2007 - 2021

Sleazy Broken Britain


John Major called it “shameful” and most of the country watched in jaw-dropped awe as the Tory regime this week took Britain into further levels of naked political corruption. As the debacle unfolds it emerges this corruption has a precise cost. £3 million donations guarantees you a place in the Lords. But it’s also a state where institutionalised racism has been normalised. The Owen Paterson affair, the appalling cases of the police treatment of sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, and to a lesser extent the and the abuse faced by Azeem Rafiq paint a picture of a deeply troubled country.

This week also saw a policeman jailed for feigning injury while claiming full pay. It may seem trivial next to the huge political furore but in passing sentence Judge Robert Pawson said the case had come “during one of the worst years in recent policing history” saying: “This year there has been a police officer dealt with for kidnap, rape and murder … two others this week were dealt with for taking photographs of a dead body and now this case – it’s of a far less offence – but it will affect public confidence in the police service.”

The collective effect is to present a country in which the powerful act with impunity, a country stained with deep and systemic racism and in which key institutions are corrupt and broken. How can it be that after the disastrous slew of scandals that she has presided over Cressida Dick is still in post? How is it conceivable that Boris Johnson – after last weeks shocking actions (which everyone says were directed from No 10) that Johnson is still in office?

Sometimes the stream of sleaze is so constant its difficult to discern outstanding events, so it may be worth a recap.

It may seem a small thing from a Scottish perspective that Yorkshire County Cricket Club is embroiled in a racism controversy, but its hard to over-estimate the importance of the club or the game in English cultural life. The matter isn’t trivial either.

Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the wider sport are currently mired in allegations of racism in the game and the way such claims are handled. Azeem Rafiq was found to have been a victim of “racial harassment and bullying” while playing for the team – but no one was punished. The response from Yorkshire CCC has prompted widespread criticism, with club chairman Roger Hutton resigning. Lord Kamlesh Patel of Bradford has now been appointed director and chair of the club.

Yorkshire are already under pressure after revelations that batsman Gary Ballance called his former team-mate Rafiq a ‘P***’ — an epithet the club concluded was part of ‘friendly and good-natured banter’.

On Wednesday, Ballance apologised but not before sponsors began cutting ties with the county.

And last night  Ashes-winning captain Michael Vaughan revealed he was another of those accused by Rafiq, denying the claim that he said in 2009: “Too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” in relation to the off spinner and other Asian team-mates.

Now another player has come forward saying his career was ruined as the club ignored him – and reveals a team-mate URINATED on his head from a hotel room above.

The player said: “I experienced racism from fellow players both direct and indirect. Believe it or not, I had a player p*** on my head from the hotel bedroom above, as I was on the phone leaning out of my room window. Let alone the numerous racist comments both blatant and sly. The coach at the time said ignore it and that he would deal with it. They never did.”

In another story, the player said he overheard ‘senior players’ — both still involved at Yorkshire —talking about ‘how they “sh**ged a bird” in the hotel room who was on her period and made a mess, and all they could find is a Muslim player’s prayer mat to clean it up. Sick or what. These are supposed to be your team-mates and people I looked up to.”

All this was dismissed as “locker room” stuff and “banter”.

It speaks to post-Brexit England as a country where racism is endemic and normalised – and people in positions of authority and power are both useless and unassailable. Perhaps none of this is surprising after Brexit, a phenomenon that was driven and defined by racism.

WhatsApp

You might think that this is just part of some weird macho sports culture. But the treatment of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry is even more shocking.

The Mirror reports: “Two police officers were arrested after allegedly sharing selfies from a murder scene on a WhatsApp group, an MP has claimed.”

“The images are connected to the murders of Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, who were stabbed to death after a birthday party at Fryent Country Park in Wembley, north west London.”

Scotland Yard said two officers were arrested on Monday by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and suspended from duty.

The shocking discovery comes as the Met is already reeling from a collapse of faith and credibility in the eyes of women and the wider public in the aftermath of the Sarah Everard case.

The shocking continuity between these scandals is the complete lack of public accountability, or seemingly remorse or reflection from those in positions of leadership.

House of Sleaze

If the police are one of the key public institutions of the British state which have their credibility in tatters, next up is Westminster and the present government.

The Owen Paterson affair was shocking even for the world-weary public worn-down by the steady stream of scandals and abuse of power. Last week’s damning report from the cross-party Commons committee on standards concluded that Paterson’s 14 approaches to ministers and public officials were an “egregious” case and that he had brought parliament in to disrepute.

It was sustained and blatant and involving vast sums of money.

The rolling pantomime of the Tories attempt to exonerate their pal backfired spectacularly but the fact that they even attempted it is a naked display of exceptionalism and sense of self-entitlement. It’s all an epic fail but a one that coughs up an insight into the mindset of these people.

The astonishing thing is that the only punishment he was going to receive was to be banned from parliament for 30 days. That was it.

The Tory government has purged itself of talent, years of infighting and backbiting has reduced the party, and the government you didn’t elect to the lowest common denominator, the thickest of the thick, a sort of Aristocracy of Stupid.

Simon Jenkins reports: “The Tories’ short-lived attempt to tear up the independent system for combating parliamentary sleaze has been scrapped. After the government’s U-turn, MPs were due a fresh vote over whether to suspend Paterson from the Commons, but he has now resigned from the “cruel world of politics”. The real worry is that the prime minister clearly had no clue what was wrong. He seemed not to get the point of ethics. Nor presumably to see that his volte face has now led to Paterson’s previously unnecessary resignation. Johnson has now had two years of constant brushes with Westminster’s ethics police – on holiday gifts, expenses, flat decoration and Priti Patel’s bullying – but in each case he just shrugs. He says, in effect, my will is the law.”

And it is.

Boris Johnson’s government has repeatedly broken the law & ignored Parliamentary rules. Now it is rewriting them to make itself unaccountable

None of this is surprising. Britain is led by a racist serial liar. I can write this without fear of action. His government routinely break their promises and treaties and treat other bodies and laws with abject contempt.

When are the people who voted for this, who voted for us to be tied to this going to wake up and own up and come to our aid? Have you who thought we were Better Together really not got any threshold at all?

 

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Comments (32)

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  1. David Lines says:

    With thumb and forefinger, Rees Mogg exaggerates just how much morality, integrity and honesty the Tory Party has.

  2. Richard Haviland says:

    Excellent piece. Speaking as a No to Yes convert, your last question is key, and is one I’ve asked people. I think the answer – particularly for the many who have English blood or connections (as do I) lies in their continued feeling of Britishness. The ‘better together’ message doesn’t resonate with them and was never, I’d argue, aimed at them, because it’s a given – they don’t think at an (international) political level in terms of Scots and English because they regard us all as one, much as they love and belong to Scotland in its own right. They accept the principle that Scotland has an ultimate right to self-determination and even accept there could theoretically come a time where they would vote for independence. But the ‘threshold’ question is not one they can answer because it’s too painful to confront. I might add that I’m describing the person I used to be myself until my eyes were opened by the last few years, and until I had children who I’d like to see grow up in a functioning democracy. And the prospect of separation still upsets me even if I would unquestionably vote for it. It is also the way many English ‘progressives’ feel – the loss of Scotland would, to them, be the loss of their own identity, even if they have no direct connection with the place at all. So they are instinctively hostile to it even if they can see that it’s hard to argue against.

    1. Thanks Richard, that’s really helpful and interesting.

      I am aware that there are larges amounts of people for whom just “feeling British” is a major part of their political identity. For Scots eligible to vote in Scotland this is an identity that is much less prevalent for people under 60 and virtually non-existent for people under 30. For progressive English people eligible to vote in Scotland the question must be becoming more prescient as the Johnson government creates more and more havoc and the potential of living in an independent Scotland continues to loom.

      1. Richard Haviland says:

        I think that’s absolutely right and I should say that I know others like me (and also like me former UK civil servants), people like me who used to live in England but now live in Scotland, who have made or are making the same journey. I can’t prove the counter factual but an uncomfortable truth for me is that, were I still living in England, I would probably be as opposed to independence on an emotional level as I was seven years ago, when I voted No in the referendum but had only recently moved to Scotland.

        There is a category of people whose heart will always say Union but who might be persuaded with their heads to vote Indy when they are forced to look at the reality of where we are now – which is as much about Labour and FPTP as it is about having deeply corrupt people in charge of the Uk. So the reverse of the other category whose hearts say Indy but heads say Union for economic reasons. You also have to conquer the guilt factor – the sense of abandoning their fellow Brits, which is a massive constraint for many potential Yes voters, including me (though I’m a definite not a potential). I had an English friend staying this week, a good, humane, internationalist person who is utterly distraught at the prospect of losing Scotland to the Union because of the fear of being left even more at the mercy of nascent Fascism. Concern for these friends and family matters to all of us and will matter in a post-Indy Scotland where all too many in England will be persuadable that independence is a hostile act.

        That’s why pieces like this are so important if you can reach that readership. And I’ve tried to write similar stuff myself.

        But you’re right, I’m talking exclusively about the middle aged and the elderly!

        1. This issue about ‘saving England from itself’ is an interesting one.

          Obviously that’s not my (or Scotland’s) concern, but I am concerned with building solidarity with people across England (and Europe) who are suffering under liberal economics, austerity, surveillance or state racism and discrimination. It would be interesting to think how you can make that project a new form of union – more like a Scandic Britain? In other words re-framing it as “all we want is to live in a democracy” and this doesnt make us ‘nationalists’ or ‘separatists’. Uniting progressive forces across Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales is a future focussed project for a landmass of republics (…)

          1. Richard Haviland says:

            I’m absolutely with you on both language and vision. Now just working on others!

  3. Robbie says:

    As the Johnson government creates more and more havoc ,more sleaze ,more Lies the “Importance” of living in an Independent Scotland becomes more and more Essential .We are nothing to them except maybe a verminous burden.

  4. Patrick Haseldine says:

    Simon Jenkins along with all of the mainstream media talks as if Owen Paterson has resigned as an MP, but he hasn’t done so.

    What Paterson said on 4 November 2021 was: “I have today, after consultation with my family, and with much sadness ‘decided to resign’ as the MP for North Shropshire.”

    His twitter account still describes him as “Conservative MP for North Shropshire”, and rightly so because under a 400-year old Resolution of the House of Commons Members of Parliament are not permitted to resign. Death, disqualification (eg applying for the Chiltern Hundreds), elevation to Peerage, dissolution or expulsion are the only causes by which a Member’s seat can be vacated.

    Unless Paterson is suspended from Parliament for 30 days, and subjected to a recall petition, he is unlikely to have to give up his seat.

    I guess Paterson is therefore banking on being booted upstairs perhaps as Baron Paterson of Randox in Northern Ireland.

    1. MBC says:

      Surely an MP can throw in the towel like any other job? Are you saying that MPs have to stick it out even if they are terminally ill?

      1. Patrick Haseldine says:

        By way of repetition: “Death, disqualification (eg applying for the Chiltern Hundreds), elevation to Peerage, dissolution or expulsion are the only causes by which a Member’s seat can be vacated.” Those are the rules, MBC. Paterson can “decide to resign”. But he can’t “resign”. Q.E.D.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    That would be a Kakistocracy, then:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakistocracy

  6. J Galt says:

    “not got any threshold at all?”

    No I don’t think they have, in fact I reckon for the majority of the population this corruption stuff is just vague “noise” in the background.

    Yes you’re right the system is red rotten, but good luck getting the majority to give a damn.

    1. It’s a diminishing situation where corruption and sleaze gets normalised and people lose faith in politics completely, so the elite contaimante the entire public realm …

  7. MBC says:

    In response to Mr Haviland’s comments, I think that the existence of Scotland being in the Union makes English people like him feel better about Britain. These are liberal progressive types of people. Because we are here, Britain is somehow not so bad. But as a Scot I feel not a little resentful of this, as I feel that we are a kind of moral shield which they can hide behind because it helps them to not face up to the awful truth of the parlous state of their own country, England, (witness Yorkshire CCC and other evidence of moral decay evident in Mike’s article) and have some moral outrage and some moral courage and decency to stand up and do something about it. It allows them the luxury of complacency but at our expense as we continue to suffer from what is inflicted on us by Tory England. (And I find that hypocrisy hard to forgive, frankly).

    Britain with Scotland in tow allows them to go to sleep. But we in Scotland can’t save Britain. If every SNP MP that was voted in at the 2019 election was a Labour MP Johnson would still have a whopping majority. England is the big problem in Britain, not Scotland.

    I keep hoping that the decent English will wake up, and the outrage against Paterson has given me some hope. But not enough.

    I think people like Mr Haviland’s English visitor friend are engaging in this kind of moral denialism. That is why they get angry at the thought of Scotland leaving. Britain minus Scotland would be an uglier place, because Britain minus Scotland would = England, and England has become a very ugly place.

    Mr Haviland is not alone. This summer I met an English lady in Norway who was on a visit to her Norwegian man friend whom she hope to move over and settle with. She told me she was ashamed of England and what it had become, ashamed of the meanness, the dysfunctionality, the lack of progressive vision, the sleaze, the inequality and lack of community she encountered every day. She couldn’t wait to get out.

    1. Niemand says:

      It’s a decent analysis but one thing Mr Haviland said that gets lost is the idea of identity. English people who support the Union (who live within or without Scotland) do so because they identify as both English and British, so it is less a political matter than something a lot deeper. And identity really matters as I am sure all nationalists understand but I think the idea of British identity is hard for nationalists to understand as they have probably never identified in this way and always assume it is a political stance or worse, some kind of imperialist one. Yes those people exist and these are the true ‘Unionists’ rather than just supporters of the status quo, but I don’t think it is actually how most ordinary English people think about it. It is true some so-called progressives might think of Scotland as some kind of ‘moral shield’ but I really do not think this very widespread, it just suits nationalists to think so. What people think in England is not that relevant of course, but is highly so for those who live in Scotland.

      1. Richard Haviland says:

        Exactly. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that we won’t get very far with converting people, or at lease placating them, by maligning their sense of identity. I agree with much of what MBC says, but it’s interesting he/she assumes I’m English, when in fact I’m half English and half Scottish and feel love and loyalty to both places (though admittedly Brexit and all that has come with it has at times put a strain on my Englishness). There must be many people in Scotland like me, although I’ve no idea what the figure is.

        I think MBC’s comments on progressive English (and Scottish) people who feel British are harsh. I didn’t say my English friend was angry at the prospect of Scottish independence, I said he was distraught. England’s tragedy, despite all the horrors of the last few years (and yes it seems to have become a very ugly place) is that it has a progressive majority but a broken political system that doesn’t allow that majority to find a voice. There are millions of English people who feel utterly bereft at what has become of their country, and desperate to see change but don’t know how to effect it. I have no easy answer for them when I tell them I support independence now, although I do tell them that wanting the right thing for my children comes first. In the long run, Mike’s vision of a Scandy-type grouping of progressive countries has to be the one worth aiming for.

        1. Wul says:

          “…it has a progressive majority but a broken political system that doesn’t allow that majority to find a voice. There are millions of English people who feel utterly bereft at what has become of their country, and desperate to see change but don’t know how to effect it…”

          Welcome to the way that many Scots have felt for the last several decades….it doesn’t matter how we vote, England wants Tories (red or blue) and so Tories is what we get imposed on us.

          I really, really wish/hope that English people moving to Scotland would consider what brought them here; if it’s a sense of a better quality of life then please, please vote for more of it in the next referendum. Don’t hold onto the coat-tails of the past. Scotland wants to travel somewhere better and all are welcome aboard.

        2. Wul says:

          And can people who are reluctant to “lose” Scotland try to understand that Scotland is not physically going anywhere…it will still be firmly attached across the existing border. Still be here. Same folk, same weather, same landscape.

          We will still be neighbours with our English cousins and will still travel freely in and out of each country for the simple reason that that is what most of us want.

          To live in a country, raise your children here and yet still worry that you may “lose” it makes no sense.

          1. Chris Connolly* says:

            Wul, my friend. I came to Scotland from England precisely to try to escape from Brexitland and to vote and campaign for independence. Think of me as a refugee.

            Still, regarding our right to self-determination, my experience is most English people only think about Scotland at all when there is a football match on or they are thinking of coming for a holiday; they have no strong feelings either way on Scottish independence. A significant minority believe that what Scotland wants Scotland should get, and that it’s no business of the UK government to keep us in the Union against our will, but the news they read and the TV shows they watch are so London-centric that most of the time they simply forget that we exist.

            A good many English people are nihilists; they simply accept that crooks run the world and can’t be bothered to worry about it because they don’t have the power to change anything and can’t think of a better alternative. They know COP26 is taking place, and that Boris Johnson is a twister, but accept it as the normal way of things. At least they are not living in a war zone or likely to be imprisoned or killed for not believing in God so they close their eyes and count their blessings.

            Having said that, plenty of working-class Scottish people feel the same way.

            I stay in a rural clachan in which the local people are predominantly conservative in their lifestyles and opinions, and Conservative in their politics. It’s no different than a thousand English country villages where the same values – if a vague sense of duty and respect for the Squire can be so-called – predominate. The only difference is that where I live pro-Unionism is part of the package whereas in England it’s taken for granted and doesn’t need to be demonstrated or expressed. It’s actually frustrating; when I was in England, wherever I lived, I was never represented at Westminster by a Tory MP and since I came to Scotland I’ve been stuck with David Mundell and, now, Alister Jack. Considering that for many years Tony Benn was my representative in the UK parliament I can’t help feeling disappointed and, at times, a bit lonely. It’s beautiful out here, but if you’re looking for a CND branch or an example of mores that aren’t reminiscent of 100 years ago, should you find what you are searching for you’re likely to come across a predominance of middle-class English accents rather than working-class Scottish ones.

          2. Niemand says:

            Yes, a very good point and one that could be made more strongly. Perhaps this could be helped if there were a more concrete plan for what any border might mean in practice and a real vision articulated of future relations rather than just platitudes. It is all very vague since Brexit and it has clearly got more problematic as a result of that. You do read the ‘stick up a hard border and throw away the key’ kind of comment sometimes from hardline independence supporters. Trouble is I don’t think it at all a political priority to think about future relations with England and you could argue there is good reason for that.

          3. Mons Meg says:

            Would we need any kind of hard (physical) border by which we could regulate trade and travel? Surely, the only border we’d need would be a soft (nominal) one between our respective political jurisdictions – a bit like the current border between Dumgal and the Borders or that between Dumgal and Cumbria, only more so.

          4. Niemand says:

            I don’t really know but clearly Brexit changed things significantly as the border with Scotland would in time become an EU one (I am assuming the usual mantra that an independent Scotland would re-join the EU). One only has to look at the shenanigans in NI/Ireland to see the difficulties. Of course I know what the SNP will say – we won’t need any kind of hard border and yes it will still be an EU one i.e they simply say what sounds good but with no thinking at all of how that will work, job done.

          5. Mons Meg says:

            Fair point, Niemand. I have to admit that I’m more interested in what kind of democracy an independent Scottish government will set up. The SNP is silent on that matter too. Still, the priority is to enhance the decision-making power of the Scottish government to full sovereignty; we can worry about how it exercises that power after the event.

          6. Niemand says:

            It is the usual argument I suppose – get independence then it can be decided what it looks like, or present a reasonable detailed vision now. I am much prefer the latter idea because it is more democratic and it would require the SNP to act as a responsible political leadership now that shows competence and openness, something they clearly lack in droves at present.

      2. Mons Meg says:

        I also wonder how many people in England who identify as ‘British’ actually care whether Scotland remains part of the Union or not. Does anyone have any knowledge of this? Didn’t the National run an article some time back, which reported a poll in which 30% of Anglo British had no support for or opposition to the Scots becoming independent, with 18-34 year-olds being least likely to be bovvered (80%)?

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Indeed, Wull; we’d all still be ‘British’ inasmuch as we’d still be living on the same British Isles, only subject to different political jurisdictions.

        2. Niemand says:

          Ambivalence is the order of the day I think.

          One thing to note about ‘British’ is that in England it is also used as an ethnic minority identity – black British etc. I think this important in terms of inclusivity. In some ways it might be considered better if someone could see themselves, and be seen as, black English and I think that is slowly beginning to happen (interestingly via national football). Scottish independence might even hasten that as ‘British’ becomes more redundant.

          1. Mons Meg says:

            ‘Black British’ is an interesting one. As far as I can gather, the term emerged in resistance to racial discrimination in the 1970s. Basically, it began to be used by groups like the Southall Black Sisters to counter those racists who self-identified as ‘white’ and covered anyone who didn’t so self-identify. In other words, it was used in an inclusive political sense to mean ‘non-white/non-racial British’ and didn’t itself discriminate classes of people on the basis of any theory of race or ethnicity.

            Of course, the ‘British’ part just self-identified and asserted those it labelled as equal (i.e. indiscriminable) UK subjects.

          2. Mons Meg says:

            The term was subsequently racialised by (among other things) the UK Census, the Scottish Census, the Office for National Statistics, and the General Register Office for Scotland. A condition of the decolonisation of these institutions would therefore be the deracialisation of their taxonomies. We must all become ‘black/non-white British’ (or ‘Scottish’ if we become subjects of a UK-independent jurisdiction).

  8. Wee Stonehouse says:

    Remind me, for how many hours was the First Minister of Scotland grilled by a committee about the date of a meeting? And how many times was it suggested in the Media that she should resign? And what happened to the false allegation about her made under Parliamentary privilege (by a Tory MP who is now suggesting the current shitshow is a load of fuss about nothing much)? Double standards or what?

    1. Wul says:

      “Double standards” doesn’t even come close to describing the extreme disconnect between the levels of scrutiny and accountability applied to Number 10 versus Bute House.

      “Split-personality psychosis”? “Dissociative identity disorder”? Or maybe just “lying wee fud”

  9. David B says:

    “It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the club or the game…”. I think you’ve done exactly that. I doubt most English people could name a single Yorkshire player after Boycott and maybe Vaughan. In participation numbers cricket is well behind boxing, roughly level with netball and basketball. Even the World Cup (held in England) barely registered until they got to the final.

    I think credit should also be given to the ECB for their punishment. It contrasts with the toothless response of FIFA and UEFA to racism, and indeed the EPL’s farcical “fit and proper person test”.

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