Professor Joe Goldblatt
I was a bad boy for a short time. At ten years of age I ignited a fireworks sparkler for the Fourth of July and hurled it across the street. A man driving his car had his elbow struck with my flaming missile. He screeched to a halt and my father quickly went to his aid and apologised for my naughtiness. I was soon grounded for one week. I was not allowed to visit with my friends and was sent to my room immediately after supper each evening where I was expected to think about my actions and how they could have caused even greater harm. At the end of the week I had indeed been reformed if not rehabilitated and never again went anywhere near fireworks.
As I and millions of others around the world witness the naughtiness of the politicians who have recently led and are supposedly now leading the United Kingdom government, I am shocked with how quickly the public accepts this behaviour as the new normal.
When individuals are elected by their constituents to represent them there is I believe an expectation of decorum that will be respected by the public. Therefore, when I see modest fixed penalties handed out to these naughty boys and no further redress for their misdeeds, I am disappointed.
Whether the crime is hosting or attending a forbidden social event in a government office where alcohol is served whilst others are deprived of even holding the hand of a dying loved one in hospital or a care home or others are gleefully riding around not wearing a seat belt or avoiding tax payments of millions of pounds, I believe that these missteps derserve much greater reproach than a minor fixed penalty notice payment.
Some judges have used the “three strikes” rule as a way to further punish culprits who repeatedly offend. I wonder if this could be implemented as well for our elected officials. If one of our officials receives three fixed penalty notices could they be removed from public office for a period of time and be required to perform other forms of public service such as collecting rubbish or cleaning a care home?
The voters are the ultimate judge and jury when it comes to the competence or incompetence and electability of their elected officials, however, I strongly believe that if the public accepts the seemingly new normal of naughtiness as accepted behaviour then perhaps our judges must intervene to reduce further harm that could be caused by the examples of these naughty boys.
When I was a teenager I was surprised to discover that the naughty boys in my school were often the most popular ones in my peer group. The girls seemed to love boys who dressed like the Fonz from the American television show Happy Days or Danny Zuko from Grease because they exhibited a bit of cheekiness, rebellion, and even danger. I suppose this was also the appeal of classic movie stars such as James Dean and Marlon Brando.
As a past producer of live events I worked closely with many naughty movie and television stars. In each instance I soon learned that their misbehaviour was a pattern that had never been addressed by previous producers. One example of this arrested development concerned a former US President.
When I produced the opening of former US President Donal J Trump’s first casino he arrogantly refused to follow my explicit stage directions when he was introduced to speak to his 10,000 employees. As soon as a minor technical mishap occurred Trump dropped to his knees showing his fear and weakness and then crawled to the lectern to haltingly deliver his speech.
During the same event a dance troupe refused to perform because they demanded more payment only a few hours before they were due onstage. I did not have the gift to provide them with additional compensation so I ordered the hotel bell staff to bring their luggage carts to dressing room where I explained to the dancers that they were free to go. Although surprised at my candour, they preferred to perform and agreed to respect the original terms and conditions of our contract.
However, it is a far stretch to see a naughty boy on the big or small screen misbehaving as part of a television series or film script and to witness the almost weekly embarrassing behaviour of well educated and experienced public officials and then see that they seem to get away with their egregious acts with an all knowing wink and smile.
I wonder how their naughty behaviour shall influence the next generation of future politicians who are now children who watch television or view these misdeeds on their Instagram wall or Twitter feeds. Perhaps one problem that exacerbates and encourages this behaviour is the short attention span and limited memory of the public due to the twenty – four hour news feed. However, cumulatively, this behaviour is troublesome and in my mind creates a strong and growing stench that could soon negatively impact all current and future politicians reputations.
Therefore, in my view, greater scrutiny and punishment must be found and applied by the judiciary to deter future offences. After all, I was grounded at ten years of age for one week. Surely, an adult politician should face stronger punishment for repeatedly breaking the law that may just help reform and rehabilitate their behaviour in the future and set a better example for future leaders.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University. His views are his own. To read more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot