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Plenty of excuses when what we need is honesty

April 29, 2021 11:46 PM
By Frances Kneller, Liberal Democrat Unitary Candidate for Chesham and candidate for Chesham Town Council

Frances Kneller, Lib Dem Unitary Candidate for Chesham asks 'Are the British people slowly waking up, and realising that it's not coffee or roses they're smelling?'.

If the latest opinion polls are anything to go by, they certainly are. An Ipsos Mori poll found that the Tory party's approval ratings had been slashed by five percentage points between March and April, following weeks of revelations about Tory corruption, lobbying and, more recently, the refurbishment of the prime minister's flat. Questionable behaviours and attitudes in Boris Johnson's government are reaching new heights but the seeds appear to have been sown by a previous Tory PM - David Cameron.

Boris Johnson's has a track record of dishonesty. It has cost him at least two jobs as a journalist, as well as the demise of personal relationships. As London's Mayor, he took Ms. Acuri on taxpayer-funded trade missions and grants were given to her technology company, all the while he was having an affair with her. Meanwhile, back at No.10 fellow Etonian old boy David Cameron was giving city boy Lex Greensill access to top civil servants to pursue a novel moneymaking scheme.

After Mr Cameron left office, Mr Greensill employed him as an adviser - and gave him stock options worth tens of millions of pounds. When the company ran into trouble, the former prime minister then privately lobbied the chancellor of the exchequer, albeit unsuccessfully, for hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayer-funded loans to save the business from collapse.

But this is not a rogue example of Tory corruption, deviousness and deceit. Awarding £12.5bn worth of pandemic-related contracts without a competitive tender process through a VIP Fast track; the Home Secretary, who had previously been sacked by Theresa May for breaking the ministerial code, does so again following proven allegations of bullying, but inaction by Boris Johnson forces the resignation of the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Standards, who is still to be replaced; the on-going 'jobs for the boys' approach to appointing well- connected people to uncontested highly paid roles; or bestowing peerages on supporters, including Johnson's brother Jo. There are no checks and balances in the blatant misuse of public office by ministers such as Robert Jenrick either in his dealings with Tory donor Richard Desmond, or allocating 'levelling up' funding to Tory constituencies. The litany of corruption continues and spirals to dizzy heights.

A VIP fast track for PPE contracts, jobs, public appointments, access to funds, loans, donations and finances, often awarded on basis that appear surprising, questionable or even, illegal.

Many thought sleaze had had the 'disinfection of sunshine' following the expenses scandal, but it seems we were sadly mistaken. The stink of corruption, cronyism, exceptionalism, entitlement and bullying is wafting from the corridors of power. For a country renowned for, and justifiably proud of, its sense of 'fair play' 'good manners' and 'respecting the rule of law', recent revelations have left many Britons deeply shocked and dismayed.

Plain, simple, honest values we believe in, expect of others and instil in our children are being diminished. We now have an indifferent Prime Minister who appears to sanction, and even practise this behaviour, with his own interpretation of the Nolan's Principles of Standards in Public Life.

There is profound surprise that the checks and balances we believed to be in place to contain and control dodgy dealings, favouritism, nepotism and self-interest are being ignored, circumvented or are just not fit for purpose. We see time and time again, that it is not 'what you know, but who you know', and is increasingly the key to opportunities, power and easy wealth for the favoured few. By benefit of birth, education, marriage or being the landlord of your MP's local, using the 'old boys' networks', 'you scratch my back….' jobs for the boys (and occasionally, girls)' these privileges allow some to act with impunity.

Avarice is the order of the day and appears endemic in some parts of our political establishment. Well-heeled people, with cosy political connections, are seen to increase their personal wealth at the expense of the taxpayer. Meanwhile, benefit overpayments going back seventeen years amounting to pennies in the scheme of things are being doggedly pursued. Is austerity only for the little people?

Whether it is dodgy contracts, texts for tax or favours, jobs for their mates, or abandoning the Nolan principles, the stench of sleaze, cronyism and scandal is becoming overwhelming as the Tories close ranks and the Prime Minister denies, prevaricates and obfuscates. Will anyone be held to account, or anything change? Time will tell.