The Australian‘s latest call for the independents to respect the wishes of Newspoll their electorates comes from Professor Kenneth Wiltshire, with an assist from Edmund Burke:

On all counts, Coalition deserves independents

When the member exercised his conscience, the wishes of a politician’s electorate was key.

Speaking of the constituents Burke said: “Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interests to his own.”

On this basis it is clear that our three independents would support the Coalition to form government in today’s Australia.

Nice quote, and it fits with the point Wiltshire wants to make. But what did Burke say next?

He went on:

But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Now I don’t tend to favour blindly adopting the wisdom of political scholars from centuries past. But I’m even less keen on the notion of misrepresenting their ideas and then saying we should adopt the wisdom contained in that misrepresentation.

The Australian seems happy to run all manner of shonky arguments at the moment. I realise that it’s a newspaper and doesn’t have human feelings, but a lot of intelligent people work for that publication — I wonder if there’s a point where they begin to feel embarrassed by the nonsense that their employer is putting out?

(Thanks to @bglilley for the tip.)

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