Partygate: Boris Johnson's failings are being shown up by Keir Starmer and councillors like Jack Caldwell – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

In recent days, the Conservative party has gone on the offensive.

Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 4:45 pm
Labour leader Keir Starmer has refused to stoop as low as Boris Johnson (Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In an effort to save Boris Johnson from the knots he has tied himself in over a series of parties in Downing Street during lockdown, they have been desperate to tar Keir Starmer with the same brush in the hopes that the public will just assume that “everyone’s at it” and all politicians are the same.

Away from the public eye however, there are a whole host of stories which prove that the likes of Boris Johnson are the exception rather than the rule.

Take newly elected Jack Caldwell – Lib Dem Councillor for Leith Walk in Edinburgh. On Saturday, less than 24 hours after he had been elected, I joined him for his first official street surgery, so keen was he to get to work.

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Jack is 29 years old and so dedicated to public service that this week he will resign his job to be a full-time councillor and focus entirely on his community. That kind of selfless integrity seems rare in the upper echelons of politics, but it’s surprisingly common among local politicians (particularly Liberal Democrat ones).

Across the country this week, hundreds of new local representatives from all parties will get to work for the people who elected them. They will campaign for local services, working across party lines and with parties who are often at one another's necks at a national level.

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At a time when Scotland's national politics can seem hopelessly divided, there are lessons here for all of us.

On a similar note therefore, I was heartened to see Sir Keir Starmer tell a press conference on Monday that if the police determine that he did breach lockdown rules in getting a late-night curry in Durham, he will resign as leader of the Opposition.

In sharp contrast to a Prime Minister who attended a series of gatherings in breach of his own Covid rules, consistently lied about it and sought to pin the blame on junior aides, that’s a gutsy move and one that I can’t help feel respect for

I’ve not been overly impressed by Keir Starmer’s style until now, but this was a much-needed act of integrity. You cannot aspire to the great offices of state and disobey the laws you set the people you would govern.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen an American president brag about sexual assault and a Prime Minister lie to the Queen in order to get his way over Brexit.

Boris Johnson’s refusal to accept responsibility for Downing Street lockdown parties and his subsequent lies to parliament have lowered the bar to a subterranean new level. In his actions on Monday, Keir Starmer refused to stoop that low.

When I was first elected to the Scottish Parliament, I spoke of my desire to raise the quality of public debate in Scotland and I have always taken to heart the words inscribed on the top of the ceremonial mace which rests in the well of the Scottish Parliament: “Wisdom, Compassion, Justice and Integrity.”

The mace symbolises the power of the parliament and these words represent the qualities that all politicians should strive to hold. That's why we need more Jack Caldwells and fewer Boris Johnsons.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western