LONG READ

The Tory Party: Morally Not Fit to Govern

VIP Lane - Source: Stan
VIP Lane – Source: Stan

We observe an arrogant and entitled superiority from Government ministers, MPs, and their supporters, dismissing alternative views and belittling them as of no consequence – or as originating from some malign intent. They are not fit to govern.

The Tory Party has forgotten that in Government its responsibility is to all the citizens of the UK, equally, not only to themselves. They are paid servants of the people, not their lord and master. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”, has conveniently been forgotten.

Entitled to rule and even born to rule? The Divine Right of the Tory Party to be the sole source of wisdom, with Parliament and opposition parties an obstacle to be overcome, as are Non-Governmental Organisations, parts of the media, democracy itself and even obeying the law. Anyone or anything standing in the way of the Tory Party and its media allies needs to be brushed aside and treated with contempt. In the firing line are the Northern Ireland Protocol, ‘lefty lawyers’, the right to protest and strike, the BBC and Channel 4. The pillars of British democracy, including the independent judiciary, independent Civil Service and broadcast media, are all threatened.

Turning a Tory tanker going in the wrong direction will take decades, if it is achievable at all. There is no evidence that it intends or wants to do that anyway.

The Party has gone rogue. Its primary instinct has become its own self-preservation, self-righteousness and self-importance, not public service. The latest compelling evidence for this is the Johnson phenomena, as Ian Birrell in iNews on 26 June 2022 notes:

“… this deceitful creature is focused only on clinging to his job, regardless of any damage to his country, party or allies….., Johnson’s survival shows how our politicians have become divorced from their citizens, but it will take much more than his ousting to restore faith in this relationship”.

And Professor Alan Finlayson (The Guardian, 30 July 2022), in a very insightful piece says:

“Once it [The Conservative Party] has succumbed to this childlike conception of political freedom, other parts of conservatism also retreat to the nursery”.

The Tory Party can no longer be trusted to govern democratically in the interests of all citizens, and it should no longer be trusted with the Government of the UK.

The ‘Not Fit to Govern’ charge sheet is as follows:

Populist: The characteristics of this activity were highlighted in the Trump era of US politics; compare if you will with Johnson’s government. Contempt for opponents (‘Lyin’ Hillary, ‘Sleepy’ Joe), contempt for the law and constitutional conventions (‘The Big Lie’), abuse of the powers of government, abuse of office, aggressive and deliberately divisive agendas, always looking for enemies and scapegoats, sloganizing, appealing through the mass media and captive media directly to the people.

Permanent electioneering: Instead of governing in the best interests of the people and the country, the priority is Tory Party positioning – culture wars and wedge issues to place opponents in difficulty, which appeal to the base of their electoral support. The recent prime example of this is the hostile environment and the Rwanda policy, copied from the Australian refugee off-shoring policy.

Self-serving Government: Policy swerves (to serve their own interests). Recent examples are repeated calls and visits to President Zelenskyy whenever Johnson looks to be in trouble, the announcement about the right-to-buy housing association properties as a distraction from Lord Geidt’s resignation, and the watering down of the recommendations from the Dimbleby Food Report, to appease a few right-wingers in the Party who could cause trouble for Prime Minister Johnson. The triple lock restored to pensions from next April, while pay restraint is called for from workers, and benefits are frozen.

Constitutional and Democratic Deficiencies: These are legion:

  • More ministerial control over the Electoral Commission,
  • More ministerial control over the workings of Educational Academies and Teaching Institutes of Education,
  • Repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act,
  • More ministerial control over Local Government activities,
  • More First Past the Post elections,
  • Ignoring international agreements over the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers,
  • Legislation affecting rights to protest,
  • Unlawful prorogation of Parliament,
  • Attempting to change the Standards Committee to protect the MP Owen Patterson who was guilty of paid lobbying,
  • Pulling out of parts of the European Court of Human Rights,
  • Over-riding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

All designed to appeal to the Tory right-wing, but all reducing the UK’s reputation in the world and all contributing to the democratic deficit.

The Abomination of Brexit: We all suffer from it. While Ukraine gets itself destroyed in its battle to join the EU, while Georgia, Moldova, Albania and others try to join, the UK voluntarily exits itself from that extraordinarily successful and purposeful collaborative and cooperative joint enterprise which began after the Second World War.

But this didn’t suit the Tory right. No, the UK would be better off outside! A few noisy right-wingers (less than 100) were passionate about their highly questionable views on ‘regaining UK sovereignty’, and they successfully persuaded or forced the gullible or weak rest of their Party, most of whom were happy with the UK’s membership of Europe, to join them in their anti-EU crusade. The charade of a referendum followed which broke all standards for the conduct of referenda, followed by the ludicrous cries from the right of ‘the binding will of the people’.

This is all despite outrageous and uncontrolled lying by the Leave campaign, fronted by well-known liars and false-promisers Johnson and Gove, despite illegal Leave campaign expenditure and use of Facebook data, despite high profile backing from Trump and Putin. Under 18s, most ex-Pats and most EU residents in the UK were effectively excluded from the franchise, yet Leave only scored 52% of the votes cast (37% of eligible voters).

The Tory Party then managed to force through the hardest possible Brexit deal, just short of leaving the EU without a deal. A policy which was entirely the opposite of the UK’s best interests, and entirely the consequence of the Tory Party’s lust for power. Power before Principle. Their power before the national interest. A constitutional, political, economic, social and practical abomination.

And now we have the overblown denials, lies, cover-ups, deflections, and absurdities from Rees-Mogg. Airport chaos, food shortages, trade balance decline, investment desert, shortages of research funding, low growth are apparently not due to Brexit or the absence of foreign workers but other factors and ‘international’ events…..

Law-breaking: In their arrogance and contempt for others, the Prime Minister himself and his Government are guilty of well-documented and extensive law-breaking and intention to break the law and break international agreements. Over-riding the Northern Ireland Protocol is the latest example. This undermines trust in our Government, at home and overseas, and thereby trust in our democracy.

Corruption: The Tory Party, and its individual MPs, have been accepting huge financial donations, retainers, gifts and perks from individuals and organisations, including Russian interests. These donors want something in return. The Party, and the MPs involved, know this, and accept the terms of the exchange, and then are obliged to deliver. There are many ways this can happen and they all amount to corruption and are therefore undemocratic.

The ‘Priority Lane’ for Covid contracts allowed unsuitable companies with little relevant experience to be awarded huge contracts without due process for PPE supply, while many established and experienced UK companies were overlooked. The corruption was covered up by missing documentation, denials, and curiously absent phone and meeting records.

Wasted money: Taxpayers have a right to expect Government to use taxpayer funds wisely. This Government did not do that. Fraudulent Covid loans and payments were not chased down and prosecuted, and the Test and Trace initiative cost a whopping £37 billion with little benefit according to the Public Accounts Committee. Rather than retraining NHS staff and redeploying civil servants, as Germany did, the Government just threw money at the problem, and outsourced its pandemic response to a patchwork of consultancy firms, whose annual profits surged during this period. Consultants at Boston Consulting Group were paid as much as £6250 a day according to newspaper reports.

Incompetence: Where to start? See forthcoming West England Bylines article on ‘The Managerial Incompetence of this Government’.

Dishonesty: Endless lying, spin, diversions, propaganda, falsehoods and false promises. Citizens now don’t believe a word Government ministers, Downing Street or the Prime Minister himself, says.

The Boris Johnson Phenomena: Prime Minister Johnson has now been forced to resign (7 July 2022). Back in 2019, the Tory Party jubilantly decided that Theresa May was not the person they wanted, and they embraced Johnson to lead them to electoral victory, putting their electioneering success before the public interest. The self-serving hypocrisy of the Party is unbelievable.

This is best put by Sean O’Grady in the Independent on 7 July 2022:

“They backed Johnson through the Dominic Cummings scandal, through the resignations of two ethics advisers, through the scandal of a party donor paying for the decoration of his flat, through the mishandling of the pandemic and the mismanaging of Brexit with a rotten deal, Partygate and law breaking, an unlawful prorogation of parliament and breaking treaties and international law, allegedly trying to get Carrie a £100,000 job and Wilfred a £150,000 treehouse, depriving kids of free school dinners … and much, much more.

“They went along with all that and they would have carried on with Johnson for months – if not years – more if he hadn’t humiliated some of them by giving them dodgy lines to take in media interviews.

“So, it’s not just Johnson who’s morally compromised, but the whole Tory Party, with rare exceptions. They are all guilty men and women because they voted for him, campaigned for him, sustained him, lied for him and generally disgraced themselves and the country in the process. They were all members of the cult of Boris, and they knew exactly what he was.

“They didn’t care, because he was a winner. He hasn’t suddenly turned nasty – he was like this since about the age of eight. He’s outlived his usefulness to them, but if they thought the Devil Incarnate could win them the next election they’d be signing his nomination papers right now. Parties tend to get the leaders they deserve”.

The Tory Party imposed Johnson on the country as Prime Minister, and they bear full responsibility for all the damage and chaos that he has caused? Now 160,000 Party members (deeply unrepresentative of the population at large) are chosen to select the one from the selected two candidates.

Conclusion

The Tory Party has achieved its ends of staying in power, but at a huge cost in terms of the reputation of the UK, the quality of the UK’s democracy, and the well-being of its citizens. It has served itself, at the expense of the population. Citizens demand much, much better than this.

The Tory Party in Government is a disgrace. It is not fit to govern. It does not represent the many Tory Party members and councillors who are well-intentioned and hard-working and do a reasonable job. If it had any decency, it would get out of office, and not stand again unless and until it has reformed itself root and branch. But it has no shame, so it won’t do any of that.

The Party system is an integral component of the UK’s democracy and Parliamentary system, and as such, needs to conform to constitutional conventions, fairness, and public service norms. It has not voluntarily done that, so it needs to be forced to do it, first at a general election, and secondly, using a properly empowered Electoral Commission or similar institution to hold the Tory Party to account, and to impose severe penalties for its self-serving performance.


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