Thursday, 28 February 2013

Political Prisoners without Conscience

My reader John recently commented on A Licence to Procreate "And I thought this was going to be a blog about '12 good citizens and true'. Funnily enough that also includes an MP, sex, and family values with lies and stupidity (both the defendants and the jury) thrown in for good measure."

This set me off thinking about Mr and Mrs Huhne and their current on-off, innocent-guilty in-out court case.

I can see it now, like the opening credit titles to a vintage episode of Ronnie Barkers porridge "Right Honourable prisoner at the bar Christopher Huhne, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are a criminal of the political classes. Who accepts arrest, house flipping and expenses as an occupational hazard, and presumably accepts imprisonment and a second home in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences. A get out of jail card just like our old friend Baron Lord Ahmed, who also had a problem with his driving."

There is of course the result of the "sending down" party also known as a political "good bye election" in Eastleigh. Now that the points-make-prizes personality and somewhat - camera shy - Mr Huhne has gone. He has finally been prepared to throw himself into the slammer but only after managing to trouser a few bob extra by hanging on for a while on MP mates rates. Some cynics would say that he held on to give the Con-A-Lib coalition more time to organise a suitable replacement before he jumped. However, another peer of the realm Lord Reynard seems to have put the boot in for the Con-A-Lib coalition. Huhne finally stepped down a few weeks ago after his disenchanted ex wife blew him away. (in a "Dirty Harry, well Punk!" style) With the equivalent of a political smoking gun.

It always amazes me how there seems to be a - common theme - for bent politicians to do a bit of ritual self abuse. This is followed by a bit of abuse of members of their family conducted in public, before self imploding. 

Because the Con-a-Lib government can't be seen to lose face. There is much tub thumping and posturing going on on the hustings. The only parties to come out of this with some dignity could be Nigel Farage and UKIP. Not forgetting the monster raving loonies who are both centre ground when compared to the Con-a-Lib alliance. Chris Huhne is not the first serving politician to end up in trouble with the law. Statistically MPs are more likely to have a criminal conviction than the average member of the public. Which when you think how many of them started out as solicitors and barristers - is a bit of a give away as to why they are in politics. Huhne, could now face being stripped of his Privy Council membership, which allows him to use the title "Right Honourable." Which seems quite appropriate.

Mr Huhne is likely (like Mr Archer and Mr Aitken before him) going to have time on his hands to write a book or two. Unless of course Con-a-Lib government minister Chris Grayling’s new austere prison regime is introduced, in which case he won’t be allowed a book to read. But if he is, then Pride and Perjury and Porridge and Passion by Jonathan Aitken would be a good place to start. 

Jonathan William Patrick Aitken, was a Conservative Member of Parliament and a Cabinet minister. Aitken was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice. By coincidence his wife Lolicia, who later left him, was called as a witness but fortunately for Aitken did not have to appear.

Jeffrey Howard Archer, Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare  Member of Parliament. Whose political career ended with his conviction and subsequent imprisonment for perjury and perverting the course of justice. While in prison, he wrote the three-volume memoir "A Prison Diary." Prison served as inspiration his book, "Cat O' Nine Tales".

The most memorable moment for me came in the daily Star libel case.  The description that Justice Caulfield gave of Mrs Archer in his jury instructions included: "Remember Mary Archer in the witness-box. Your vision of her probably will never disappear. Has she elegance? Has she fragrance? Would she have, without the strain of this trial, radiance? How would she appeal? Has she had a happy married life? Has she been able to enjoy, rather than endure, her husband Jeffrey?" The judge then went on to say of Jeffrey Archer, "Is he in need of cold, unloving, rubber-insulated sex in a seedy hotel round about quarter to one on a Tuesday morning after an evening at the Caprice?" Archer can keep his peerage as it is a life peerage rather than "an honour under the Crown". 

Judges like Justice Cauliflower sometimes get it wrong. Now in a twist in the tail that even Baron Archole could not have dreamt up. A barrister and judge are arrested on suspicion of lying to police over the speeding allegations involving Chris Huhne and his former wife, Vicky Pryce. Constance Briscoe, 55, a lawyer and part-time crown court recorder, had denied to police having any involvement with the Mail on Sunday over the leaking of the driving licence points-swapping story.
Some of the most famous politicians and thinkers in recent history have been the victims of persecution and imprisonment for their political beliefs and activities. Mahatma Gandhi suffered many periods of imprisonment throughout the course of his life of non-violent activism. The first woman elected to lead a Muslim State, Benazir Bhutto was twice President of Pakistan. Aung San Suu Kyi spent almost 15 years under house arrest in Burma. As a pro-democracy activist and politician. The world’s most famous political prisoner, Nelson Mandela’s 27 years of imprisonment, went on to negotiate an end to apartheid. 

However, all is not lost, in UK politics after all one MP to be imprisoned for taking a moral stand was Terry Fields who refused to pay his £373 poll tax bill.  Somehow, I can't see Huhne, Aitken or Archer ever being considered as political prisoners in the accepted sense. Even as prisoners of conscience. Maybe there should be a group "Political Prisoners without Conscience." What a heady list that would make. Then there is the  up and coming virtuoso performance on the fiddle by ex MP Doctor Denis MacShame and others to look forward to.


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