Philip Hensher: It's high time we had a new government

Share
Related Topics

When Damian Green, the shadow Immigration minister, was apprehended by police and questioned about the leak of government documents, attention was focused on him. The constitutional outrage of the police entering the Palace of Westminster and trying to arrest an opposition spokesman for efficiently doing his job appeared the most important aspect of the case.

But there was another victim of the police operation. Christopher Galley, a junior civil servant in the Home Office, was arrested for allegedly leaking confidential documents to Mr Green. He was sacked from his job after a disciplinary hearing.

Now the Conservative party activist has resurfaced to claim that Mr Green has reneged on promises and commitments to look after his career in this eventuality. Mr Galley says: "Green and his team said that if something did go wrong they would look after me. Green said basically, 'You're OK' and it seemed to me that would mean he would get me a job, hopefully in a thinktank." The Conservative party strongly deny that any such commitment, however vague, was ever made, and have no intention of supplying Galley with a new career of any sort.

On the other side of the Commons, the Government seems set on tearing itself to pieces in a fit of personal greed. Ministers claim up to the absolute limit of allowable expenses, year after year; household and personal expenses of the utmost triviality are put down to taxpayers.

Perceived cases of personal corruption did for John Major's government. The present climate is widely perceived as being a culture of corruption. And it will do for this government, too.

Christopher Galley's complaints that he has been let down seem particularly naïve. It would be difficult to believe that any politician would seriously suggest to a disaffected public servant that if they betrayed the trust of their office, they would be rewarded with a political job. That is incredible. Mr Galley will just have to be satisfied with the honour of whatever part he played in exposing some shabby truth; he says he leaked only four documents, the authorities say 20. I don't suppose anyone would admire him much if it came out that he did that for ultimate gain.

But this is a sideshow to what may prove a bigger story, the determination of the opposition to behave with propriety, and to be seen to behave with propriety. One of the biggest failures of the Blair government was its inability to check the behaviour of MPs.

In opposition before 1997, the Labour party was happy to make hay with the eccentric brown-envelope habits of junior ministers. They did not, apparently, perceive the depth of the revulsion which the public had for any suggestion of corruption, and it was only a matter of months in office before stories of undeclared loans, Hinduja passports, and frank expenses-grubbing started to come to light.

If the brush-off of Christopher Galley demonstrates that some politicians are determined to avoid any suggestion whatsoever of favours offered and accepted, we would welcome it. If this small signal reflects the idea of a larger culture in which politicians would not do their jobs in a world of incentives and favours, then I think the time may have come for a change of government.

A government in terminal collapse offers an unusual opportunity to its successor, to make essential reforms in areas where the problems have become glaring. In 1997, Tony Blair had a clear opportunity, and muffed it. Next year, reform will look less like an opportunity, and more like an inescapable duty.

If Nefertiti bust is a fake, future generations will howl at us

A Swiss art historian has caused a stir by claiming that the famous bust of Nefertiti in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin is in fact a fake, less than 100 years old. Henri Stierlin says the bust was made by German archaeologists in 1912 to test the effect of ancient pigments.

A visiting Prussian prince, according to this theory, admired the bust so extravagantly that the archaeology team was too embarrassed to explain the object's true origins, and into the Berlin collection it went. Adolf Hitler, incidentally, called it "a unique masterpiece".

The Berlin authorities say that the stone has been dated to more than 3,000 years old but, frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if it was a fake. It just looks too good, too modish, as unmistakably jazz age as an illustration by Erté.

Actually, it looks very much like the contemporary reconstructions of the frescoes at Knossos by Sir Arthur Evans, which Evelyn Waugh said, accurately, looked like illustrations for Vogue. If the Nefertiti bust does, as I suspect, turn out to be a fake, how future generations will howl at our idea of ancient Egyptian art.

£3 for coffee leaves a bitter taste

Another scene overheard during the credit crunch...

"Mate, you been over there? That new place on the corner?"

"No, man, I'm loyal. I don't get my coffee from no new place over there. I get it from the place I always get it from, the staff room."

"Yeah, mate, and I'm not saying it's not good; man, that coffee, it's good, right? They pour it for you, make it all foamy, and they put a little bit of chocolate on top, sprinkle it, then it's more than two quid, man."

"Yeah, I know, it's two quid, three; they're having a laugh. I reckon that once you get above two quid, you're out of coffee territory. You're well out of coffee territory. You're into chicken and chips territory. And they're asking that for coffee. No way, man."

"Chicken and chips, man? Where'd you get your chicken and chips, man? That's rank."

"Two quid, no way I'm paying that for a coffee."

"It's three quid mostly. What was it before?"

"Furniture shop, innit? What happened to that then?"

"Closed down, went. Same as everything else."

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Queen Elizabeth II with members of the Order of Merit  

Either the Queen thinks that only one in 24 Britons are women, or her Order of Merit is appallingly backward

Janet Street-Porter
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...