Let me start by saying that I very much feel the emotional turmoil many in the UK are feeling – a sense of despair, disappointment, and anger that at a time when our country is experiencing the worst economic situation for 40 years, and our politics is characterised by moral decay.
The Prime Minister is still in office despite being a proven law breaker – not just once, in terms of a Covid fine, but, as I went to great lengths to prove, for lying to the Queen, and attempting to illegally shut down Parliament.
Now photographic evidence has emerged of what many had already concluded – that No.10 was party central at a time when the population were locked down, and we were all asked to make huge sacrifices. Many were unable to see loved ones who lay dying or in intensive care, children suffered due to school closures, care homes were neglected, domestic violence and coercive behaviour wrecked lives – and all the while, our leaders continued to enjoy parties.
The problem from the outset of the Sue Gray fact-finding report was that it was a senior civil servant investigating civil servants and the civil service itself, reporting to her boss, the Prime Minister. This was a report that would ultimately have political implications for the future of her boss, and has served to exacerbate existing tensions between the civil service and politicians.
The tensions, the lack of effective working and the politicising of the relationships between ministers and civil servants is not just hurting our country, but is destroying lives. Recent examples include Jacob Rees-Mogg's stated goal to cut 91,000 civil service jobs, and Priti Patel’s issuing of a rare ministerial direction overruling concerns of civil servants about whether her immoral and likely illegal Rwanda scheme would deliver value for money. A damning report this week from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said the absence of leadership – both ministerial and official, at the top of the Foreign Office in connection with Afghanistan led to ‘systemic failures’ of intelligence, diplomacy, and planning.
My fear is that the systemic failures we are witnessing will cause long term damage to our democracy – the behaviour, lack of transparency, and undermining of trust in our democratic institutions – not to mention the Metropolitan Police, mean we are now in the realms of an unstable, erratic, emotional society that could overheat at any time. The implications of the lack of accountability and scrutiny of our leaders, the toxic culture in our corridors of power, the suffering of people under the worst economic conditions in 40 years, and a worsening cost of living crisis, are not just extremely worrying in terms of strikes, rallies, rioting and civil disobedience; but in the human cost that will be felt for generations.
When faced with so much dysfunctionality, so much neglect, and so much pain, where do we start? The True & Fair Party believes we start with fixing the machinery of government – at the top.
I am sure the photos and lurid details in the Sue Gray report will animate many clamouring to condemn the decadent culture that obviously pervades No.10 and Whitehall, but how do we get better behaviour, better people, better outcomes?
We need to change the system. Sue Gray, as a senior civil servant, should never have been placed in the impossible position of investigating her peers. For example, the Privileges Committee should be able to initiate their own investigations, rather than the present system of only a Prime Minister being able to initiate an investigation. Investigations should also never be carried out by serving civil servants.
Ethics and rules, such as the Nolan Principles, must be placed on a statutory footing. This would not only vastly improve public trust, but it would also save months of waste, save money and resources, reduce political point scoring and provide a quicker, more independent look into tortuous revelations.
The True & Fair Party advocates for more independent investigators of the civil service, Ministers, and Heads of Public Bodies. Our focus is on strengthening transparency, processes, culture and value for money.
However, Partygate is only one example of the flaws in our political system. What about the debauchery that now appears common place in our corridors of power – with 58 of 650 MPs now facing charges or actually charged with sexual misconduct – how did we get here?
We must end the practice of politicising appointments to top jobs at institutions vital to the proper functioning of our society – Andrew Bailey was asleep at the wheel of the FCA, where scandals under his watch led to millions of victims of financial misconduct, and yet he was nonetheless appointed Governor of the Bank of England. Oluwole Kolade was appointed a non-executive director and deputy chair of NHS England, and Simon Blagden was made a member of the UKHSA advisory board – between them having donated £1 million to the Tory Party. Now Boris Johnson is trying to shoehorn in Lord Hogan Howe as Head of the National Crime Agency, despite being the Met Police Chief who presided over the disastrous VIP child sex abuse inquiry.
The rot from the top is spreading to all arms of political and public life. Those who put themselves up as Leaders should be prepared to lead by example – to operate at the highest standards, not the lowest. Whatever the ‘cultists’ may say, of course Boris Johnson should resign (or be removed) for desecrating the Office of Prime Minister, but there are far more fundamental questions of how to make our machinery of government stronger. What fail-safes do we need to prevent power corrupting, often absolutely?
These are the urgent challenges facing our politics and our country. We cannot allow the rot to continue. It's time for something new.
Gina Miller - Leader, True & Fair Party