Editor's Column: An Environment of Distrust
Sometimes it’s just the stark immorality, the irrationality, the sheer ugly insanity of it all, when reflected in a baying mob turned vigilante, that pulls you up short and offers the clarity of vision to see the poison that has infected this country’s political discourse.
And that the death of a healthy democracy is personified in the one man that we now call prime minister is indeed astonishing.
From outside of a parliament where what is said inside had already directly led to elected members having lost their lives, we now witness such a debasement of politics that a leader of the opposition has had to be led away under heavy police guard because the prime minister, knowing that his words can whip up a fury, propagates a lie about him to save his own miserable skin.
Boris Johnson is a disgrace.
He will do anything to cling onto power and if that means weaponising the tortured victims of Jimmy Savile to cast aspersions on the leader of the Labour Party when he was Director of Public Prosecutions, in full knowledge that populist conspiracy theories, rooted in myths about paedophilia and establishment cover-ups, are just red meat to the followers of the likes of QAnon whose ideologies have infiltrated our shores, then so be it.
Johnson doesn’t care.
The prime minister knew the power of implying that Keir Starmer had deliberately let a serial child sex abuser get away with it. He knew he was giving the wink to the wilder anti-vax, anti-establishment, anti-authority, fringes that have served him well. He knew he was throwing petrol on that fire. He knew he would wound survivors. And he knew it was a lie. But he didn’t care because what mattered to him was his own survival.
And after months, years, if not a lifetime, of ‘getting away with it’, of being caught lying, of bribing, of passing the buck, of disloyalty, of breaking the rules, of ignoring parliamentary protocols, turning a blind eye to lobbyists, cheats and ministerial bullies, humiliating allies, and of operating on a policy brief of sheer uncontrolled mendacity, this time, Johnson failed to read [even his own side of] the room.
So yes, outside parliament, the gullible, the angry and the ignorant, set about attacking Starmer, but inside the House, Johnson was losing ground.
The Savile smear was unpalatable to even the most loyal of his allies, while for the rest of us, it was just another demonstration of how low this snake can go.
Johnson has sucked the integrity from our politics. He has created an environment of distrust where facts and evidence are no longer viewed as the truth and where subjective opinions pass for gospel.
It’s a Trumpian perspective where black can be argued to be white and where the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, the woman charged with overseeing the quality of our broadcasters, can, bizarrely, point-blank refuse during a television interview to acknowledge the indisputable fact that it was untrue of the PM to say that Starmer was responsible for not prosecuting Savile. Instead, she told the interviewer she only had his word as a journalist for that.
What times we are living in.
We are led by a double-dealing, duplicitous clown who only has regard for himself and ridiculously for a legislator of the country, is only being saved from the imminent axe because of a police investigation into his lies, of which we already have the photographic truth.
This prime minister is the worst PM in my lifetime, and I lived through the Thatcher years. But his layers of deceit have only helped inure us to his character. We are becoming numbed to how this one person can be banged to rights so many times and yet still carry on regardless.
He is truly a man with no shame; a man with no regard for the dignity or privilege of high office or for the public he serves.
The former Conservative prime minister, John Major, has warned that the very bedrock of democracy is under threat because of Johnson and that parliament “has a duty” to act.
And yet for viewers in Scotland, who didn’t vote for Boris or for Boris’s Brexit, we are told there is a better way. The way of independence. And yet despite Johnson’s moral failings, despite Brexit, despite the pandemic, the hostility, the brutishness, the cost-of-living crisis, the SNP has done little to move the dial on support for that independence dream.
Nicola Sturgeon has promised to do “everything that’s within my power” to hold a referendum next year. But with Boris as the only argument currently being deployed as a reason for ‘yes’, he could soon be gone and then what?
The last independence referendum was lost on the numbers and here we are again, with a campaign not even begun, and the SNP already tied in knots over pensions.
Independence might appeal to the heart, for many that is an argument already won. Heavens, even the Tory MP and arch-Unionist Andrew Bowie admits he can understand that passionate appeal. But ultimately, independence will only be won on the practicalities, the nuts and bolts, the economics, and the details of what happens to your money and mine and how it will be spent. That work still clearly needs to be done.
And if your proposition to build a better future for Scots rests simply on the failings of one man then you’ll need more than just platitudes and wishful thinking to get us there.