbourne yesterday. The South Downs from the north (for a change) with the village of Alfriston almost lost.