Boris Johnson and co have a problem with integrity. But there are decent politicians in all parties – Robert Aldridge

Integrity seems to have fallen out of fashion in politics, but it is important.

By Robert Aldridge
Monday, 2nd August 2021, 4:55 am
Matt Hancock told people to follow the Covid rules while breaking them in order to have an affair with adviser Gina Coladangelo (Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire)
Matt Hancock told people to follow the Covid rules while breaking them in order to have an affair with adviser Gina Coladangelo (Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire)

It is no coincidence that people’s trust in politicians, especially at senior level, is at an all-time low, at a time when many pay scant regard to integrity.

In his short period as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and his government appear to be actively seeking to monopolise the moral low ground, treating both the truth and consistency as optional. I used to think they were simply inept, now it is clear it is far worse.

Minister after minister has been found acting wrongly.

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The Home Secretary found guilty of bullying but let off without even a warning by the Prime Minister. Dodgy contracts to friends of ministers or Conservative donors during the pandemic. An iffy planning decision by a minister to a major Tory donor.

The special pilot Covid scheme to avoid self-isolation apparently only open to Conservative ministers. Matt Hancock telling us all to abide by the rules while he flagrantly flouted them, and of course the famous Barnard Castle trip by Dominic Cummings which ministers all excused.

These are bad and display an arrogant contempt for the rest of us. But there are far more serious issues. Boris Johnson has refused to correct the record in parliament when he has simply given wrong information – the first time that has been allowed to happen.

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We should not forget the chilling attempt to stop Parliament meeting, which was thankfully overturned by the Supreme Court.

The claim that Brexit is done is ridiculous. Just ask the people of Northern Ireland who were told there would not be a border either on the island of Ireland or between Britain and Ireland, when it was plain that there had to be a border somewhere.

That attempt to hide the truth is now fuelling the extremists and undermining the peace process. It could have very serious consequences for the people of Northern Ireland and mainland Britain – and all because he was afraid to act with integrity and honesty.

And then there is the ‘oven ready’ plan to fund social care (in England), which we learnt later on is still being worked on and may be ready by the end of the year – a deliberate attempt to mislead some of the most vulnerable people.

Despite this appalling record by the UK government, we should remember that not all politicians act like that. Here in Edinburgh I know that politicians from all parties act in general in what they think are the best interests of their constituents and the city (rather than themselves). Good government relies on debate around facts rather than fabrications.

So, as Scottish Lib Dems prepare to elect a new leader, I hope he or she will continue to ensure (as Willie Rennie has done so well) that our party acts with integrity, hold the hypocrites to account and try to restore public faith in the integrity of our politicians and our democracy.

Robert Aldridge is Scottish Liberal Democrat councillor for Drum Brae/Gyle and his party’s group leader

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