Boris Johnson's government has taken Tory sleaze to a new low – Angus Robertson MSP

Over the past week, Boris Johnson’s government has been engaged in a level of sleaze that surpasses anything I have seen in my years in politics.
Boris Johnson's government is a corrupt, anti-democratic cabal, says Angus Robertson (Picture: Julian Simmonds/WPA pool/Getty Images)Boris Johnson's government is a corrupt, anti-democratic cabal, says Angus Robertson (Picture: Julian Simmonds/WPA pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's government is a corrupt, anti-democratic cabal, says Angus Robertson (Picture: Julian Simmonds/WPA pool/Getty Images)

New ‘cash for peerages’ reports have been described as “scandal in plain sight” by a senior Conservative, with the going rate for a peerage reportedly now £3 million. In the past 11 years, 22 of the Tories biggest donors have been made lords after donating £54m.

Meanwhile, Tory MP Owen Paterson resigned after having lobbied the UK government multiple times, for which he was paid £100,000 per year. This was a clear, cut-and-dried case of breach of standards. End of. The facts of this specific case don’t particularly matter here.

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The real shocking part of this debacle are the actions of the Conservative government who attempted not only to defend this breach of guidelines, but to use this opportunity to completely re-write the rules on who scrutinises MPs behaviour in a way that would see MPs police themselves. It is utterly obvious that this would be open to abuse.

One might expect a little contrition after the vote to re-frame the situation to be about the vindication of an ‘innocent’ MP and the need to redress how parliament looks at MPs’ behaviour.

Instead, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng chose to issue a not-so-veiled threat to the House of Commons’ independent Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone, suggesting it was “difficult to see” her future.

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Should we be surprised? This is just the latest in a long list of corrupt and anti-democratic moves by Boris Johnson’s government. The illegal prorogation of Parliament to bypass scrutiny by Parliament; the handing out of over £1bn contracts to Conservative Party friends and donors; not firing Dominic Cummings after breaking Covid rules; the continued refusal to respect the right of the democratically elected government in Scotland to hold another referendum.

There is no respect for the people, democracy or decency.

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What is equally disgraceful is the behaviour of the Scottish Tories during this episode. Douglas Ross, who claimed to set a different moral standard by resigning his government post during the Cummings affair, has bravely failed to speak out.

If he had the decency, Douglas Ross had the perfect opportunity to register his disapproval of the UK government’s actions. Having retained his seat as an MP, he could have made the point of going to Westminster to vote against Boris Johnson’s proposed overhaul. Instead, he sat it out, abstaining on the motion, allowing it to sail through.

As you will have seen, and following pressure from the public, the media, opposition parties and a small number of principled Conservative MPs, Boris Johnson has had to make an oil tanker-sized U-turn and allow the Standards Commissioner to remain in post.

Yet the damage has been done. Once more, we have seen the Tory government for what it is – a corrupt, anti-democratic cabal, of which the Scottish Conservatives are happy to be part.

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We can do better, and in Scotland we do. Polls this week see both Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government as most trusted by the Scottish people. Can anyone honestly say they prefer Scotland to be governed by the UK government?

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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