"I think it was damnably unlucky, frankly, that it seems Wallis was connected with this. That was devastating news when I heard it."
These were the words of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police (Britain’s top police chief) when challenged by a Parliamentary committee about his free stay at a luxury health spa that turned out to have an association with Neil Wallis, a former Deputy Editor of the News of the World. Wallis had been questioned by police investigating illegal telephone hacking.
Damnably unluckly? No, not at all. In my view he was damnably stupid and ought to have seen that what he was doing was inappropriate. It was no surprise to me that Stephenson had to resign.
Alongside the stupid acts, there’s another behaviour that riles me - it’s the one where people attempt to justify the unjustifiable by claiming that ‘everybody does it’. We heard it during the MPs’ expenses scandal when some Members of Pariament saw no shame in trying to claim for, amongst other things, the cost of building a duckhouse…
For years, MPs had been using the expenses system to supplement their salaries and few of them realised it was wrong - even when the facts were laid out before them. These people need to take away the blinds from their eyes and allow the sun to shine in.
Custom and practice can not be allowed to supplant an ethical framework.