Harold Wilson famously said that “a week is a long time in politics”. For Teflon Boris, the last few weeks have seemed very long indeed.
What started as a crude attempt to save one of his mates has turned into a nightmare. As a consequence of Boris’ blunders, the Tories are now, once again, seen as the party of sleaze.
The Tory lead in the opinion polls has evaporated (despite the uselessness of Starmer’s ‘loyal’ opposition). As a result, there is now talk in Westminster that Johnson has become an electoral liability, and that the time may have come for a leadership challenge. The shadows are certainly lengthening around Number 10.
Stench and sleaze
From ‘cash for curtains’; to COVID contracts for Conservative cronies; to David Cameron and the Greensill lobbying affair; to the revolving door between Whitehall and big business: the stench emanating from the Tory Party – and the entire political establishment – grows stronger by the day.
The row over second jobs has now forced Johnson to announce a desperate ban on MPs taking on extra-curricular consultancy roles. Furthermore, the PM has stated that action will be taken against those whose outside work adversely impacts on their public and parliamentary duties.
Such assurances are all very vague, of course, with little information about how these measures will be enforced – if indeed they ever will. In any case there are many ways round these restrictions; for example, becoming a non-executive company director.
Even so, many Tory MPs – unsurprisingly – are not happy about Boris’ latest U-turn, which threatens to take away the cosy benefits that they have become accustomed to.
Too little, too late
The current crisis all started with the Tory Party leadership’s disastrous attempt to save the career of Conservative MP Owen Paterson.
Tory MPs were whipped to support an amendment relating to his punishment, tabled by Andrea Leadsom, but primarily pushed by the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Paterson himself. This would also have neutered the parliamentary body in charge of members’ standards.
This unscrupulous manoeuvre backfired, however, with the public and press turning against the government.
Panic mode set in. And by the following morning, a major U-turn had been carried out. The amendment was to be dropped, and the commissioner's original ruling implemented. But by this point, it was a case of too little, too late.
The Paterson affair has acted as the spark for a chain reaction of scandal and sleaze – setting a whole combustible cesspit of corruption alight.
New revelations have emerged almost every day. Another report, for example, linked donations to the Tory Party to offers of seats in the House of Lords. £3 million, it seems, is the going figure.
Incredibly, it was suggested that Paterson himself may yet be given a seat in the Lords.
The cascade of corruption has come in thick and fast. Questions have been raised, for example, about the various gifts and freebies that the Prime Minister seems to be enjoying. And there has been a tsunami of revelations surrounding Tory MPs and their second jobs.
All in all, MPs pocketed over £4 million in total last year – almost without exception from jobs that clearly had links to their positions as MPs or as former ministers. Some of the amounts ‘earned’ are quite staggering: most notably in the case of Geoffrey Cox and his extra million for ‘legal work’.
Donate £3 million to the @Conservatives and your virtually guaranteed a peerage.— Ian Lavery MP (@IanLaveryMP) November 6, 2021
I suppose if you’re on benefits or using food banks to survive or even working your bollocks off access is very much different and very much limited.#ToryCorruption#TorySleaze
Capitalism is corruption
Clearly these out-of-touch ladies and gentlemen consider MPs’ basic pay of £82,000 to be beneath them.
Their arrogant and aloof attitude will only reinforce the feeling amongst ordinary people that ‘they don’t represent us’ – especially at a time when the working class is being squeezed by inflation and austerity.
Promises of reform from Boris and co. will not save the day for the Tories. The pungent stink of corruption will not be easily washed away. This, in turn, will chip away at the authority of the Prime Minister, the government, and the entire British establishment.
Workers will connect this sleaze to all the other recent scandals, affairs, and incidents – and from there to the general failings of this criminal government.
The conclusion is clear: Capitalism is corruption. We need to throw out this whole rotten system.