Local elections will happen this week. Nothing that will change the House of Commons, but local councils are up for grabs. And the Tories are worried. There are rumblings of discontent in even the safest Tory seats. The Government knows people are angry. These local elections will be an indication of which people are angry; how many people are angry, and just how angry those people are.
I don’t think they care what people are angry about. Boris Johnson has yet to implement a policy that meets with universal, or even 60% approval. He even got flack about the extra Bank Holiday for the Jubilee, because he moved the late May Bank Holiday, which screwed up some people’s plans. I don’t think that was enough to change anyone’s party affiliation, but it might have been the final straw for some.
It’s not the Tory policies that are going to cost them. If you’re a conservative, you probably believe in benefit cuts and tax breaks for the wealthy and increasing the divide between Us and Them. It’s the behaviour of our esteemed government that has turned so many people’s minds, votes and stomachs.
You can’t blame the Tories for the Pandemic, (I would if I could), but you can scrutinise their handling of it. When the plague hit, the Old Boys Network swung into action, with PPE and Covid related contracts being doled out to the donors, business associates and old friends of the Tory Hierarchy. Had these contracts been fulfilled in a cost effective and efficient manner, I wouldn’t quibble with the favouritism, but of course they weren’t. The contracts went to people either unable to supply the necessary good and services or who charged well over market value for them. Voters are disgusted and frustrated that in a life and death situation, our leaders still put patronage above all.
And then, of course, there’s Partygate. As the country did it’s best to cope with lockdowns, the champagne was flowing at No.10. People were fined for meeting in a park, in the open air. Meanwhile, the Head of the ETHICS Committee was providing the Karaoke machine for a Downing St rave. So many offensive things in this. That they ignored the rules they made and partied when no one else was allowed to is the least of it. It’s that they partied while people suffered and died alone, without the comfort of their families. That they partied while people were unable to say good bye to their spouses or parents or friends. And when all the revelations of parties came out, it’s how they squirmed and slithered away from taking any responsibility, saying the parties didn’t happen, or they happened but they weren’t against the rules, or that they didn’t know what the rules were. If, when all this started coming out last year, Boris Johnson had simply said ‘We did it, It was wrong, We’re sorry’ the whole scandal would be forgotten by now and he’d be in a stronger political position.
The government keeps trying to dismiss Partygate, saying it’s an irrelevant distraction from more serious issues and the British Public are tired of it, all of which is kind of true. We are tired of people in power trying to skitter away from taking responsibility. If they can’t show some decorum and duty on the inconsequential stuff, how can we trust them with the stuff that matters?
The cost-of-living crisis, the supply chain crisis, the energy crisis; all of these are reducing the standard of living for all but the richest, so 95% of the population. The government solution is to brainstorm ideas that won’t cost the government any money, while ignoring the only potential sources of income; a wealth tax on the top 5% and a windfall tax on energy companies that have recorded record profits in the last few years. People are looking to the government for policies, actions, not tips on how to stretch your weekly shopping budget with these recipes from rationing books.
There has always been government corruption. There has always been a tendency for those in power to look after themselves. But I think there has also always been an expectation that in times of extreme crisis, the government will make hard decisions that put the country first. In the last few years, we have seen how the tories look after their own. In the last few months, we have seen they don’t care that we see it.
When an MP was exposed for lobbying on behalf of companies that employ him, while he in also an MP, this government sought to change the rules to make what he did acceptable. FYI, if your only defence is ‘It’s not against the rules’, you are definitely doing something wrong. When Sue Gray was about the release her scathing report on Partygate, the government quashed it by announcing a police investigation. The country gave a frustrated sigh at that, as we all knew the police would drag their feet before ultimately letting the government off. The £50 fines they have issued an embarrassment, a joke and an insult.
And the disgusting behaviour is not just a matter of policy, it’s personal behaviour as well. MP Neil Parish was caught watching Porn on his phone, in the Commons, sitting next to a female PM. He said it came up accidently, and that he was searching tractors. Both of these statements raise more questions than they answer. If porn comes up on your phone accidently, it must be something you access far too often. If it comes up in a search for tractors, how did you phrase your request? Eventually he admitted it wasn’t the first time he’d done it.
In other news, an anonymous MP accused Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner of crossing her legs in an attempt to distract BoJo during PMQs, calling it a ‘Fully clothed version of basic instinct’. This was published in the Mail on Sunday, who have refused to name the MP who said it. Honestly, this disgusting allegation says more about the MP who said it, and about the general view of BoJo’s lack of self-control than it does about Angela Rayner, who had the audacity to be a woman and wear a skirt.
Women in Parliament have finally had enough, overwhelming the civil service with complaints about handsy MPs, rude and disparaging jokes, and generally ungentlemanly behaviour. There is even a rumour that one of the Lockdown parties at No10 had a Sexist of the Year Award.
Men shouldn’t have to be told this behaviour is wrong. And for them men who complain they don’t know how women want them to behave, here’s a guideline: You don’t have to hold the door open for me, and if you do, you don’t have to stare at my ass as I walk through it.
Accountability, Courtesy, Competence, Honesty, Equality: These do not seem like they are a high bar to meet, and still the government fails.
If the secret to happiness is low expectations, we should all be ecstatic right now. And yet we’re not. apparently our expectations are not low enough.