A couple of weeks ago, as the allegations of numerous parties in Downing Street during lock down started to gain traction, I remarked that if Johnson survived this self-inflicted crisis it would be the final proof that the Westminster system is irredeemably broken and utterly incapable of holding the powerful to account, even when they break the rules in the most brazen and egregious manner.
After a rocky week, and with the senior civil servant Sue Gray yet to deliver her report, it looks as though the Conservative rebellion against Johnson is losing steam, it may flare up again once the Gray report is published, even though that report will doubtless provide Johnson with sufficient wriggle room to allow Johnson to get off the hook and once more escape the consequences of his actions, as he has done throughout his miserable entitled life. There are some Conservative MPs who claim that Johnson has been chastened by the experience and has learned his lesson. It’s hard to say whether they are stupid, lying, delusional, or simply trying to move the public narrative on, or possibly some combination of all of those, because surviving his recent difficulties with his job intact will only teach Johnson one thing, that he yet again has got away with it and that he will continue to get away with it in the future.
Johnson has certainly signalled to his critics that he’s not going to go easily, If they were hoping that the Gray report would make him hand in his resignation for the good of the party, they are in for a big disappointment. What’s for the good of the UK as a whole, what’s for the good of standards in public office or for British democracy does not register in the calculations of Conservative MPs. Johnson is a creature in their image, the only interests that any of them attach any importance to are their own. They want Johnson to go for their own self-interests, he’s equally determined to stay for his.
It was reported today that Gray has seen the email from a senior official to Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds, warning him the 20 May party should not go ahead. This will make it harder for Johnson to maintain his obvious lie that he didn’t realise it was a party. But of course Johnson will say he never saw that email. Or that Reynolds never told him about it. And the report will merely repeat Johnon’s words since it’s not Gray’s job to draw conclusions.
Number 10 has mounted a ferocious campaign to keep Johnson in office. If the reports appearing in the press today are to be believed, and as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has observed, the allegations are shocking but not surprising, this Conservative government is using the tactics of gangsters in order to keep Johnson in power. Tory whips are reportedly threatening and intimidating back bench Conservative MPs that if they do not get in line and support Johnson, then embarrassing and damaging stories about them will find their way to the press, which can only mean that there are plenty of damaging stories about the Conservatives which have not yet seen the light of day, and that this venal and corrupt party is even more venal and corrupt than we realise so far.
One senior Tory, and critic of Johnson, has even gone so far as to call on his colleagues to report instances of what he described as attempted blackmail to the Speaker’s office and to the police. William Wragg, the Conservative MP for Hazel Grove in Greater Manchester and the chair of the influential Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee, claimed that Government whips were in breach of the ministerial code by threatening potential rebels by telling them that unless they get behind Johnson their constituencies would face the loss of hundreds of thousands of pound of so-called levelling up funds.
If true this would be a criminal offence and rank and blatant corruption and signal the descent of the UK into the status of a kleptocratic gangster state. Levelling up funds are public money , they are supposed to be used for the public good, not to further the party political goals of powerful factions within the Conservative party. There have already been numerous reports that the Levelling up funds are being disproportionately spent in constituencies represented by influential Conservatives, this is the final proof that the Conservatives believe that the resources of the state and public monies are their private property, to be used to further their party political aims and to further entrench their rule.
These are the same funds which the Conservatives are using to sideline and undermine the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Senedd.
In his desire to save his own skin, Johnson is behaving like a mafia boss, threatening and intimidating his opponents, and misusing public funds in order to bribe back bench Tories to support him.
Yet in the broken and failed Westminster system, it is the same government against which the allegations are being made which is in charge of investigating the allegations and deciding whether the ministerial code has indeed been broken, and if so, what if any consequences there ought to be. Johnson has claimed that he has seen no evidence to support the allegations made by Wragg, allegations which were also made by Christian Wakeford, the former Tory MP for Bury South who yesterday defected to Labour, surprise surprise. And likewise it will be no surprise that if ever there is an investigation into these allegations of gangster criminality at the very heart of the British Government, it will find that no laws had been broken and that no one except possibly some lowly and inconsequential figure will be held to account, which in any case will amount to nothing more than a rap across the knuckles for what will be described as a minor infringement of the rules.
This government is not only corrupt, the UK is being governed by shameless gangsters and there is absolutely nothing in what passes for a British Constitution that allows anyone to hold them to account. The strongest argument for independence is that it is the only way that Scotland can ensure it gets governments which it can vote out of office and whose powers are constrained by a proper written constitution. Democracy itself depends upon it.
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