Boris, Rishi #Partygate and standards in public life

We now know that the Prime Minister and his wife as well as the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been fined over the so called #Partygate. Meanwhile there are questions about Rishi Sunak’s wife -and therefore him benefitting from her Non Dom status so that she did not pay tax in the UK.  

Some people have been arguing for a while that the Prime Minister should resign if and because he is found to have broken COVID rules.  Meanwhile Tory MPs have been arguing that now is not a time to change Prime Minister due to the Ukraine-Russia war creating an international crisis.

In reverse order, the latter claim is clearly nonsense.  We have changed Prime Minister three times and held two General elections during the Brexit process. The US changed president during COVID and France are currently electing a new president.  In the Second World War Neville Chamberlain was replaced by Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher was deposed during the Gulf crisis with Iraq invading Kuwait.  Meanwhile, we regularly changed prime ministers during the Cold War and our involvement in the Ukraine crisis is closer to our involvement then.  Our whole democratic system is meant to enable changes of personnel whilst maintaining stability.

Should Boris resign over #Partygate? There has been some discussion about what is honourable.  Some people have noted that even if he acted in ignorance, we have the example of Amber Rudd who resigned as Home Secretary for inadvertently misleading the House over Windrush.  In the past, government ministers took the honourable decision to resign, taking responsibility even when not to blame as John Knott did over MOD failings in the lead up to the Falklands War.

My personal view has been that Boris should not resign over his behaviour around #Partygate, not because he is innocent but rather because I’m bemused by those who act as though they are shocked and Boris has broken trust. No, he has acted exactly as we expected him to.  That’s the point, he should never have been elected Prime Minister in the first place.  Morals and character matter for office and his were already on the public record.  His actions since then have merely confirmed what we already knew.  The sooner he is gone, the better.

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak remains as Chancellor. Again, the issues that matter are not just his personal finances or his COVID rule keeping but what we’ve learnt about him so far.  My personal view is that his management of the economy has been woeful with many of his measures stoking up inflation, failing to manage the nation’s finances and increasing the burden of taxation. The “Eat out to help out” policy was an example of poorly thought out gimmicks for short term headlines that in fact have done more harm than good. He too has proven unfit for an not up to the public office he holds.

It bemuses me too that throughout COVID many people on the sceptical end seemed convinced that we were being run by an authoritarian regime systematically seeking to remove our liberties. I’ve always thought that this was far from what all evidence and reason showed. Far from there being this well organised agenda, we see a bunch of individuals whose philosophy and temperament confused public interest with private gain. Rather than a carefully orchestrated power grab we see a bunch of people simply looking after number one.

As a Christian, I have a view on standards in public life because these sadly often reflect the idolatry of our age.  This means it is right to speak out on these examples whilst recognising that simply changing the people at the top or the party in power will change that much.  We should also be challenged about whether or not we allow those same values to creep into our personal and church life.  More than ever we need to set a better example and offer an alternative community and a better culture.

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