Yes, the corruption of the polity

And by polity I mean – an identifiable political entity or a group of people organised for governance such as a corporate board, the government of a country, country subdivision, or a sovereign state. 

And in this instance, our current government, which is corrupted, note the word, I don’t say corrupt, I say corrupted.

I’m writing this while the country is in limbo waiting, would you believe it, for a civil servant to write a report directly to the Prime Minister of her investigation into several parties and drinks (more about those in a moment) held during lockdown and purportedly in direct contravention of the rules at that time. Rules which, btw, were set in place by the same Prime Minister who seems to be awfully absent-minded and/or vague regarding these parties he is purportedly meant to have attended and indeed was ambushed by. Yes, don’t forget, Johnson was ambushed by a cake at one of these parties. I am not making this up as that’s one of the excuses used by his devoted acolytes.

The Prime Minister will then decide how to proceed with the findings on the misdemeanours and the culprit who, oh my word, is him. However, publication of said report may tip the balance of all those Tory MPs wobbling awkwardly on the very edge of a rather strange and quite sharp fence. As in, do I ignore the shenanigans in Downing Street and support my Prime Minister, because, by gosh, I support him through thick and thin, and all his many lies, or do I write that no-confidence letter to the venerable Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 Committee (all part of the procedure to remove a PM – they need 54) and get that mendacious moron off our backs? It’s as simple as that.

And…. oh no, wait a minute the Metropolitan police have just decided to investigate these purported parties. Hmm, funny that. For weeks and weeks the police have refused to investigate the so-called parties because, apparently, they don’t investigate crime retrospectively, which is a bit odd, all things considering.  But now the report, which we’ve been waiting to see for days, if not weeks, is due to be published, and could topple the Prime Minister the police have finally decided to get on with investigating these misdemeanours (misdemeanours for which members of the general public found themselves in court and were heavily fined). This now means parts of the report may have to redacted because the police have requested minimal reference to these events. Yes, funny that. Timing, and all that.

It is curious that the interest in these possible (alleged) parties that Johnson may or may not have attended have generated what is known as ‘cut-through’ with most newspapers of every type (left and right) taking this story up, as they can see that the majority do seem appalled that while the population of the country did as it was told during those early lockdowns, those who were in charge of us and made the rules appear to have taken not a blind bit of notice. And yet, and yet, there is so much more that has happened on Johnson’s  watch to be appalled about.

First, the early days of the pandemic; how very unprepared we were and don’t say they didn’t know how to deal with a pandemic, as there was a report written after Operation Cygnus which set out exactly what was needed if a pandemic occurred. So I won’t dwell on the fact that most of the stocks of PPE were out-of-date. Nor will I dwell on the fact that Johnson didn’t attend the first five meetings of Cobra (our Civil Contingencies Committee) which is usually chaired by the PM. Allegedly he was whiling away his time at Chequers writing a book on Shakespeare (not seen that yet and won’t if it ever comes out). No, what I do draw your attention to, is what you might call this government’s instinctive use of corporate contracts. What is this fascination with the private sector and the belief that it will do better than the professionals?  But contracts were indeed awarded to the most unsuitable people without proper due diligence resulting in, for example, millions of unusable masks. And, of course, speed was necessary but instead of empowering and crucially, funding our Public Health officials and medics already in place to track and trace and test Covid sufferers, which is the bread and butter of Public Health medics, humungous contracts were awarded elsewhere. Do read another of My Other Blogs, Are we living in a kleptocracy – yes we are, where I traced where many many billions, had gone.

For instance, by March 2021 it was clear that 37 billion had been spent on Track & Trace. Can I remind you how large that sum of money is?  A good example of costs, is that in 2018 the Committee of Public Accounts revealed that the build cost of two British aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales, was £6.212 billion, and operational costs up to March 2021 were estimated at £0.6 billion. So, 37 billion or thereabouts? The sum is so enormous that it is mind-boggling, which is why it hasn’t, as they say, ‘cut-through’. We can’t comprehend how that sum can be spent, we can’t compute it, so it fades.

For those of you outside the UK a second factor in the corruption of our polity was the debacle around Owen Patterson after he was found to have broken rules around his paid advocacy. The government immediately attempted to block this MP’s suspension and with a 3-line whip a new committee was to revise the rules, that nobody should gain an advantage by paying an MP. I mean one can wonder about these rules and how often they get broken, but this was so blatant that even Tory MPs were aghast, and both the 3-line whip and the idea of new rules were dropped. Eventually, instead of Patterson quietly taking his suspension and returning to Parliament he resigned and the rest is history with a Tory defeat in the resulting bye-election.

Then there’s the wall-paper, yes, that’s right, wall-paper, at £840-a-roll, gold, I believe.  And instead of the annual £30,000 that is allowed for each new Prime Minister to do up the flat they live in (the Johnson’s actually live in No 11’s flat as it’s bigger) they spent £112,549. And the question is who paid for it? There is some evidence that a Tory donor paid quite a bit of that. One or two names have come up. Of course, Johnson has been cleared of breaking the ministerial code, nevertheless, it’s all rather murky.

Furthermore, one rather pities the next Prime Minister, the one after Johnson (who will go eventually) as the flat has been decorated in the worst possible taste. We know that the designer brought in to gut and refurb the flat in which the Prime Minister lives is someone called Lulu Lytle. But all the photographs purported to be of the flat are actually from her catalogue, none of them are from No 11 so we don’t know what exactly has been done, but if it’s anything like her catalogue then it’s just migraine-inducing rich person’s tat.

And now we come to the parties. There have been 15 reported in all – so far. Whatever might be said about them, that they were work-dos and no rules were broken etc etc, it just wasn’t what ordinary people were doing. No, we weren’t all rule-breakers, we took the first lockdowns in 2020 seriously, we didn’t mix, we socially-distanced and didn’t visit our loved ones. Some people couldn’t even visit to hold the hands of their relatives as they were dying from Covid. All these parties seem to indicate a certain ethos of, eat, drink, and be very merry, oh yes, very, what with broken swings in the garden and suitcases full of drink (I am not making that up either, a suitcase was used to buy drinks). So there you go, lots of booze and snacks and chat and cake and quizzes all during work and at public expense while others sacrificed so much.

And now we await the truncated Sue Grey report and the police investigation which, of course, will take months. And Johnson hangs on – he won’t go unless he is seriously pushed and/or dragged out of office.

What does it say about a country where such a charlatan presides over us?

What does it say about a government that hangs on to such a man?

Sometimes we hear that Johnson is just like Trump, and it must seem so, especially with him clinging on to his post as Prime Minister.  But actually while Trump is all id and money and power-orientated you could say that our Prime Minister, along with a few other of his acolytes, has a distinct take on the world. He sees himself preserving the traditions of 18th and 19th century male politicians with their casual forays into this and that project (want a bridge across the Irish Sea, anyone?) giving them time for their drinks and their patronage and their pursuits, which for Johnson is writing about great men, which of course, he yearns to be.  And all of that against the snowflakes and the unimaginative and humourless lawyers (and that’s a dirty word to Johnson, lawyer). Plus do not forget their wish to rid this country of the benevolent state and the 19th century idea of public service and services. Mix in a smidgeon of English exceptionalism and there you have the version of history of which Johnson is so fond. How he fails to reach even the lowest of bars to be that Churchillian ‘great man’.

At one point last week Johnson seemed to be on the cusp of being got rid of but that seems to have faded away, and what with the likelihood of the Sue Grey report being reduced and defenestrated, as in, thrown out as so reduced as to be worthless, do you want a bet that we will be told to wait for the police investigation?

And Johnson will cling on to his role.

I repeat:

What does it say about a government that hangs on to such a man?

What does it say about a country where such a charlatan presides over us?

Penny Kocher, 30th January 2022

 

Further reading:

Johnathan Parry, To Serve My Friends. London Review of Books, Volume 5, 27 January 2022

Unimaginable cost of Test & Trace failed to deliver central promise of averting another lockdown. UK Parliament, Public Accounts Committee, 10 March 2021

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19 thoughts on “The corruption of the polity

  • 30th January 2022 at 16:40
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    Polity – in 2022 it seems far fetched to expect anythinking person to support any political party as all political parties have bought into a system of governance that has been corrupted. For the last 30 years civil servants roles have been replaced by Special Advisors. One of the creepiest SPADS right now is the Defence Advisor who has never been in the military and I beleive comes from a media banking background. It is apparant that government contracts are being run for the benefit of certain companies – not necessarily for what is appropiate for the country. Private Finance Initiavie (PFI) where private investors built infrastructure and leased this back to the government (like new hospitals) has been beneificial to the investors – not to the government. It does not matter, to me, who is Prime Minister or which party is is power – they all seem to be looking after their own private agendas. The backlash from the public is damaging – you can see popularist voting for things/people which may not be appropriate. Governments should not be carrying out actions that are popular with voters – but actions that bring out security/opportunity/government for the psoople and not government for a particular fiscal group.

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    • 31st January 2022 at 11:57
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      I think that this government, more than any other, is damaging our trust in who governs us. But I also believe that it does matter who governs us. Labour doesn’t always have clean hands and didn’t Gordon Brown introduce PFIs which have been disastrous for our infrastructure and particularly the NHS. But Labour’s intentions are better than the Tories, and it is this government in particular that has been so dishonest and corrupt. The Tory party is the worst for Johnson’s leadership and although the rot began with Margaret Thatcher and her ‘there is no such thing as society’ she would not have tolerated such incompetence or corruption and I don’t think Mrs May would have allowed such shenanigans either.

      We live in challenging times and there are some dangerous anti-democratic bills coming along. We have to remove this government – hopefully in the next election – whether Johnson leads the party then is a moot point.

      Thanks so much for the comment.

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  • 30th January 2022 at 17:29
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    So true, Penny. I despair. Just in the last week I have had first hand experience of the ‘world beating’ £37bn track and trace system, as both my husband and I have had Covid (fortunately quite mildly). But how unfit for purpose, and
    un-joined-up is that system ! It makes me so angry to think that families are going hungry and feeling cold and all that money was wasted on track and trace and unsuitable and unusable PPE. Unlike the comments from Sarah, above, I do think it matters which party you vote for. Johnson is a scandal and he has brought the Conservative party into disrepute. I’ve never voted conservative but even I can see how radically they have changed, and I’ve lived through Macmillan, Thatcher, Heath etc. the party now appears to be a collection of not very bright, venal, spivs, who have no compassion or empathy at all. I hope the electorate wake up very soon.

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    • 31st January 2022 at 12:05
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      And now we hear of 5bn items of PPE that will go unused !!! https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/30/ppe-bought-for-nhs-waste-minister

      I too remember the days of Macmillan and how the Tories vied with Labour to build the highest number of council housing stock. But Macmillan was radicalised by his experience of war and understood the need for public services. Those days have gone, more’s the pity, and Johnson’s leadership is just the pits. And the people surrounding him are not much better – I agree they’re very second rate.

      Glad to hear you only had Covid mildly. Thanks Kathy

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  • 30th January 2022 at 18:40
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    Thanks for brilliant article Penny.

    We really are the laughing-stock of the world.

    And Johnson will blame everything on Covid rather than Brexit so he will get away with that as well.

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    • 31st January 2022 at 12:07
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      Actually I see that the Mail and the Express headlines today (we can see them our phones) are full of the iniquities of the EU. I think Brexit will continue to be used as an excuse for years!!!!!

      Thanks Hilary

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  • 31st January 2022 at 11:10
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    Anger and outrage in every line, and rightly so, Penny.
    One tiny correction – the book he was supposedly working on instead of Cobra meetings is on Shakespeare. The Churchill tome was published some years ago and was trashed by historians and critics alike – riddled with factual inaccuracies, appallingly written, and mostly aimed at claiming how like the author Churchill was…
    You don’t touch on Johnson’s psychological makeup; I’m not a psychiatrist, and no psychiatrist would attempt a diagnosis without assessing the subject in person, BUT it seems screamingly obvious to me in Johnson’s every action, every lie, that the man is a full-on psychopath. This would explain everything about him – the self-centredness, the absence of empathy, the inability to see any difference between truth and lies, always acting in his own interest with no regard for others… it’s all there.
    Never mind investigating him, he should be sectioned under the Mental Health Act as a risk to public safety.

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    • 31st January 2022 at 12:20
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      Thanks Chris, I changed the text to Shakespeare – geez can you imagine the mess he’ll make of that!

      I agree that Johnson is a very damaged man. And I think that possibly the system of sending youngsters to boarding school had a lot to do with it. Johnson first went to a boarding school after his mother’s breakdown when he was 11 and he was 13 when he went to Eton, which is later than some boys who are sent when they are 7! There are been a couple of books written by ex-public school boys who talk about the carapace and persona needed to cover the loneliness and loss of that parental love and life that all children need. You can never show any emotion or your true feelings. Everything is a joke and you must not be seen to work too hard. Although Johnson appeared to do well and was popular I think his lack of application was spotted and another commenter has put up a quote from one of his reports.

      Not everyone becomes as damaged as he is but you can see that little boy lost in him and yes he has become a sociopath who just does not care, but carries everything off with a laugh and a joke which is why he has found leading the country through a deadly pandemic so difficult. You can see it is such an effort to be serious.

      To be led by him is just the pits! We couldn’t have a worse PM – the wrong man at the wrong time!

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      • 31st January 2022 at 12:52
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        I recommend ‘Posh Boys; How English Public schools Ruin Britain’ by Robert Verkaik which discusses the very problem you are describing!

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        • 31st January 2022 at 14:19
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          Thanks Lynda – just ordered it!

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  • 31st January 2022 at 11:13
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    My sentiments entirely Penny. Interesting that Cressida Dick has been heavily criticised before and according to the Home Office would have been replaced but there was not another suitable candidate. Yes, I know it’s Ms Patel who BJ saved by ignoring the report that branded her a bully, so draw your own conclusions about the Met’s sudden intervention.
    Apparently BJ’s Latin master at Eton commented in his school report that (Johnson) ‘believes it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception’ & becomes ‘affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility’. Add to this his former Telegraph editor Max Hastings has presented a litany of BJ’s character flaws, concluding that MH would not trust Bj with his wallet or his wife. Need we say more!
    What also worries me in all this is the understandable conclusion, as expressed by Sarah, that all politicians are at best entirely self interested and at worst corruptible. This is very dangerous to democracy which, however imperfect, is still the only system we have in the world that has a chance of prevailing against tyrants and megalomaniacs. The reason so many people want to leave their home countries to come to Europe is because they are the victims of truly corrupt regimes that render citizens dirt poor and oppressed. You only have to read about the sickening things that are happening in Afghanistan to understand this.
    Appalled and repelled as I am by what is happening in our country now and desperately afraid that we are at risk of a ‘slippery slope’ on standards in public life, I try to keep a sense of perspective. It can be hard when you read the latest statement by BJ and the Chancellor, which is full of lies and obfuscation, I will not allow myself to sink into complete cynicism and impotent rage. However, that can be fragile when I get started on health and social care………Grrrh!!

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    • 31st January 2022 at 12:47
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      Thanks Lynda – yes, I agree with you that it is dangerous to become so disillusioned about our politicians we begin to loathe them all and think they are all the same – out for themselves. Actually that’s not true, think of Joe Cox, and now her sister, and David Lammy and so on. Our Labour MP is a bit of a mad leftie but he is also a very good constituency MP. It’s difficult to think of the current good Tories though. For instance Rory Stewart is such a one-off, you rather wonder why he isn’t a Labour man but of course, probably he can’t quite do that because of his class??? But it is this particular government that has followed its leader down a rabbit-hole and we are all the worse for it.

      But I agree with you that we must not let our emotions about our current leaders become overly cynical and we must not sink into impotent rage. The question is what can we do? My take on it is that it we have to be aware and not shut our eyes and ears to what is going on. I wish I was younger as I would be organising marches in the street! And organising the revolution! Otherwise I hope for change at the next general election as I’m not sure if the ‘red wall’ that fell to the Tories will vote the same way after the horrendous rise in the cost of living that is coming to all of us. That’ll be interesting, but as I say that, I am aware that a lot of people are going to be unable to manage their bills and will fall into poverty and hunger – it’s actually awful. I hope at the very least they vote this dire lot out.

      Thanks for your comment

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  • 31st January 2022 at 16:17
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    Couldn’t agree more. This Government has lost it’s way. Change is the only option.

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    • 1st February 2022 at 10:34
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      Thanks Joyce – one can only hope that the red wall that went to the Tories will realise that in reality this particular government is full of charlatans who care only for their ‘mates’ – it s awful but we have to keep going and hope that the electorate see them for what they are.

      Thanks again for your comment

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  • 31st January 2022 at 16:50
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    AlthoughI concur with your blog, and much of the comments made on the back of it, I too am wary of painting every MP as entirely self interested.

    I remember Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, ex-military himself, making that furious and emotional speech in the Commons about the disgraceful way Afghanis had been abandoned after the withdrawal. He didn’t strike me as someone who was only out for himself. I think the decent MPs are being overshadowed by the ones who are more blatantly self serving (on all sides), leading to the cynicism which many of the public are showing.

    I am not a Conservative voter, but I am wary of generalisations which pigeonhole, for instance, every Tory as self-seeking and venal, or every Labour supporter or MP as left leaning lunatics. This just muddies the waters, fails to get to the heart of issues, and polarises and divides in an unhelpful way. When strong political beliefs are in play, there is a danger of confirmation bias – we only agree with or remember information that supports our own beliefs.

    That being said, organisations tend to mirror their leaders, and the culture follows the lead of the person in charge. Anybody who does not follow that lead will be made to feel very uncomfortable. The concept of groupthink means that anyone who challenges the prevailing culture is likely to be sidelined, disempowered or mocked at best, unless they already hold significant power. The best leaders have people around them who will challenge them – something which BJ noticeably does not encourage.

    I believe many people – inside and outside Parliament – would like to see BJ step down, but the problem is there is no truly viable candidate with the stature and farsightedness to replace him. And as yet, I feel the same about the Labour front bench.

    And yes, we absolutely need to be aware of what is being done in our name. I’m not sure marches are the way forward – what about the reported one million people who marched through London against the Iraq War? The only way we have at the moment is the ballot box – it will be interesting to see what happens at the local elections. If people vote, rather than succumb to apathy – and if a significant number of seats fail to turn – or remain – blue, that has to be a wakeup call.

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    • 31st January 2022 at 17:23
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      How very much I agree with you Katherine. I was involved in local politics & did a 4 year stint as a Lib Dem councillor. It is very hard to motivate people to vote if they are disillusioned with all politicians because there are so many ‘safe’ seats where it would take an earthquake to unseat the incumbent MP. I am no longer a member of any political party but would rather self-immolate than vote for any Tory, however apparently decent and honest. As the LD’s in coalition soon discovered, Tories have only one overriding principle which is to keep themselves in government, no matter how they do it.,

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    • 1st February 2022 at 10:44
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      Yes I agree with your sentiment and had forgotten Tom Tugendhat – he really is decent and it would be so much better for the Conservative party to empower people like him to rise to the top, instead we have the morally bankrupt Johnson and a lot of second-raters surrounding him.

      It really isn’t the Tory party I remember. I have never voted Conservative but you couldn’t help admire Macmillan (I am old enough to remember him in power) and what about Alec Douglas-Home, very much a toff but very much a man worthy of high office, and I say that as a Labour voter. For me the rot set in with Thatcher, but she was trustworthy and honest and although she like a whisky she wouldn’t have had any truck with all the gatherings, I’m sure. Nor would Mrs May have any truck with them either – did you see her say her bit in the Commons – like ice!

      So it’s Johnson who has led the Tories down this rabbit-hole. I mean Labour did that with Corbyn, went down a rabbit-hole which it’s finding hard to come out of. At least Starmer would be competent and decent.

      Anyway, one can only hope that the electorate sees what the government is doing and votes the Conservatives out – one can hope – as for all its faults Labour’s intentions are always fairer than the Conservatives.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

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  • 31st January 2022 at 21:07
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    Thank you for the blog Penny and for being able to express my own indignation at the abysmal government we have in power. The waste of public money is nothing short of criminal. History will judge this shower!
    There are some very decent MP’s but the bad ones are causing so much public apathy that its hard to see the wood for the trees. There seem to be very very few statesmen/women about when you look at those waiting in the wings.
    What frightens me is that all across the world there are diabolically awful problems with shades of the 30’s and I worry for our youngsters for the mess they will inherit.

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    • 1st February 2022 at 12:47
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      I agree there are some decent MPs on both sides of the House and it is entirely Johnson and his followers who have brought the Conservative party to its knees as far as morality is concerned. History will not be kind!

      I also agree with you and do worry for my grandchildren’s future. I think climate change is actually the most worrying issue – oh phew – that’s why we have to believe that there are many good people around who will do their best in the circumstances. And actually my 16-yr-old grandson is a very committed to do something – not sure what but he isn’t sticking his head in the sand, good for him and for all the young people who are activists – I back them to the hilt!

      Thanks Sandra

      Reply

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