In times of national crisis, the Tories always seem to be fighting off allegations of sleaze

The Conservatives have had to deal with Partygate, Covid procurement scandals, and rows over dodgy honours when they should have been fixing the NHS and the economy – and now we have new allegations about election gambling

Sometimes over the past five years, it has seemed that the constant stream of controversies and scandals surrounding politicians would wash away any vestige of trust the public had left. Going into the election, however, it felt like we might finally be able to rid ourselves of the persistent offenders and refresh not just our parliament but the attitudes within it.

But no sooner had the ink dried on the first leaflets than we were hit with a fresh wave of allegations, with two candidates and a police officer at the centre of claims about betting on the election date. The gambling commission launched an investigation and my party called for a Cabinet Office inquiry.

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My own reaction was utter dismay. I don’t blame the public for believing that many of us are focused on nothing other than turning a fast buck instead of working for those we are elected to serve. At this point, I should confess that I have placed the odd wager on the Grand National but not a lot else.

As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson spent considerable time and effort trying to defend himself over the Partygate scandal (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson spent considerable time and effort trying to defend himself over the Partygate scandal (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
As Prime Minister, Boris Johnson spent considerable time and effort trying to defend himself over the Partygate scandal (Picture: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

And to be clear, betting on election results, which nobody can know, is not an issue. Neither is a responsible gambling industry in which vulnerable people are protected.

What dismays me is that, at a crucial point for our country, instead of stories about visionary policies to save our beleaguered National Health Service and repair the economy, the media is again full of allegations of sleaze. Perhaps it should come as no surprise.

This is, after all, the government which brought us Partygate, the Covid procurement scandals, and some questionable-at-best honours recipients. On doorsteps all over the country, voters regularly tell us that they have lost faith in politics.

While that might personally sting, the bigger issue is what it means for our democracy. Whatever challenges the country has faced over the past five years of Brexit, the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, the public should have been able to depend on the ethics of those in whom they put their faith. That behind closed doors they consider how to invest in more GPs, sort out the shortage of dentists, and tackle our housing crisis.

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Allegations of any type of impropriety, especially for personal gain, are unacceptable. Who can blame the public for any doubts, particularly when Holyrood has also produced more than its own fair share of shockers. And yet more began to emerge this past week.

As a country, we are entitled to expect better, much better, from our governing parties in both Westminster and Edinburgh than we have experienced over the past five years. From the first inkling that an election might be not far off, the word on everyone’s lips has been ‘change’.

Then it was generally taken as a change of government and direction. Now it seems we may need much more. It’s time we made sure that those returned to Westminster in July are prepared to change the way things are done. Snuff out the sleaze and corruption once and for all. Public service must be our guiding principle.

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We need those inspiring visions which can restore the public’s faith that it is their best interests – and only that – which motivates our politicians.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat Candidate for Edinburgh West

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