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The establishment after its own

Lord Hanningfield, the Tory peer, was jailed yesterday for 9 months for falsely claiming £13,379 for overnight stays in London when he wasn’t in London at all, and on one occasion was actually on a flight to India. The judge excused the lightness of his sentence on the grounds that his mental health had suffered as a result of his trial. But no such consideration was shown to Elliot Morley, the former Labour MP jailed for 16 months for falsely claiming £30,000 in mortgage payments, even though he suffered severe depression before his trial. His punishment was in stark contrast to the mere 7-day suspension from Parliament handed out to the LibDem David Laws, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who had wrongly claimed £56,000. The judge excused the absurd lightness of his sentence on the grounds that his motive was to conceal his homosexuality since the rent claimed was paid to his partner, as though that (even if true) virtually absolves the offence. Other explanations might seem more likely.

Laws was the Tories’ favourite LibDem and given prime responsibility for carrying through Osborne’s spending cuts, a job he relished. Though he had stolen far more from the public purse than either Hanningfield or Morley, he received no more than a slap on the wrist, and it was immediately hinted that he would return before long to high public office. The Establishment certainly knows how to protect its own.

But there are plenty of other cases when Establishment figures get off extremely lightly or even scot-free after a major failure of incompetence, negligence or mismanagement on their watch. After the $40bn Deepwater Horizon disaster for which the BP chief executive,Tony Hayward, carried responsibility, the City rehabilitated him less than a year later as senior independent director of commodities group Glencore in its $60bn flotation.

After the Nimrod crash in Afghanistan that killed 14 servicemen in 2006 which the subsequent Haddow-Cave review attributed to the MoD sacrificing safety to cut costs and named 10 senior RAF officers and top Whitehall officials responsible, only 1 was prosecuted and no others were brought to book.

The top Department of Health officials responsible for buying contaminated blood products from the US which led to 1,200 UK haemophiliacs becoming infected with HIV (of whom 900 have died) have never been prosecuted.

The 10 senior civil servants who privatised the MoD research wing Qinetiq in 2009 and made £107m out of the deal by concealing their self-interest in the float have never been prosecutied or brought to book.

Not one banker has been prosecuted for the biggest financial disaster in Britain for nearly a century. And the list goes on and on. It’s not what you’ve done, it’s who you know.

One Comment

  1. Mick Hall says:

    There is little doubt Lord Hanningfield and the LP MPs who have been prosecuted were picked as fall guys, none had a national profile, Laws fell into the pot by chance and was quickly lifted out to be hosed down and slotted back in at a later date.

    Hanningfield is an odd bird, apparently he used to live very frugally and you cannot help feeling sorry for him and the rest, if I had a heart that is.

    I wonder if Cameron will be as generous to him as Callaghan was to T Dan Smith, I doubt it somehow.

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