Standards and Conduct
Collapse, decay and decadence are all around us as the power base of the village of Westminster unravels in howls of fury and joy. Lord Sewell’s exposure is only the very latest in a slew of disastrous scandals and debasement’s as the rotten corpse of British politics lies stinking-out the public realm.
As the British state tries to manage MI5 Spin in Scotland and Ireland and we await (endlessly) the Chilcott Report, the latest in the endless stream of pointless after-the-fact- establishment inquiries (try this one for joy), the real lesson, the real effrontery, is not the great Lord’s sexual deviancy, as Suzanne Moore puts it, ‘this is six-figure scrounging’:
“…the allowance for peers is £300 a day, though it does not apply to Sewel. He is paid £120,000 a year, made up of his salary for his part-time work chairing committees in the Lords (£84,525) and his allowance of £36,000 for maintaining a home in London. He complains that he is struggling, and when one of the women asks if his £200 allowance pays for his lunch, he replies: “It’s not lunch luvvie darling, it’s paying for this.”
This feels like we’ve burst a dam of dissent and a collapsing of popular belief in our institutions. As the Prime Minister casually dispenses with democracy while stuffing the Lords with Tory peers – the Lords – where people still talk idly of ‘reform’ – as they have for over 100 years – is the perfect example of why Britain is a unreformable state. It’s a political entity which must be abandoned not appeased.
And where are Labour? In either capitulation or full-scale panic as the political equivalent of the horrors descend on a party allergic to principle and lobotomised by Blairism. As Alex Andreo writes:
“All this shows a profound lack of understanding about how the political landscape is shaped by all parties, not just the one governing. See how UKIP have defined the European debate. Observe how a young SNP MPs speech can go viral. A vigorous opposition that articulates a clear alternative, can be infinitely more useful that an “electable” one that rolls over on every issue. An effective opposition is an integral part of our democracy and has been sadly absent. We need someone to drag the landscape to the left or, at least, halt its inexorable Thatcherite slide to the right.”
This new force, whether it’s the veteran Bernie Saunders in Vermont – or the unlikely Jeremy Corbyn are plugging the gap filled with 30 years of a failed cosy consensus on the right and is the inevitable outcome of a culture of contentment and entitlement from Clegg to Carmichael. Now here we are – pitched up in 2015 – with Sewell relaxing in his salmon pink bra and poor Michael Forsyth worried “the Union is hanging by a thread” and David Mundell heckled as he turns up for a now routine Foodbank opening. The picture of the fag-end of a rotten regime in its dying days with an utter loss of legitimacy and mandate could scarcely be clearer.
We described the Westminster and Holyrood elections before as the ‘undertaker and midwife’ – now Corbyn and a renewed English left are fetching the water and hot towels and fishing out the embalming fluids. This is over – and a massive new election result next year will take us over the threshold with a huge organised force in all of our parliamentary bodies for independence. The indefensible union has become a cracked and broken prospect. We’re not going to have to wait many years to see transformative change in this country. As someone once said, in what seems like an eternity ago: “bring it on.”