Judged the floats at Welshpool Carnival today - along with Lembit Opik MP. An unlikely team you might think. In fact, I've always got along quite well with him. Our discussion turned to the impact of the Telegraph coverage of MP's expenses on the mental state of the politicians themselves. It was an issue that Matt Withers covered in yesterday's Wales on Sunday as well. The headline 'Spare us the Sob Stories' informs us that Matt was not very sympathetic. For once, Matt and I do not think as one.
I recognise the inevitability that all those MPs who have acted 'improperly' (deliberate choice of woolly word) should step down as MPs, and anyone guilty of fraud should be prosecuted. But at the same time, I do have sympathy with many MPs in the present situation. Many years ago I found myself in a similar place, when I resigned as a Quango Chairman. I feel that I know the desperation that some of these people might be going through. Its the sense of injustice (whether justified or not) that weighs so heavily. To be 'tried' and judged in a national newspaper, with no effective means of defence, while holding a genuine certainty in one's own integrity and 'innocence' generates a mental turmoil that is very difficult to control. Its not really anger, or outrage, or sadness, but a sort of illogical 'blackness' that overwhelms rational thought. My own reaction was to search out solitude and silence. I'm told now that it caused much concern to the family at the time. I like to think that none of our friends noticed, but the reality was that I lost a few months of my life. Only fully recovered when I signed up for a course at Aberystwyth University and became consumed in academic study. Occasionally, I still get worked up about the injustice of it - but I always keep it bottled up.
Now this is not any sort of defence of MPs who fail the test of 'reasonableness'. Its not even disagreement with Matt's instruction to spare us the sob stories. Its just that I want to own up to being perhaps the only non-MP in Britain who feels sympathy. The only sensible response is to put up with it, and say nothing. If it is "unbearable for any human being to deal with" as Nadine Dorries tells us, its time to vacate the kitchen. Any attempt to justify or challenge will only make matters worse. No-one wants to hear, or believe anything that our MPs are saying at present - and won't until the people have had their say in a General Election.