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  • Alastair Cavendish

The Rulers and the Rules

It is not yet clear whether David Cameron is a criminal. What is perfectly obvious is that he is an oily, money-grubbing, conniving hypocrite whose departure from political office has allowed him to spend the last few years as a full-time spiv. Cameron insists that he has not broken the letter of the law, for the spirit of the law is a thing unknown to him. He does not seem to have thought for a moment about whether it is a gracious and public-spirited use of a former Prime Minister’s time to pester the current office-holders for meetings with corrupt businessmen so that he can make millions of pounds out of shabby backroom deals.

There is an argument that public life in improved by the involvement of the wealthy and privileged because they are harder to corrupt. Rishi Sunak and Jacob Rees-Mogg are not interested in your brown envelope stuffed with used tenners. A few thousand pounds here or there cannot possibly make any difference to such plutocrats, who put caviar on their cornflakes and wear fifty-pound-notes next to the skin. The great flaw in this argument is that some people are so insatiably greedy that, as Shakespeare neatly put it, their more-having is as a sauce to make them hunger more. Wealthy politicians like Cameron are still for sale, they are merely a little more expensive than Neil Hamilton and his ilk.

There is a connection between Cameron’s corruption and the current government’s idiocy, which is made manifest in the mania for coercive legislation which grips the Johnson regime. Before going any further, I should make it clear, for the sake of fairness, that Cameron’s government was stupid as well as corrupt, and Johnson’s is clearly corrupt as well as stupid. However, one inevitably loses focus in the attempt to comprehend all their flaws at once. David Cameron and Boris Johnson are not the type of people whom one could dissuade from a course of action by pointing out that it is stupid or evil. You have to show how it would disadvantage them personally, which is to say that you would need to use coercion and fear. Politicians are unreasoning animals, who must be trained with carrots and sticks, mainly sticks, since they tend to use the carrots for dark and perverse purposes to which no innocent vegetable should have to be a party.

Most of us avoid breaking most laws most of the time because we have no desire to break them. If you found out that, by some curious legal omission, there was nothing to prevent you from hitting elderly ladies on the head and stealing their handbags, would you take advantage of this loophole? Clearly not, for you are not David Cameron. By extension, if you are told, on good medical authority, that taking a particular course of action is likely to kill your grandmother, you will probably refrain from taking that action. This is because you are neither a psychopath nor an idiot. When you hear that a new and deadly virus has recently arrived in your country, you probably do not take it into your head to go galumphing around hospitals spreading the malady from ward to ward by thrusting an unwashed hand at every patient and demanding that they shake it. Boris Johnson does this, because Boris Johnson is devoid of empathy or common sense. You and I, dear reader, are better than this, and do not require continual bullying to force us to behave with a modicum of consideration for others.

It tells you a good deal about contemporary politics to reflect that cabinet-level politicians are the type of people who assume that you would kill your grandmother if no law prevented you from doing so. The idea that you might have some principles or scruples to prevent you from spending your life exploiting and abusing others does not occur to them. If you were to suggest that you actually enjoy helping others, buzzing around like Jonathan Swift’s honey-bee spreading sweetness and light, rather than exploiting and defrauding your fellow men, David Cameron would look at you like an incredulous plate of spam, while Boris Johnson would express his scepticism by unearthing one of the three scraps of Latin which apparently constitute the sum total of his education.

Therefore, instead of appealing to reason, empathy, or altruism, these monkeys in suits fall back on the one thing that would work in their own case: coercion through fear. This is a strategy which inevitably works best with cowards and masochists, precisely the section of society who are not natural leaders, and who are unlikely to convince others. This is why you find your most brainless cousin retweeting Neil Ferguson and telling you to follow the science, while the aunt who puts foreign coins in charity envelopes piously scolds you for selfishness if you go outside without wearing a muzzle.

When you realise that laws are being made in an attempt to control people as corrupt as David Cameron or as stupid as Boris Johnson, you begin to see why there are so many of them. Neither of these miserable specimens has the slightest intention of obeying the law themselves, but they judge others by their own degraded standards, assuming that no one ever refrains from any activity through compassion or intelligence, but only because they are frightened of receiving a fine or catching a cold.

Intelligent people respond to reason and evidence more readily than they do to propaganda and coercion. If they are courageous as well as intelligent, they probably will not react to propaganda and coercion at all, except to resist them. However, it takes a modicum of any given quality to appreciate others who have it to a greater degree. Talent is required to recognize genius, and integrity to appreciate sanctity. If the ministers of the Crown were only able to comprehend how much worse they are than the rest of the country, intellectually, morally, and in every other respect, they might, even now, save us all a great deal of time and money by minding their own business.

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