The most enjoyable sin to unmask in public figures is hypocrisy and the Daily Mail's discovery that the Attorney General had broken the very immigration law that she introduced has revived an 18th-century spirit of revelry in the media. The wit of Dr Samuel Johnson echoes still: "Be not too hasty to trust or admire the teachers of morality; they discourse like angels but they live like men."
Baroness Scotland, who pushed through the Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act in 2006, finds herself in the possession of an illegal Tongan housekeeper. She pleads that she was unaware of Loloahi Tapui's status. But, alas, she had written into her wretched law that an employer's ignorance is no mitigation.
Some commentators have particularly enjoyed the fact that Patricia Scotland is a favourite among the liberal elite, but I do not hold it against her. She is not grand or self-righteous, like some in the New Labour hierarchy who come to mind.
I noticed an endearing little ladder in her tights in the photograph on the front of Friday's Daily Telegraph. She looked cheerful and slightly distracted. Here is a woman with a big job who would not have the time or the inclination to play detective with her housekeeper's references. Yet she demands that everyone else should spy on theirs.
Actually, it looks to me as if Baroness Scotland was about as trusting as Samuel Johnson in those she waved into her home. According to newspaper reports, Mrs Tapui advertised herself as a cleaner on a website. You would have thought that an Attorney General might have used a staff recruitment agency, whose responsibility it is to check references. The nationalities on the books tend to be European, which removes the visa problem. Those people I know who hire outside the EU do it to pay less.
This creates a vexing suspicion that Patricia Scotland's main concern was getting domestic help on the cheap. I am sure she paid Mrs Tapui a decent wage, but I would be interested to know what it was. There is a worrying category discrepancy between a cleaner and housekeeper. Some more unscrupulous employers pay au pair rates while doling out nanny duties. I would hope a housekeeper was not in fact being paid as a cleaner.
I know otherwise virtuous people in LA who wring their hands over factory workers in Bangladesh, while paying their Mexican domestic staff third world rates for incredibly long hours. I don't know what it is that makes normally humane people grow beady over the prospect of staff on the cheap. The professional classes are indignant about widespread pay freezes during the recession. Yet they gladly impose them on their domestic staff and dock their pay for holidays and sickness.
Despite Baroness Scotland's curious recruitment methods, her taste is good. Just as the Attorney General looks warm and likeable in photographs, so Loloahi Tapui is clearly a darling. She works hard (see doubts above), is ambitious and churchgoing. She lived with a lie and the fear of being found out. I am sorry her good fortune in landing Baroness Scotland as an employer was also her undoing.
The Telegraph's view of the affair, in an editorial headed "law of the jungle", is that it exposes the shambles of immigration to this country. I would argue that the fault lies in stupid bureaucratic laws rather than the instinct of humanity to improve our lot. Economic migration is a wonderful thing. If everyone was allowed to work, there would be a true market. Loloahi would not only have her job, but she might be better paid.Reuse content