In the light of the confirmed law-breaking by our most senior politicians, this article asks: where will the UK media and public draw the line? And what can individuals actually do?
Why We Should Draw the Line Right Here
There was widespread revulsion at the government’s desire not to feed starving children in the school holidays. Marcus Rashford forced a U-turn, but nobody resigned. We did not draw the line.
We were disgusted by the decision to allow water companies to pump our rivers full of sewage. There was a rebellion, but nobody resigned. We did not draw the line.
We were horrified at the corrupt misuse of public money during the pandemic – giving £ billions of public money to ministers’ cronies, often for nothing usable in return. The government lost several court cases, but nobody resigned. We did not draw the line.
We were aghast at the blatant corruption in the Owen Paterson case – and by the way our PM sought to legalise it. Only Paterson resigned. We did not draw the line.
We are vehemently opposed to the government’s plan to remove our right to peaceful protest. But we, not the perpetrators of this law, are the ones who risk prison.
The country is metaphorically up in arms against a Chancellor who does nothing to help families survive the cost-of-living crisis. But he has not been replaced. We did not draw the line.
Even when it turns out that he has breached the Ministerial code in relation to his own family’s tax and investment affairs, he remains in post. We have not drawn the line.
Now it is confirmed that both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have broken laws they themselves made – and for which normal people were fined up to £10,000. Will we draw the line? Or will we accept a government which places itself above all codes and above the law?
If we do not draw the line at confirmed law-breaking, how will it be possible to draw it anywhere else?
If we normalise the idea that a Prime Minster can break the law and lie to the House about it, will there be any line he cannot cross with impunity?
What We Can Do
If we wait until the next general election, we will have a chance to vote Johnson out of office. But between now and then, he is capable of doing vastly more damage to the social, economic and democratic fabric of the UK. If the Elections Bill goes through without serious amendments, the next general election may not be what we would recognise a fair election. As Ken Clarke warned us,
“Boris is … impatient with constitutional constraints. He gets angry if the courts or parliament try to interfere. We are dangerously close to the ‘elected dictatorship’ that Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor, warned us about half a century ago.”
There are several things we as citizens can do if we are not prepared to risk waiting until the next general election:
- Some of us can vote in local elections and by-elections to send a powerful signal to the Conservative Party that it risks its own destruction if it does not replace Johnson with a Prime Minister who is prepared to govern on behalf of UK citizens;
- We can write to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner asking her to investigate whether Johnson remaining in post is compatible with Parliamentary Standards. If you would like to do that, everything you need is here; and
- We can write to our MPs asking them to call for another vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister.
If you would like to write to your MP, these general guidelines will be useful, and this template will help you get started. It will take 5 minutes of your time.
And please sign up and join the 99% Organisation.