The Wise Monkey

The Wise Monkey (aka The Attorney General)

Seasoned watchers of Islamophobia may or may not have been surprised to read in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 23 November, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve’s assertion that ‘Corruption is rife in the Pakistani Community’. In a wide-ranging interview, Grieve identified the main threat of corruption in public life coming from ‘minority communities’ that operate a ‘favour culture’. Moreover, he was at pains to trace this specifically to Pakistanis and ‘not the Indian community’, while generously conceding that corruption may still be found in the ‘white, Anglo-Saxon community’.

Grieve’s comments drew swift denunciation from a number of quarters, causing the Attorney General to issue an apology the following day. However, the unusual step of tarring one specific group might give us pause, as might the language in which the attack was couched. I have heard Dominic Grieve speak and he is always measured and articulate, with a precise choice of words as befits a lawyer. So the notion that his outburst might have been unpremeditated seems unlikely.

Two features appear of particular interest in the interview, and they give rise to a further set of questions. The fact that he was willing to identify the Pakistani community as especially corrupt while exonerating the Indian community might prompt speculation over what he is referring to. The author of the Telegraph’s front-page splash chose to connect the concerns to recent allegations of electoral malpractice in Slough and Tower Hamlets, and to Baroness Warsi’s previous comments about voter fraud, but the interview itself is less explicit. So is Grieve referring specifically to corrupt financial transactions influencing aspects of public life, or simply that more general ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ culture by which most of the wheels in South Asia are made to turn. And then there is the strange slippage whereby a group identified through their perceived nation of origin – Pakistan – is compared unfavourably with ‘the white, Anglo Saxon community’. Here Grieve’s lapse into the language of phenotype, thereafter invoking ‘Anglo Saxon’, a historical term nowadays most often used as a short hand for white majority ethnicity, is striking. Is Grieve implying that Pakistanis are more corrupt because they come from a ‘new’ nation with a more turbulent relationship to democracy and the rule of law than its more acceptable neighbour, or because they do not share ‘our’ DNA?

Sceptics may scent the influence of Lynton Crosby, the Conservatives’ Australian campaign strategist, behind this kind of aggressive ‘outing’ of pseudo-foreign miscreants. Crosby, after all, has form since he masterminded John Howard’s election victories some years ago on a similarly aggressive populist platform. In fact, Grieve is too intelligent and independent simply to parrot someone else’s lines.

Even so, the mere mention of Crosby might cause some to recall the Conservative party’s sudden volte-face about cigarette advertising and Liberal Democrat concerns about Crosby’s links to the tobacco industry. But to suggest that was a factor in the decision would be to imply corruption and that cannot be true. And claiming expenses falsely, as large numbers of MPs were found to have done not so long ago – that was a mere misunderstanding of the rules. And awarding posts as unpaid parliamentary interns to friends, relatives and the friends of relatives – that is a perfectly reasonable practice. Defending News International while the ugly truth about their policy of phone-hacking was being revealed, just because you or your wife have been employed by Rupert Murdoch, well, that could just be gratitude. Moreover, following Nadine Dorries’ ‘arrogant poshboy’ jibe at David Cameron and former Premier John Major’s intervention lamenting the extremely narrow social background of a dominant portion of the current Tory government, it is surely time to declare loudly that Eton and Oxbridge really do provide the country with its most meritorious servants, and not simply a bunch of privileged people who know and look after each other.

Moreover, now, just one week after Grieve’s interview, we discover that his colleague the Honourable Member for South Suffolk, has effectively been deselected by his local party following allegations that he offered to lobby ministers and ‘coached’ business associates.  (Tim Yeo may feel especially aggrieved in this since he is hardly the first MP around whom such allegations have recently swirled.)

Of course, all these charges may be quite untrue. Even so, their very existence might indicate that impropriety is not the preserve of a single cultural minority. Needless to say, no mainstream journalist has made the connection between Grieve’s claims and other fraudulent goings on. ‘Corruption among Britons? No. Can’t see it. Don’t know what you’re talking about.’

Last Updated on 13 July 2014
You are here: Home Blogs The Wise Monkey