“Sleaze” is an Understatement: This Government is Rigging the System

November 5, 2021

The Government has yet again become entangled in an embarrassing corruption scandal, culminating in another U-turn from the PM on Thursday.

After an extensive report found (now former) MP Owen Paterson guilty of “egregious” violations of lobbying rules, the PM and many others in his party voted to do away with established ethics rules and block his 30-day suspension in order to cover for him.

When opposition leaders boycotted the new Conservative-led Committee to create new ethics rules and public outrage came to a head, the plan disintegrated. The PM has since called for a new vote to effectively undo the entire ordeal, scheduled for next week. Owen Paterson has resigned, yet still proclaims his innocence.

This is by no means the first public corruption scandal (or U-turn) of this calibre under this administration. The PM’s eye-watering disregard for any semblance of ethical governance has held much of civil society and the public in nearly perpetual shock over the last couple of years.

This administration’s brash and unapologetic rejection of established norms, as well as its knee-jerk inclination to protect its own, signals to the public that fairness and decency are not a part of its agenda. Unfortunately, this current of corruption isn’t just limited to its managing of scandals, but infests all of its political operations.

Unfairness is a cornerstone of this Government’s political strategy; it’s aiming to silence opposition by rigging the system in its favour. This is abundantly clear from the legislation we’ve seen put forward since 2019. 

The Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, currently in Committee Stage in the House of Lords, would impede citizen’s rights to protest peacefully and grant authoritarian stop and search powers which will disproportionately affect people of colour.

The Judicial Review and Courts Bill, making its way through the Commons, would limit access to justice for many by removing their right to hold lawmakers accountable.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, also in the Commons, would make arriving in the UK without permission a criminal offence, with the Government aiming to “abdicate its commitments to international law”.

The common thread in both the PM’s conduct and the legislation put forward by ministers is that this Government refuses to be held accountable and will do everything it can to rig the system in its favour. Ethical principles have been tossed aside, viewed as barriers to power consolidation.

This brings us to the Elections Bill.

While the Government’s narrative around this bill has been one of “common sense” paired with a vague concern for non-existent voter fraud (perfectly mirroring one of Donald Trump’s famous campaign strategies), such a motive flies in the face of everything we’ve seen this Government willing to do to consolidate power. They’ve publicly demonstrated disdain for human rights, apathy towards regular Britons, and a prioritisation of their own political power above all else.

What have they done to give us any reason to believe those intentions, even for a second? 

That narrative does not hold an ounce of water when you look at what’s actually in this bill.

They’d have us believe it’s simply a coincidence that the type of IDs accepted under the new voter identification scheme the bill introduces happen to belong to strong Conservative demographics.

They want you to think there’s an actual reason to limit postal and proxy voting, outside of sheer Trumpian anti-democratic power consolidation.

They hope you’ll just trust them on the Bill’s politicisation of the Electoral Commission, forcing the most important democratic institution in this country under their partisan control.

Do not trust their narrative when the real story has been in plain sight for years. Don’t listen when they tell you to ignore the evidence of your own eyes and ears. 

With all the talk of “sleaze,” let’s recognise that there is a deeper and far more sinister underlying intent, evident in both the shameful and unending string of political scandals and the actual legislative agenda of this Government.

The intent is to rig the system in its favour, step on opposition, and consolidate as much power as possible. 

This goes against everything modern Britain stands for and undermines the hard-earned achievements of past generations before us in establishing a democratic and free society.

Let’s pause and re-think whether this is truly what we want for our country.

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