Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind are linked by two things. Both have held one of the highest offices in British politics; that of Foreign Secretary; and both are currently suspended from their parliamentary parties. This comes after they appeared to be caught offering their services to a private company for cash after being trapped in a sting set up by the Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches. Presently these remain only allegations and both men have referred themselves to the Parliament’s standards watchdog and have claimed they have done nothing wrong. However the allegations are very serious and that is why both parliamentary parties have been so quick to act.
Both Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind are long standing and well known politicians. They are both big beasts within Parliament and have occupied other prominent roles in their careers. It is not unusual for politicians to be caught out in journalist stings, but it is unusual for it to be two politicians of this calibre and seemingly high standing. This makes the story even more explosive and the implications for politics in general even more serious.
There is already a strong anti-politics mood in the country. Trust in politicians has not recovered from the expenses scandal and this story is only going to add fuel to the fire. It heightens the perception that politicians are only in their jobs for the money and do not care about their constituents. It damages the image and reputation of all at Westminster who become tarred with the same brush.
The winners in this story could be the smaller parties such as UKIP and the Greens. If voters remain angry with mainstream politics and politicians they are likely to look for an alternative. Although perhaps most likely to manifest itself in not voting at all, this anger provides the smaller parties space to highlight the need for change and to distance themselves from the present incumbents in Parliament.
These are two of our more respected politicians and both have given much to this country. However, if these allegations are proven to be true, than their previous records of service will be forgotten and they will simply be remembered as crooks and money grabbers. This would be a sad personal ending for them and again drags the name of politicians through the gutter taking their reputation ever lower.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – The Independent