THE English legal system presumes that the accused is innocent until proved guilty. Defence lawyers will attempt to discredit witnesses in order to protect their clients.

In recent times this tactic has spilled over into politics. Currently a former Prime Minister has faced a barrage of accusations. He succeeded into office in the wake of an expenses scandal and the award of an NHS management contract to an American company, presided over by the two previous Prime Ministers. On leaving office ex-ministers accepted paid positions with American banks and management companies, peerages, and EU appointments. Only token prosecutions were made against a limited number of MPs involved in the expenses scandal.

A generation earlier, the Poulson scandal involved politicians at all levels and again all political viewpoints. Most notable with the award of building contracts at home and abroad, Newcastle and a hospital in Malta for example. The result was a limited number of prosecutions and the rewards of peerages and EU sinecures for ex-ministers, and opposition family members.

All of which replicates the actions of the Victorian Prime Minister who sold honours for cash. A tradition which extends back in time to beyond the Roman emperors and their patronage and tax farmers.

This behaviour was neatly encapsulated in A Vanity of Wishes written by Samuel Johnson in the 18th Century, and sadly, it still resonates today. A salutary reminder of the foibles and faults of all humanity.

Perhaps we should all put aside our personal political prejudices and question closely the motivation of the self-righteous moral condemnations emanating across the media, without serious thought about the veracity of the claims.

The repetition of soundbites without analysis of the truth of those statements often leads to less reputable people succeeding to high office. The tactic of besmirching political opponents smacks of playground arguments, making libellous or slanderous claims in the absence of factual policies to remedy or improve life for the communities they purport or seek to represent.

Ultimately, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Tim Brown, Ferryhill.