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Moral corruption is the order of the day - but is resignation on the menu?

Moral corruption is the order of the day - but is resignation on the menu?

The circus of British politics has taken another unexpected turn. Despite talks of ten more years of Conservative rule, a chink has appeared in the otherwise seemingly indestructible armour of the Conservatives. Its cause? It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one who doesn’t work at the Telegraph: corruptio- I mean ‘sleaze’. As soon as public outrage at the MPs second job scandal was beginning to settle, news broke of a Christmas party taking place at No. 10 last year. The controversy of this revelation is, of course, that whilst this shin dig was taking place, the rest of the country was following COVID restrictions that these very partygoers had written and legislated.

As cries of moral and legal corruption, on top of hypocrisy, piled up from all areas of the public, ITV leaked a video of a prep press conference showing one of the PM’s top aides -and Oxbridge peer- Allegra Stratton laughing with other advisors on how to prepare for potential press scrutiny on the party. ‘What’s the answer?’ she laughs, unable to dodge the illegality of the party. The lack of seriousness from Stratton signifies the level of moral and political detachment the Party has with the public. Whilst it might not be clear to the Conservatives what the true nature of the situation is, it is to the public: we’re being laughed at and lied to.

There are other telling revelations to be made from this news, though. As whisperings over more illegal parties being held begin to trickle out from news sources, it is becoming increasingly clear how implicated the UK’s private media is in this corruption. As frontline pages from The Sun and The Telegraph completely ignore any news of illegal parties at Downing Street, a defence of Allegra Stratton has been issued from The New Statesman, whose editor is, of course, her husband: James Forsyth. It takes only minor leaps to guess at which paper’s journalists attended this party (or perhaps now parties).

Moral corruption is order of the day but is resignation on the menu? Johnson and friends have managed to survive, amongst other scandals, Barnard Castle, wallpapergate, and MPs second jobs. What makes this latest scandal any different? Aside from the sheer scale, it is worth remembering it wasn’t the singular straw that broke the camel’s back but the one that made the weight unbearable. There is reason to believe that the government’s war of attrition against itself could culminate in punishment at the next election.

Although, from a voters’ perspective, an alternative seems to be begging. Whilst Labour’s calls for an apology are piecemeal at best, Keir Starmer is yet to set public opinion on fire, despite what his incremental gains in the polls might suggest. The timid establishmentarian nature of Starmer doesn’t permit him to commit to any attractive nor attention-grabbing policy platform or moral vision in an age of populism. As the true nature of Boris Johnson begins to rear its head, a void is left where the controversial Johnson once stood. This is especially true for the elusive ‘red wall’ voters Labour must look to recapture. Starmer’s gains today could become losses tomorrow.

The call for an apology rather than a resignation is very much in line with Labour’s goldilocks communications strategy. The law-breaking PM, rather than being pressured with the demand of resigning from the ex-Head of Prosecutions -who you would think could demand a level of legitimacy on this issue- has been asked for an apology, because we wouldn’t want to think Starmer an extremist for asking a law-breaking Prime Minister to resign, would we? If the PM does fall, it will be owed to self-destruction rather than a Labour rout.

George Shealy

12 Dec 2021