A plague on all houses: no party is passing the honesty test - Brian Monteith
I say this not as a critic or defender of any one particular party, for there is no party with a monopoly on virtue or political sin. They all have their moments when the darker side they would prefer us not to see is suddenly brought out into the open.
What is less common is for the rank hypocrisy or dirty secrets to all be unmasked at the same time. Last week was one of those rare occasions when the planets of shame aligned and it was not a pleasant sight.
No matter who you choose, every mainstream party is letting down its supporters. Even while the Conservatives bob around at the low forties in opinion polls – enough to maintain a comfortable lead over Labour – the level of support for Boris Johnson is a rollercoaster ride of low peaks and deep troughs.
What this tells me is there are many who only express support for the Conservatives because they believe the alternatives to be far worse. I think it would be quite revealing exercise were pollsters to dig deeper and ask those sampled if their vote is a positive choice in favour of a particular party or a negative one representing the best means to negate a party they most fear.
For instinctive conservatives – by which I mean people who believe individuals should generally be as free as is possible without harming the liberties of others, living under the rule of law with light government and prudent finances requiring no more than modest taxes supporting public services and welfare – there is currently great concern they voted for Johnson and got Blair, or even worse, Corbyn. They see a government spending like a drunk living on tick; acting recklessly with the public finances like a gambler believing the next horse will be its salvation; and making seductive promises it never intends to keep. Oh, “if only we had the Conservative Government I voted for”, I often hear them say.
If hypocrisy and hubris were only limited to Conservatives then everyone else might feel a tad more optimistic for the future, but it is not.
If we had a better opposition then the Conservatives would have to change or face electoral defeat – but thanks to the unpalatability of Labour ordinary voters are driven towards Johnson’s Conservatives and they do not alter their unconservative behaviour.
The week where a Conservative parliamentary standards debacle reared its head we also saw a Labour MP handed a suspended custodial sentence following conviction for threatening an acid attack on a woman. The Labour Party has expelled Claudia Webbe but she remains an MP unless a recall petition takes place and gains enough support. Some might say she is only one bad apple but there have been 7 Labour MPs convicted of crimes punishable by custodial sentences in the last ten years.
Don’t worry, you might think, at least I can save the world by voting Scottish Green Party – but even this once pious act is a journey to the altar of Janus. What price the ability of Scottish Greens to criticise the Scottish Government or advocate their own past policies? Now we all know, it’s the price of their two MSPs having their salaries elevated by £30,000 each to ministerial levels.
Now Patrick Harvey and Lorna Slater will vote against their once earnest and sober environmental policies, defend the repeated failure of the SNP Government to deliver on green targets – and attack Greenpeace – by accusing the campaign group for misunderstanding Scotland. Only a few months ago the same politicians were extolling Greenpeace as their world-wide trailblazer.
Then, of course there is the SNP, a party I have left to last as I have so often covered the personal failings of its leading politicians such as Derek Mackay or its litany of public service disasters increasing needless deaths of those most at risk in our often hard unforgiving world. Even the most loyal of nationalists can now surely see Nicola Sturgeon will not deliver independence and remains in power only for the sake of enjoying power while it lasts.
If conservatives wish their party would be truly Conservative; if the working class wish Labour would represent them rather than single issue woke campaigners; if nationalists wish the SNP would for once offer a credible plan to convince Scots independence was worth the candle; if environmentalists wish for Greens to be true to their cause rather than greenwash nationalists taking the taxpayers’ shilling – but all are destined to remain frustrated – then there is surely a failure in our political system needing to be corrected.
Who will address It? We now have three by-elections coming up – can anyone, someone, convince voters to be given a chance to break the mainstream party system? We need someone to step forward to hold the Government to account. Someone who cannot be bought or bullied into saying one thing then doing another – to work with other parties rather than oppose simply for its own sake or seek power for self-indulgence or aggrandisement.
Without someone to make our parties honest our democracy remains in great peril.
Brian Monteith is editor of ThinkScotland.org and previously served in the Scottish and European Parliaments for the Conservative and Brexit Parties respectively.
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