Thursday, 22 April 2021

Cesspit v Reality

A former veterans minister has hit out at the government as "the most distrustful, awful environment I've ever worked in".

Tory MP Johnny Mercer told Times Radio "almost nobody tells the truth," and election pledges had not been delivered...

"This is the most distrustful, awful environment I've ever worked in, in government. Almost nobody tells the truth is what I've worked out over the last 36 hours.

"I don't think anyone really can get on their high horse about trust and ethics and all the rest of it in politics, because as far as I'm concerned, most of it is a bit of a cesspit".

A cesspit? Surely that’s what we usually vote for. For example, what Boris and almost the entire body of MPs understand is the political aspect of the coronavirus pandemic. The UK government response was therefore primarily political and Parliamentary opposition has been primarily political.

Same political problem same political solution – be seen to do something plausible in a highly conspicuous manner. Don’t stop until no more blame is in the pipeline. Possibly not even then, but that’s another story.

The pandemic outcome in terms of deaths and economic damage was something Boris couldn’t affect except accidentally because all he understood was the political aspect. Government actions were determined by a major political minefield which Boris and all MPs understood. Instigate a constant high profile lockdown circus or take the blame – that was the situation as they understood it.

There was no decision to make – cesspit reality made it. Pandemic reality, all the data, graphs and scientific investigations – they had almost nothing to do with it. The science, such as it was, merely gave the government a measure of its huge political magnitude. Rapid mass vaccination gave a measure a political success, even triumph. That's what the cesspit looks for.

What we could learn as voters is that political reality is not reality as usually understood by those outside the cesspit. Here in the UK, the cesspit is a political game played between three teams – government, opposition and media. In the game perception is everything and reality of less than secondary importance.

One answer, and it does need an answer, may be more votes for independent representatives, particularly MPs. Party politics has become too political and insufficiently apolitical. The civil service was supposed to provide some kind of apolitical counterweight, but that rather shaky ideal has fallen into the cesspit for reasons which are only partially clear.

More than anything else in recent political history, the coronavirus debacle has highlighted a need for apolitical politics where genuine debate and genuine diversity of opinion have an important part to play. A large number of MPs, possibly most of them, should not even be members of the House of Commons. We know that but we persist in thinking that the other lot are the cesspit. That kind of thinking isn’t working.

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