Leading Article: The honourable fall of a flawed gentleman

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The Independent Culture
WE CAN only guess what motivated a member of the European Parliament, and a Tory at that, to attempt to re-enter Britain carrying drugs and pornography. Perhaps Tom Spencer, Euro-MP for Surrey, gets a thrill from such risks but the blanket condemnation found in much of the press seems as puzzling as Mr Spencer's gamble.

In an age of spin, when politicians and policies are packaged as if they were consumer goods, Mr Spencer's candour since his misdemeanour became public seems endearingly quaint. The usual phoney tabloid outrage over a politician caught in a sex and drugs scandal has been blunted by Mr Spencer's openness, frankness and even hospitality to the press pack outside his doors.

He has displayed none of the arrogance that has afflicted politicians in similar scandals. He has resigned speedily, admittedly after pressure from his party, but maintaining at least the appearance of decency. In his complex private life, Mr Spencer seems to have behaved with honour towards his family. His wife and step-daughter have always known about his sexual preferences; most people will understand his wish to delay telling his younger daughters about his lifestyle until they are a little older.

Mr Spencer's sins seem rather mild when compared to other disgraced politicians. Recent rule-breaking by both Labour and Conservative members has included taking money to ask questions in Parliament, lying under oath, and failing to register loans. Ultimately, this tale will barely register on the Richter scale of political earthquakes. Although Surrey's MEP will be punished for his sins, he has displayed such dignity since the storm broke that one is left with the thought that perhaps he would make a rather more honourable representative than many of the political colleagues he will soon be leaving behind.

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