The man with the coins in his mouth


Sounding like an early Smiths song, today we have the curious tale of ‘the man with the coins in his mouth.’ I’m just old enough not simply to have witnessed the Smiths in action but also to remember the sight of large Welsh sideburns sported by JPR Williams scampering from full-back down the touchline to score yet another try for Wales in the 70s. But now he is in the news for something altogether less heroic: attempting to alter a breathalyser reading by hiding a few coppers (coins not policemen) in his mouth whilst taking the test (it doesn’t work). The fact that he did something wrong is not a surprise- we all do. Drink-driving is a particularly dangerous offence and the consequences demand serious action- action that offenders are keen to avoid. But the wider issue is this: What do we do when we get caught? Have we a carefully-crafted strategy to avoid the blame or are we willing to face up to our deliberate wrongdoing and take the consequences? If we take the former it demonstrates a certain high-handedness about personal responsibility that shows we have no regard for truth. If we take the latter we lay the groundwork for real repentance and change. Thinking about the expenses scandal, many of our current MPs caught-in-the-act have wisely decided not to stand again. Whether this demonstrates admission of guilt or simply cowardice about the electoral consequences we don’t know. But of those standing again, I would want to ask this question: Have you admitted what was wrong and drawn the line against self-justification? If so, you are a credible candidate and deserve to be given the opportunity to defend your seat against others. If not, I’m not sure you should be trusted with the responsibility of representing 80,000 electors. ‘What difference does it make?’ It makes a huge difference when it comes to restoring trust in public life.

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