Boris Johnson told COP26 Britain was not a corrupt country but his premiership suggests otherwise - Alexander Brown

In November of last year, the Prime Minister told COP26 Britain was not a corrupt country.

His government was under fire at the time over its backing of Owen Paterson for breaching lobbying rules.

Boris Johnson took the matter so seriously he whipped his own MPs to say it was OK, sparking a sleaze scandal that threatened to engulf his government.

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The notion of a Prime Minister using an event aiming to save the world to insist Britain was not corrupt would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is surrounded by police as he arrives at Glasgow Central station on November 9, 2021. Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images

And what’s more, it isn’t entirely true.

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If British democracy isn’t corrupt, it is at best fundamentally broken, with party loyalty and self preservation holding far more weight than doing the right thing.

Whether it’s denying parties happened with a straight face, overruling reports into ministers, or taking money from questionable sources, the UK government has failed to hold itself to the standards we expect from our elected officials.

We are told to believe there are higher standards and balances to keep them in check, but the government marks its own homework and laughs in the face of its citizens.

Forget Scottish nationalists wanting to leave, why would anyone be proud to be part of this?

Consider the Downing Street parties, which have now seen more police fines (20) than Mr Johnson interviews with Scottish newspapers since he declared himself the Minister for the Union (0).

Even as the fines went out, the Prime Minister told MPs the rules were not broken.

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Mr Johnson knows what he says is not true, he is lying, but we are all to pretend otherwise.

This is a man who shared his fury at the video of spokesperson Allegra Stratton joking about the parties, and even told MPs he was certain no rules were broken, despite attending them himself.

MPs were so furious many submitted letters demanding he go, only to change their mind when one of their number defected to Labour.

Sure, partying at a time when people couldn’t see dying loved ones is bad, but have you ever seen someone cross the floor?

Worse still, some at news organisations knew about the parties and said nothing.

Britain has long experienced a revolving door between its biggest institutions and newspapers, with the latter ignoring big stories for the price of access.

The Sun's deputy editor knew parties were taking place as one was held in his honour before leaving his role as Downing Street Director of Communications.

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Of course he’s not going to report himself, but the nature of crossing over back and forth, something he is not alone in, undermines our media and its role in holding government to account.

And we know they don’t do it themselves, with the rules seemingly designed to protect those who breach them.

Consider the Home Secretary Priti Patel, a woman who once tried to offer up foreign aid money to the Israeli military while on holiday.

Alex Allan, Mr Johnson’s independent adviser on the ministerial code, resigned last year after the Prime Minister chose not to act on a critical report about Ms Patel’s alleged bullying.

As the ultimate arbiter of the ministerial code, Mr Johnson just decided she had not breached the code in a decision even now a union is challenging in court.

British politics enables you to break the rules, get away with it and hold one of our highest offices as long as you’re an ally of the Prime Minister, who of course has his own creative relationship with the rules.

Last year, Labour demanded an investigation by the Met into the Prime Minister over how the Downing Street flat refurbishment was funded.

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The Prime Minister said he met all the costs personally, an investigation was launched and it emerged actually donors paid for it, something Downing Street did not declare and had denied.

This is not a simple error in a rush to get things required for governance, like with PPE, it is just a bizarre falsehood without cause, and again, without repercussion.

After Mr Johnson’s ethics adviser, Christopher Geidt, launched an investigation into the refurbishment, he was promised new powers by the end of March. This has naturally now been delayed.

Then there is Jennifer Arcuri, a woman desperate for attention but seemingly not quite needy enough to actually reveal things.

The police watchdog previously looked into Mr Johnson's ex-lover, but concluded the American businesswoman had not benefited from the then London mayor abusing his position.

This conclusion was drawn without ever speaking to Arcuri, who has now agreed to assist officials.

This all comes on top of his holiday at a Spanish villa owned by the family of minister Lord Zac Goldsmith, something he refused to publish details of on the Register of Member's Interests.

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The current conclusions may not speak to corruption, but leave an unease and bad taste in the mouth that this is how our leader conducts himself.

This government has handed public sector jobs to supporters, awarded Covid contracts to VIPs, appointed a Russian oligarch to the House of Lords against the advice of officials and unlawfully fast-tracked a building project for a Conservative donor.

Ministers send disappearing messages so they dodge being FOI’d, the former communities secretary gave his affluent seat £25m from the controversial Towns Fund.

Such things are not isolated incidents, but patterns of behaviour from a government that is either corrupt or keeps accidentally doing very bad things.

Tory MPs knew what Mr Johnson was when they supported him for leader, a winner with a questionable relationship with the truth.

This is no argument for independence, but the simple truth of a leader whose premiership sees British democracy a fish that rots from the head down.

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