Recently, if you’ve been watching the news, you’ll be hearing the word ‘sleaze’ being flown about the gaff heavy. Almost all of it has been directed towards Boris Johnson and his government… you’d think he’s been sleeping about in London and been caught red-handed wi another lassie or sout.
It’s come about after Johnson tried to bend the rules so Owen Paterson, Conservative MP, could bump the suspension he got for breaking parliamentary rules. MPs areny allowed to talk to government officials on behalf of firms that are topping up their wages… Mr Paterson broke this on numerous occasions.
‘Sleaze’ in politics is a big umbrella term. Any skulduggery that politicians get up to can be classified as ‘sleaze.’ You’ll mind the 2009 expenses scandal; politicians sat in front of their flat-screen teles and glorified butlers paid for by the taxpayer, whilst the rest of us are suffering from the economic crash in the previous year. That’s yer bread and butter sleaze – when politicians basically get clean on the judas. Some went to the tin tail for it.
It’s sparked a debate on whether MPs should be allowed to have a second job to their primary role of looking after their constituents. I don’t know who politicians think they are but, in everyday life, if you’re getting paid a full time salary from a company who then catches wind of your work being affected by a second job you’ve taken on… this wouldn’t just go under the radar. In fact, a lot of companies might even sack you for it.
Bo Jo’s government seems to be getting into the habit of this sleaze patter but. There was that song and dance about Hancock, not revealing details of contracts the government were handing out during the pandemic, which led to a fair few allegations of Tory MPs getting a wee side bung. I say ‘wee’ for comical effect… we’re talkin about a bit more than yer granny handing you a 10 sheet on the sly.
There was also the months of swerving questions about how Johnson got his gaff renovated to the tune of 200 bags. He was cleared of breaking ministerial code after it eventually came out that a Tory peer and donor had footed the bill. The number of times questions were dodged, however, made the situation reek of sleaze.
Ats one ae them don’t laugh or you’ll cry moments when you hear about that eh. Imagine the rate yer erkie would be clenching the night before a trial accusing you of laundering 200 grand to pimp out yer gaff… potentially facing serious jail time. The insomnia alone would drive you insane.
Boris, on the other hand, ironically after probably the sleep of his life on his new mattress attained through the hing he’s accused of, has went aw nah my pal paid for it and then nothing else happened. No saying the outcome was false or that, but he didny get the sleepless nights with the fate of his life decided by a judge and jury.
Let's not get too fanatical about the tories though… as pointed out to us by the Scottish Lib Dems leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, there are plenty skeletons to go about. This isn’t about one party. End of the day, it wasny just tories back in 2009 claiming expenses.
Or take the SNP, for example, who were hummin ae sleaze this year after facing police questioning about the 600 large in donations that have gone missing in their finances. In an interview with Kay Burley, Pete Wishart insisted that the money was made available for independence campaigns and will be spent on such campaigns in due course… a sceptic would argue pledging to spend money and keeping money aside are two very different things, however.
And shock… every party is playing politics today. It’s the usual finger-pointing. We’re clean as a whistle and they’re no. The real scandal is wi them lot and no us… All that screams to me is that no corner of the ring has clean gloves.
There have been calls for a “clean-up-politics” campaign to introduce a charter agreed by all parties to stamp out this kind of behaviour.
Dunno about you but that to me just sounds like more meaningless rhetoric. At sounds like the kindae slogan every politician would jump onto and gee them something to sport with pride without actually daein anything. We’ve got rules about these hings already and they’ve ended up being manipulated with twisted words and interpretation fuelled by ulterior motives. I wouldnae gee them chances to switch it.
I saw a Tweet earlier that did my heid in and it dawned on me what the actual problem is.
For video: https://twitter.com/PeterStefanovi2/status/1457725178146922505
Vlogger Peter Stefanovic pointed out that Boris refused to even acknowledge the question when asked if he regretted the “huge error in judgement” to re-write Parliamentary rules in aid of his buddy Owen.
It made me realise… it genuinely all comes back to politicians’ ability to look at the camera with a straight face, know for a fact what there about to say is completely irrelevant to the question and get away with it.
Some are even terrible at hiding it. Have a proper deek at the PM’s face there when he’s about to answer the question. He canny even haud back the smirk. Without even starting his sentence he’s essentially sayin to us you know what’s coming here, dinnae bother trying to push me about cos yer getting hee haw.
In a world where this is addressed, I genuinely believe our problems are solved.
Politicians are too scared to put a foot wrong wi their wording because we’ve put too much pressure on the environment. ‘Dinnae say anything that might come back to bite you’ is reinforced to excess because one slip up means everyone is all aer you like a rash. People will Tweet that one slip up, spin it in a way that makes you a horror and gives people reasons to hate without any context.
Think about the number of times you’ve made a daft wee mistake at work… imagine every time that happened, you had thousands of people plaster it all over social media and make you out to be this monster or an idiot. You’d be scared to even go to your work let alone do a good job.
Yet in a world where truth-telling is normalised and acceptance that politicians make mistakes just like everyone else, this becomes less of a problem.
And this isn’t to say let politicians get away with mistakes. Let's transform the environment in which we scrutinise politicians. We need a points system with genuine penalties to cut out this never-ending charade of not answering questions. Have an independent body regulate debates in Parliament and media appearances. An independent body in which members must declare voting records and go through rigorous training in the interest of being impartial. And when their work is done, if you’re not doing your job properly, i.e faling to answer questions and be genuinely accountable to the public, then your job is under caution. They’re getting paid after all… and by standards that everyone else goes by in the world of work, if you dinnae do your job properly then you face disciplinary action.
With a system that specifically identifies lies and deceit, coupled with a normalised environment of politicians working hard to upkeep a good reputation in this system, sleaze becomes much less of a problem. And this isny to say you have to vote based on their points tally… folk might go I couldny really care less as long as they’re getting the job done. That’s your democratic right. My point is, surely, we also have a democratic right to be able to engage in politics where question-dodging and flat out lies areny commonplace.
But this system only works if we take the heat off the environment as well. We need to give politicians some leeway and not deal them heaps of abuse and scrutiny for minor slip-ups. So, if a politician says something a bit questionable or controversial, we don’t take it out of context, demonise them and ruin their whole reputation over social media… we respect that not every single word should be taken literally, hear them out and respond with genuine debate and conversation. We’d actually be sorting out our problems speaking like human beings.
How this point system would work or be genuinely put in place is outwith the scope of this article. It doesny even have to be points, I’m just fitba daft and see everything as a league table… but surely this isny that wild a suggestion? Why can’t big change happen? What’s stopping us from putting this in place aside from politicians themselves? What is it about the phenomenon of ‘politicians answers’ being age-old that means we canny change it?
This isny a wee problem where you’re hinkin och seems like an awful lot of work for what you’re getting really. We’re talking about taxpayers money. Hard-earned, dot-dash that we slog aw week to earn and then have the government take a fat cut out of our wage packet to use as they see fit. And on the flip side, the more positive side, we could totally transform how politics is done for the better.
At a time where Greta Thunberg has called for less “blah blah blah” and more genuine action on climate change… is there ever a more fitting time for radical change to the way politicians interact with both each other and members of the public?