When the shark bites…

A study has revealed that sharks have returned to the river Thames. It is, of course, the one that flows past the House of Commons where Parliament sits. Sharks tend to feed in a frenzy and are no doubt reflecting what has been going on in the UK parliament.

The study does not reveal whether sharks have returned to other major river in Europe such as the Seine, the Spree or the Senne and others, but at the political level it might seem so.

In its Doha Declaration the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stressed ‘The need for independent judges and a free press in a democracy.' In London both the politicians and the press seem to have lost the plot and are behaving like sharks.

That this is a problem throughout the world to one degree or another is without question. Democracy is largely a sham and is in shambles. The UK is not unique but currently a good example to focus on.

In their joint statement the UNODC panel that included Lord Neuberger, the former President of the United Kingdom Supreme Court and Chair of the High-Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom stated:

“The rule of law is arguably the most basic requirement of any civilised society and an independent judiciary, to which access is available to all citizens, is an essential ingredient of the rule of law.”

Extracting key points from the statement’s broad overview there is something that those participents in the political feeding frenzy of the last week should note: “In recent years, the freedom of the media and legitimate reporting by journalists have been undermined by populist leaders, even in supposedly democratic states."

In stating that the loss of a free, independent media is essentially the loss of democracy UNODC are making an important but rather narrow view. They do not deal with corruption, poor standards of reporting and lack of clear legislation.

That parliament is only now in a conflictual frenzy dealing with standards of behaviour is to most citizens itself a form of corruption. That a member of parliament can be paid to be a lobbyist is to most right thinking people a crime against the general electorate.

Anyone fortunate to have a job who worked in their company office for someone other than their employer would be sacked and probably face some form of prosecution. A person employed as a taxi driver who used his car to deliver goods for another company is perhaps a clearer example.

Ordinary citizens convicted of minor offences in the UK get a criminal record for 100 years from their date of birth affecting their employment and prospects, yet politicians have for many years been getting away with corrupt practices because parliament has not properly framed legislation outlawing them. The EU and its member states are not exempt.

What should not be overlooked is that if something is not explicitly illegal there should, at the very least, be a rein on frenetic, politically motivated, accusations of corruption and illegality. Morality is largely the agenda and there needs to be a balanced review of parliament’s rules.

Most people would regard taking backhanders from lobbyists or even a second job as criminal acts by those elected to represent their constituencies. That it should be criminal or at the very least subject to dismissal would be the view of most voters.

That members of the UK Parliament, allegedly, got drunk taking a flight to Gibraltar, with one having to be taken off in a wheelchair, graphically highlights that there is one law for the rich and important and another for the ordinary, to misquote a popular saying. A citizen voter would certainly have been prosecuted not to mention probably being banned from flying.

As the feeding frenzy over second jobs, lobbying and corruption bubbled on and on in the UK, seriously jeopardising the governments prospects, the US warned that Russia may invade Ukraine, the EU was facing a crisis in Belarus and forecasters were predicting a serious inflation crisis across the world.

Democracy is under threat as forms of anarchy take hold. Politicians should remember that when the shark bites….scarlet billows start to spread.

Credit: theme taken from the lyrics of Mac The Knife by Bobby Darin.

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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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