The troubles of Gurkhas, expenses and swine flu

|PIC1|In recent weeks the Government and Prime Minister Gordon Brown in particular have come under fierce criticism for their handling of MPs' expenses and of the right of retired Gurkhas to settle in the UK.

On both issues the Government has been accused of being grossly out of touch with the wishes of the general public and has found itself having what the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, described as “a bit of a week”.

When things like this happen one cannot help but feel that the Government has lost its way in some sense. It is not only Labour governments which can find themselves in such situations. Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax is not remembered as being her most popular policy for example.

In a way it all boils down to what you think government is for. The primary reason for a government to exist is to protect its citizens. Following this one would hope that the Government’s priority is to make the lives of people better in some way, rather than worse.

We can be thankful that the Government helps fund things such as public transport, hospitals, the police, historical buildings and churches. We can also be thankful that our Government has stocked up on Tamiflu in the event of the swine flu crisis getting out of hand, although it is appearing to be milder than we first thought.

When it sets its mind to it a government can do things for its people greater than the building of park benches. When government loses its desire to do good for people and becomes concerned only with its own interests, that is when things go wrong.

Allowing Gurkhas to live in a country for which they have fought and died does not seem like such an unreasonable request to most people, yet the Government for some reason produced a set of proposals which were widely condemned for excluding many Gurkhas from settling here. To many, the proposals were heartless and immoral.

The expenses row as well has dragged Parliament and the Government through the mud. While most of the extraordinarily high expense claims, even of the scapegoat of the story, Jacqui Smith, seem to be “within the rules” they have severely damaged the reputation of Parliament.

Such a situation could easily have been avoided if politicians actually thought about what they are doing and considered the people they are supposed to be serving, and who are ultimately paying the bill. Especially at a time of recession, politicians should be thinking “Was this thing I claimed expenses for bought in the public interest or for my interest?”

Jesus taught that we should love and treat our neighbours as we love and treat ourselves. When our politicians start to think of their neighbours, be they taxpayers or Gurkhas, then they could make a real difference to our society for the better, which is surely what many of them wanted to do in the first place.

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