Good Works, Bad Shouldn’t


“Þæt is nu hraðost to secganne, þæt ic wilnode weorðfullice to libbanne þa hwile þe ic lifede, and æfter minum life þæm monnum to læfanne þe æfter me wæren min gemyndig on godum weorcum.”
“I desired to live worthily as long as I lived, and to leave after my life, to the men who should come after me, the memory of me in good works.”
King Alfred the Great, in his translation of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy

The politicians who today are Alfred’s successors in power may be remembered for many things but good works are unlikely to feature in the list. Yesterday it was reported that Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, had been cautioned for breaking electoral law. Despite having qualified as a solicitor, Ms McCarthy chose to reveal on Twitter the number of postal votes cast per party in the 2010 election, contrary to the Representation of the People Act 1983.

A caution is a paltry punishment for breaking the secrecy of the poll ahead of its close. The crime is less of a surprise. Lying and cheating are tools that come with the red rosette, tools embraced with glee by those so keen to win that they long ago lost any idea of why they should want to. They are what we expect of a party that lacks moral conviction, that doubts its ability to win by fair means, that secretly recognises the emptiness of its rhetoric, the contradictions of its message, the pointlessness of its existence when, win or lose, the consequences are the same.

We are a radical party, the natural heirs to the Common Wealth tradition, of co-operation as the basis of economics, democracy as the basis of society and morality as the basis of politics. We share a long-standing disappointment that the Labour Party rejects all of these things in favour of money markets, control freakery and ends-justify-the-means. Some seemed seduced by Blair’s bleating about the forces of conservatism, before the fleece fell off to reveal a lupine arch-privatiser and curtailer of civil liberties. Not us. This is Labour’s heritage, back to the first Fabian imperialists and later apologists for Stalin. The real sheep are those who think they can only vote for one of the three identikit parties of the establishment. Ed Miliband for PM? ? Why?

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