Thursday, 10 April 2014

Maria Miller's lack of ethical compass

The Culture Secretary Maria Miller has resigned. She is yet another self inflicted wound. But how does it happen? Is there something wrong with the way of thinking that gets politicians trapped in this way?  I think the answer is yes. It is an inability to distinguish between what might be 'legal' and what might be ethical.

I didn't do anything wrong is the line taken by the former Culture Secretary. It was also the line taken by Mr Cameron. She didn't do anything 'wrong'. What he meant of course was that she 'followed the rules', and where she may have made a 'mistake' she has apologised. It is all a misunderstanding, and everything really is rosy in the garden, except for the lingering smell of rotting vegetation.

Sadly it indicates that they have no ethical compass. There is nothing in their thinking that asks whether something is ethical rather than simply 'following the rules'. There it is - the problem.

And what are these 'rules'. Essentially without an ethical compass, it is whatever they can get away with that doesn't constitute a breach of the law. As long as they feel that they can say 'I did nothing wrong' then they also conclude that what they do is right. Ethics isn't following rules - it is making some kind of judgement about the right course of action.

One golden rule on this is that you should be able to taste whether something isn't right. You wouldn't eat a stale banana. It would make you sick. And so it should be with expenses claims. If it doesn't taste good then it probably isn't. But in this case it won't just make Maria Miller sick, it will make the public sick - sick of the endless feeding from the trough without regard to ethics.

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