Often, we hear people who speak about politics waxing lyrical about the good old days where there were no scandals rocketing out of politics- whilst this is not true, and scandal has always had its place in politics, there is something to be said about the new era of never ending salacious headlines- but we often miss the bigger, and more concerning picture of a lack of ethical bedrock in politics- it’s knock on effect.
In the UK right now, we’re facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis. Part of this cost of living crisis comes from the knock on effect of a pandemic which raged over the world for two years. Part of it is, undeniably, exacerbated by a poorly implemented brexit (I’m also a fervent believer that there was no good way to implement it but that is besides the point) which cost the economy twice the damage COVID did. Part of it is, naturally, caused by inept politicians- the irony of this piece is that it is to highlight how scandal and political inaction worsens our lives but we can also give a deferential nod to the fact that Truss’ behaviour during her short time in office certainly had an effect- not that of a stimulant to the economy but a corrosive, causing market meltdowns and long term instability which will worsen mortgage rates & basic prices for months, perhaps years. But a huge part of the horror of the cost of living crisis in the UK is that it is entirely manufactured- Conservative MPs are more dedicated to defending the honour of Boris Johnson than to fulfilling their election edict of helping the British people- myriad stories across the media in the last two weeks speaking of how they will “slow down” parliamentary processes in rebellion over Johnson’s supposed shopping to the police.
This inaction, and this utter fixation with the state of their party and those they personally like, is a huge and undeniable factor in dealing with the issues the British public face.
Key members of the Conservative Party plan to back Boris Johnson even now- and though I’ve made my distaste of Johnson quite clear, I truly cannot understand these conservative minions’ mindset.
The options here are clear: the government, in its own statute, clearly states that if criminality is suspected, those involved must be referred to the police- it is not for the government nor within its’ remit to determine criminality, that is the purview of the police. In Johnson’s case, criminality is (with previous evidence to go by, not to mention simply knowing the man) suspected.
There is every chance that no criminal findings will be brought against Johnson, and if so, we can move on and focus on the times he did provably breach the laws. But if he did breach the law repeatedly, it is for the public to know and scrutinise, because we pay his salary, we pay his legal costs (now to the alleged tune of over a million pounds) and because he is a politician, supposedly the best and most dedicated of us to the role of civil servant and should be expected to conform to high standards at all times- if he did not, we have a right to know.
But, dear reader- isn’t that the issue? We shouldn’t know- not because these failings of moral strength aren’t relevant to our decision making; because our prime minister, the most senior political figure in the UK, ostensibly the person with the most vital job should not breach the law.
The idea of a lawless government would never have occurred to most of us fifteen years ago- but Blair’s involvement in the Iraq war is, arguably, a breach of the law. An invasion of a country under blatantly false pretences, on the wing and prayer that dangerous WMD could be found- they weren’t, and our involvement hinged on that. You can blame this current iteration of the conservatives but any lawlessness in office is appalling- going back further even than Blair and his idiocy, to Thatcher and her ill advised Falklands actions and likely back even further.
The culmination of lawlessness in office started long before the never ending outpouring of scandal and leaks and infighting that we see daily now- those supposed paragons of each party, Thatcher and Blair both had their part to play in this post-truth governmental shutdown, and to argue that point is simple denialism.
But it is not the origins of this crisis we should give full focus to right now- our energy should be focused on how we avert further erosion of the last bastions of honesty, truthfulness and transparency in politics. We are where we are, many of us too young to have even voted many times before. We must meet the challenge as it is, and to do so, it is time for us to confront truths likely uncomfortable to us all.
Our political parties- yes, mainly the conservatives but most of our political parties today are rocked by scandal, infighting, factionalism, divided by culture war issues that have been falsely inflated to gargantuan proportions when a true reflection of the country would show its insignificance. We’re regularly expected to believe political lying is a rare beast, only spotted every so often flitting away from podia in other countries. Political lying is mainstreamed in the UK, and every prominent politician seems to be keen on partaking to some degree or other.
Holding politicians to their promises and being disappointed when those promises are reneged on is one thing- openly lying repeatedly, as Sunak has now taken to doing, as Johnson has long done and unfortunately as other party leaders will continue to do, is commonplace. Political lying in the UK is not rare- if we could harness it as energy, the bills crisis would be over.
And isn’t that the rub? Rather than focusing on actual policy (with which we could easily demonstrate why the conservatives should not be in charge), we must spend days and weeks untangling the streams of lies spilling from the door of No.10.
Rather than deriding Sunak’s idea of capping the price on food, the price of which is still inflated because capping prices on food when the cost is up causes shortages, we’re discussing Boris Johnson’s legal defence- a topic that shouldn’t be in public discourse not because its irrelevant but because Johnson should have acted beyond reproach at all times. Rather than discussing means to avert Truss’ fiscal foolishness, we’re reading about James Cleverly chartering expensive flights. Rather than dissecting Jeremy Hunts’ fiscal plans to drive us towards recession rather than loosening his death grip on the Union Jack, we’re still debating whether it’s ok to wholesale scrap EU laws, a debate led by a man who wrote a book on disaster capitalism which follows the model of brexit to the letter.
Policy is the battleground we should be fighting the conservatives on- and why? Because we’ve had conservative policy for thirteen years, and in each of those years we’ve seen decline to standards of living, cleanliness, mortgage affordability, societal cohesion, energy pricing, health- if you want to debunk the efficacy of conservative politics, may I introduce you to that most ancient of inventions, the window.
But we aren’t. Rather than discussion of what changes politics must undergo to serve the people once more, we’re accustomed to watching our own live action political scandal show- one which closely mirrors shows created to parody UK politics only fifteen years ago.
And whilst we battle this never ending torrent of affairs and gaffes, the lies, the expense scandals, the misuse of property, the getting on trains whilst infected with COVID, the ignoring actual political duties to sit on twitter and decry minorities- so it continues. Not just the scandal and the slowing pulse of trust in politicians, but the actual tangible lack of assistance for British people.
Instead of sitting together to create cross party solutions to prices spiralling up and living standards crashing down, our politicians are happy to sit opposite each other, smirking wholesomely in complete ignorance of the damage their little Westminster war is causing.
Politics in the UK must be called to heel- decency, honesty, integrity must be injected back into the heart of our politics, because this flailing beast which serves as politics now, doesn’t serve the people- it only serves to create a stage for bad faith actors across all parties to continue to erode the standards by which we should expect politicians to live. And if politicians in the UK do not work to the betterment of society, the firmament of good standards of living- what is the point in them?