Letter: Nothing new in doing the decent thing

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The Independent Online
Sir: Colin Brown (quoting Lord Callaghan) writes of the lowering of standards in public life ('In the old days they did the decent thing,' 25 June). Their lament pertains not only to ministerial resignations but also to the murky relationship between financial support, influence and political parties.

In 1841, shortly before the general election, Charles Dickens (an outspoken and lifelong liberal) was twice asked to stand as candidate for Reading. He refused regretfully, explaining that he could not manage to stand or to serve and also earn enough to support his family. When it was intimated that his expenses might be paid by the Reform Club, Dickens replied that he was unsure whether 'to enter Parliament under such circumstances would enable me to pursue that honourable independence without which I could neither preserve my own respect nor that of my constituents'.

Perhaps at least a few of the much maligned 'Victorian values' are worthy of revival?

Yours faithfully,

SUSAN SHATTO

Queen's University

Belfast

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