THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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2009 in review: MPs' expenses | World news | The Observer.

Heather Brooke gave us our only political hope of 2009. She is what all our journalists should be. She explains her motivations for researching MP's expenses succinctly (and rather sadly) in the linked article;

I was trying to make sense of the way the country worked for myself, having just moved here from America. It seemed crazy, very hard to find out what public money is spent on. In America we think, "We're paying for it and we want to know where every penny is going." Here, there's a terrible apathy.

Britain's apathy is indeed terrible - and terribly dangerous. In my years in Russia I learned that voter expectations set a ceiling on political morality. If an honest man ran for office there, first people would laugh at his naiveté. Then they would disbelieve him, assuming he was laughing at theirs. Soon, given that everyone assumed he was a crook, he would decide he might as well become one.

This is the helter skelter of negative expectation down which Britain is careering. My elder daughter once told my wife "Dad is not a cynic. He's a frustrated idealist." Perhaps so. Certainly, I believe that once a nation truly lowers its sights, it is finished.

Russia is - and has always been - potentially far richer than Britain. It has vast resources, endless land and highly educated people. It has a truly magnificent culture and a strong patriotic spirit. It should be the richest nation on Earth, by quite a long way. But it is a cold version of Nigeria because its people expect too little of their political class. That, ladies and gentlemen, is true apathy. Corruption is its inevitable consequence. Left unchecked, it's terminal.

Next year will see a new government in Britain. Left or Right it will - sadly - be statist. Many politicians know full well that our state has already over-reached, but will continue to pretend. Why? Because they face - like every democratic government - a population clamouring childishly for simple solutions to life's problems. For a politician to maintain his idealism - even the frustrated variety - in such circumstances is tough. We really need them to try though. After a year in which they were caught with their hands in the till, we also need opportunities to catch them doing something right.

I have seen the alternative and it's not pretty.