29 SEPTEMBER 1984, Page 7

Conviction politics

'There are now at least two sitting MPs who have recently been convicted of quite serious crimes. Dr Roger Thomas, the Labour MP for Carmarthen, was found guilty of a sexual offence. This week, Sir Anthony Berry, a Conservative, was con- victed of reckless driving and drink- driving. Of the two men's offences, Sir Anthony's seems- the more serious, since it involved physical injury. Sir Anthony `brushed a policeman out of the way' with his car, dislocating the policeman's finger and bruising him. His car hit, but did not injure a second policeman and narrowly missed two pedestrians. We do not yet know what Sir Anthony intends to do next, but we do know that Dr Thomas, having originally indicated that he would resign his seat, has now said that he will not, apparently under pressure from Labour leaders who want to avoid a by-election. Without suggesting that it is obvious that both or either man must resign, one does wonder what sort of offence would nowa- days make an MP feel that his position had become dishonourable. Perhaps it merely depends on what his constituency associa- tion is prepared to tolerate. Sir Anthony's case is particularly interesting, because the fact that, when drunk, he tried so hard to avoid arrest, suggests that he, in principle at least, deferred to a traditional idea of an MP's honour.