Political scandals in other countries
GERMANY IS no stranger to big political scandals but, on the whole, day-to-day political life is marked by high ethical standards kept in check by robust rules and political peer pressure.
A vigilant court of public opinion means that even when official rules are not broken, misdeeds attract public outrage much stronger than any political brass neck.
A decade ago two politicians from the Green Party, in government at the time, were forced to resign after it emerged they had breached official guidelines by using air miles clocked up on official travel to pay for private flights.
Earlier this year German president Christian Wulff stood down after he was less than candid about a low-interest loan to buy a house from an industrialist friend.
At the moment Germany is in the thrall of a scandal dubbed the “flying carpet affair” involving the overseas aid minister Dirk Niebel. He bought an Afghan rug costing about €1,200 on a trip to Kabul.
Because he had already exceeded his baggage allowance for the flight home, Mr Niebel left the carpet in the German embassy. Later Mr Niebel asked the head of Germany’s BND secret service, a member of the ruling Free Democratic Party (FDP), to fly the carpet on a BND flight to Berlin.
On arrival the carpet bypassed customs and a duty payment of about €200 and was collected by Mr Niebel’s official driver.
The estimated cost of transporting the carpet with freight company DHL – nine square metres, weighing 30kg – would have been about €4,000. The secret service said it only agreed to transport the carpet after believing it was an official gift.
Mr Niebel may yet ride out the storm but, with little visible support from Chancellor Angela Merkel, he may yet ride his €1,200 flying carpet out of office.
DEREK SCALLYin Berlin
MPs IN THEHouse of Commons have faced their own much-publicised difficulties regarding expenses and perjury in recent years, but no similar case to the Mick Wallace controversy can be found.
In its official records, the UK Revenue and Customs says it inquired into the affairs of 50 MPs in 2007, 46 in 2008 and 32 in 2009, while just 14 have faced questions from the taxman since. However, no public declarations have been made by the revenue about the outcome of those inquiries, although it says that the matters have been settled – although none of that can be taken to mean that arrears had to be paid.
There have been calls for British politicians to publish their tax affairs, although even some of those in favour of such a move accept it would not shed a full light into politicians’ affairs because it would not include assets. The expenses scandal claimed the careers of a significant number of MPs, but no action had to be taken by the House of Commons because most of the worst offenders did not stand for election in 2010 before inquiries were complete.