Lack of ethics equals lack of politics

By Daviemoo

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?

Until Johnson is gone the UK has no hope of democracy

As Boris Johnson’s fist tightens around the throat of democracy, one has to ask: will he jump or be pushed, and will we be gathered around the coffin of our long standing governance before long… or can we resuscitate the UK’s political sphere into something recognisable when he goes?

Many scholars who study authoritarian regimes have spoken out about commonalities between the conservative government and more radical and open authoritarian governments across the world: one of the keenest scholars of authoritarian legislature is known as OpenBookshelf on several social media platforms, and I recently invited her to speak with me about authoritarianism. 

The meat of our conversation focused around the subversion of any attempt at democratic discourse under the Johnson regime- from the effective illegalisation of protest to seeking to overrule judicial decisions, effectively giving the government unilateral powers of censure: these are tools of truly toothless governments seeking to solidify support under the silence of the oppressed. 

Johnson’s cabal embodies the antithesis of “the other”: rich (but not all rich), white (but not all white), brash (but not all brash). It is a cabinet that personifies the worst aspects of the British public and seems to work to the destruction of the offices they helm, all the way from a home secretary whose parents naturalised and who harbours what seems to be a sociopathic distaste for people who come from overseas (all legally, as there is no illegal way to seek refuge…), a simpering culture minister who did not know that the de facto video hosting site for everything from politics to cookery to DIY, YouTube, was being “used by young people to learn things”a chancellor of the exchequer who has been overseeing the rules that allowed his wife to pay less tax than she was due to pay in the UK and refuses to clarify whether he too is a benefactor. 

But the rot which corrodes the front of the house extends further, sinuous tendrils working its way through tories who accuse their constituents of “selling school meal vouchers to brothels and crack dens” or who blithely accuse doctors, nurses and teachers of flouting lockdown rules like Johnson so confidently has done. 

The problem with this cultish populist government, if you’d like to pick one specific problem, is that this acidification of the pillars of democracy will lead to a fatal erosion: and what will be left when the corinthian columns of freedom no longer exist?

Well, to fret over that, one has to believe they do still exist and I, for one, do not.

In a democracy, a government who obtained 44% of the vote overall would not be in power with a huge majority: the tories spent more time splitting the left vote with endless smears of a fairly decent politician in Corbyn, promising empty shelves (as they delivered not once but twice during the pandemic) and escalated bills and taxes (as they have now provided so expertly). But Corbyn’s labour had it’s own myriad problems from upheld claims of anti jewish sentiment to internal saboteurs, and the left vote was split so widely that we have this watered down opposition bench and a furious SNP desperate to extricate itself from English politics and be done with Westminster once and for all- however you may feel about indyref one or two, it would be churlish to deny that Scotland has founded grievances especially after watching the tories openly jeering Ian Blackford during today’s debate about Johnson’s wilful lies at the despatch box: any pretence that Scottish politics is respected in parliament is belied by their actions. 

Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…’

Winston Churchill, speaking about democracy and it’s flaws

Democracy may not be perfect- America’s downfall to and through Trumpism and the UK’s similar crash and burn into Johnsonism has demonstrated this. And yet Democracy means something tangible to all and sundry who rest under it: it is infinitely preferable to the invisible shackles of other rules where the will of the people is so thoroughly ignored or discounted.

In a democracy, a failing and floundering party in charge would not be propped up by press punditry, where regulars who knew of Johnson’s failure to uphold the standards of the PM would have reported without delay, or going further back would simply have been honest about his unsuitability for the job. Instead he was painted as the roguish journo turned political pundit who would magically MUGA- Make Us Great Again.

In a democracy, a party who repeatedly broke manifesto pledges is… well, par for the course, unfortunately- everybody knows that manifesto pledges are subject to change dependant on the conditions of the world but the conservatives are diligent at one thing only: disregarding manifesto promises under the guise of covid, brexit and war. Many conservative voters have been programmed to believe that the war in Ukraine is responsible for escalated energy prices and tax hikes: but both were decided long before Putin’s fist came down upon the border of Ukraine and this can be seen on this very blog- I spoke months ago about the proposed NI hike and my disgust at a government wilfully raking money away from the British proletariat. The broken promises aren’t the main issue so much as the lies around their reasoning: a desperation for cash, the wilful dismissal of concerns around energy storage and long term green infrastructure and terrible health secretaries forcing restrictive contracts on doctors, or more bothered about kissing colleagues than running an effective health service have led to an NHS strapped for cash and bent backwards over the knee as covid continues to kill over 500 people a day. 

In a democracy, then, we would see feasible solutions to a government who has proven itself unable to front its duties: but we don’t. We see a desperate cadre of MPs more concerned about their pay packets than the corruption seething at its core. Johnson was not the architect of the erasure of democracy- it far precedes him- but he is the accelerant, the petrol upon the slow burning flame that has now turned into an explosion through our oft highly regarded political spectrum and this is glaringly obvious to those who dare to stare into the flash point.

Under the last labour government the education secretary resigned because exam targets were not hit, despite the protestations of the prime minister of the time. That is honour, and duty and overall the brave ownership of a job not so well done. In place of that long respected system of accountability we now see cronyism at it’s finest as Johnsonite stooges circle the bullet-riddled wagons to protect a man who has completely derailed transparency in politics.

Johnson’s ascent to power was solidified between (as Supertanskiii has spoken extensively about) client journalism a la Laura Kuenssberg, an ever increasing tory bias at the BBC and a desperation to empower a right wing leader with supposed Charisma: whatever you think of Johnson, somehow he manages to capture the credulity of smarter people. He has been described as roguish and comedic, hosted TV shows and written entertaining articles utterly bereft of fact. Add to that the indulgent upbringing of a boy who is quoted as saying he wished to one day be king of the world and powerful friends like Evgenny Lebvedev assuring him that he would rise to the top job if he backed brexit and you see that Johnson has both clawed for the job and been pushed uphill by those with agendas he could fulfil: now at last that Brexit has decimated the economy but deepened the pockets of the already wealthy, perhaps his ‘good friends’ are done with him at last- will the PM so known for leaving the wreckage of marriages, friendships and reputations in his wake hear the crash when his marionette strings fall loose at last and he falls to earth from his ascension? 

Until Boris Johnson is ousted from his lofty perch and finally feels the sting of repercussions for his scorn towards the office and the British public we will only see this merry go round of fervent front benchers and unashamed back benchers forced before us to defend, deny and distract us at the valuable expense of our dignity and the last shreds of their respectability. The conservative government has long commanded my grudging respect as a party that will ruthlessly do what it takes to uphold it’s own values. Now it does not even have that. I am not their target audience, not their voter base- but their expert job in alienating their voters to enshrine a man who has destroyed their credibility has been something to behold, and until they decisively show Johnson the door for his misdeeds, his shadow will be cast long and wide over the always detestable but once, at least, respectable- Tory Party, henceforth known as the party of illicit parties.  

Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.