Thursday, 5 September 2013

On Honour - With a Little Knowledge, Trust and Respect

I was fascinated to read the story about Captain Robert Campbell, a World War One British Army officer who was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Magdeburg.

Whilst he was in captivity he received the sad news that his mother back home was dying of cancer. Desperate to be at her side for her final hours, Captain Campbell wrote a personal appeal to the Kaiser asking that he be allowed to go home. His request was granted - on the condition that he returned once his business back in England was done.

Having spent a week with his mother in Gravesend before she sadly passed away, Captain Campbell dutifully returned to Germany to hand himself over once again to his captors. As soon as he was safely under lock and key he set about trying to escape once more, as indeed is the patriotic duty of any prisoner of war.

What strikes one immediately is the incredible sense of honour that led Captain Campbell to keep to his word. He could quite easily have reneged on his promise. This was war, after all. However he had given his word to the Kaiser and he felt bound to stick to it.

It wasn't only about honouring a promise, of course. What Captain Campbell knew was that if he had broken his word, the next British prisoner who had found himself in a similar position would not have been granted the same favour. Having experienced the sense of helplessness and despair that came with the news that his mother was ill when he was locked away as a captive in a foreign land, he could not bear the thought of putting somebody else through that same heartbreak. By sticking to his word, just possibly if the situation were to arise again somebody else might be granted the same favour.

I could not help when reading this story but to compare the supremely noble and selfless actions of Captain Campbell with the perennially unscrupulous and self-serving ways of the modern politician. When the then Deputy Leader of the Hounslow Labour Group, Councillor Ruth Cadbury, told a Borough Council meeting back in 2007 that lying to electors in the course of trying to win their votes was perfectly acceptable and simply "politics", it would not have occurred to her that anybody listening to her words would have felt unable to trust the word of any member of her Group again.

Ruth now, of course, has her eyes on a bigger prize - the Labour nomination for the Brentford & Isleworth constituency at the General Election which is likely to take place in 2015. Yesterday one of our members received through the post her "election address". Entitled "Ruth2Win", Ruth describes herself as the candidate who is "Well Known, Well Trusted, Well Respected", and appeals to fellow Labour members to support her on the basis of her not unimpressive track record in representing her party in the area since the early 1980s.

Although I have a lot of time for her as an individual and recognise and respect her commitment to the cause of her Party, if she was selected as a parliamentary candidate I would not feel able to vote for Ruth on account of her attitude towards political campaigning. I am one of those sad people who thinks there is still a need for honesty and integrity in our politics.

Nevertheless it is nice to see more openness and less secrecy in the candidate selection process, to the point where even spectators such as myself feel moved to take an interest. May the best man (or woman) win.

No comments: