MPs can work themselves into a lather of indignation when Mr. Brexit is caught overseeing a hypocritical workplace, but where’s the outrage over the lockdowns themselves and the surge in unexplained excess deaths, asks Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph. Here’s an excerpt.
[Boris’s] lack of grip meant his Government descended into a disgraceful shambles that squandered his historic election victory. Those of us who spoke brightly about his potential as prime minister have had to feast on humble pie. But there is not a shred of evidence proving that he knowingly misled MPs. So making him the first Prime Minister in history to be denied a pass to enter Parliament will look to many like a deranged overreaction.
The use of legal technicalities to destroy political opponents is, overall, a deplorable trend. The ministerial code, which is now held up as the golden rule book, prohibits (for example) Government announcements being made outside Parliament or telling anyone what is said in Cabinet. So ministers can preside over policy calamities and keep getting promoted – but send a message from the wrong email account, violating Section 2.14 of the code, and you’re out on your ear. It’s a sign of a deeply dysfunctional system.
Parliament is not much better, as the Privileges Committee’s report proves. No one can fault the MPs for the rigour or energy with which they investigate and attack each other – but where was this energy when the lockdown rules were being designed? Where was our forensic democratic apparatus when it was needed the most? Our MPs abandoned their posts, signing emergency Covid powers long after the emergency ended. It was almost as if they were relieved to ditch the responsibility. Parliament is intended to protect against an over-mighty Government. Where, during lockdowns, was that protection?
And where, for that matter, is the 30,000-word report into the unexplained surge in excess deaths, or why the rate of sickness benefit claims has doubled since the lockdowns? Why doesn’t the Health and Social Care Committee ask whether lockdowns actually worked? The official Covid inquiry looks set to avoid this awkward question, so Parliament can step in. But all parties backed lockdowns, so it suits none of them to ask such difficult questions. Far easier to fire bullets into Johnson’s political corpse.
Our MPs summon television executives to give evidence about the Phillip Schofield drama – as if this is in any way their concern – but they do not ask social media firms how and why they censor voices critical of lockdown policy. Nor have they summoned Whitehall officials to explain why the ‘Counter-Disinformation Unit’ was targeting critical academics, as this newspaper recently revealed. The desire to seal each other’s political graves – with expulsion or police investigations – sucks up energy that should be directed at unresolved scandals.
This furious report into Johnson’s behaviour would be fine if it was one of many investigations, or if there was a long committee report into why SAGE forecasts were so wrong, with such fateful consequences. But politics in general seems to be stuck in a cycle of reprisals, with MPs blowing poison darts at each other – or indulging in hissy-fit resignations, forcing constituents into a by-election just because they get bored. Or a better job offer. Or, as with Nadine Dorries, because they did not get a better job offer.
In his defence, Johnson claimed that leaving drinks are a vital work function as they allow a team to cohere. But how many of the 119,000 fined by police under his needless laws were given the chance to make a similar defence? His rules saw a beggar fined £434 for having his cap out at King’s Cross station; au pairs fined for dropping off a birthday card for the children they cared for; police swooping on children’s birthday parties. All such criminalisation, it now seems, was unnecessary. Where’s the anger about that?
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Boris has wasted no time announcing his new job – as a star columnist for the Mail, and he’s started already. However, it appears he failed to get clearance from the relevant Parliamentary watchdog (Acoba) for his new post, according to the Telegraph. Never one for following the rules…