Theresa May’s cabinet is the most ill-disciplined in British political history, according to chief whip Julian Smith. What does he expect?
So many Conservative MPs have resigned from her government – and so many are emphatically opposed to her current direction on Brexit – that she can no longer fill all the vacancies in government ministerial posts.
She cannot threaten her ministers with the sack, so they have no reason to kowtow to her; they can say and do whatever they like and she’ll have to bribe them if she wants them to support her.
Or she can threaten them with a claim that their misbehaviour is splitting the Conservative Party.
Current indications show that neither option is working.
The chief whip, Julian Smith, has said the cabinet is the “worst example” of cabinet ill-discipline in British political history.
Gavin Williamson: If anybody has benefited from the Tory sex scandal, it isn’t women – it’s him [Image: David Mirzoeff/PA].
Isn’t it ironic that former Conservative Chief Whip Gavin Williamson has been appointed as the new Defence Secretary after Sir Michael Fallon’s resignation?
You see, Mr Williamson is the man who, we’re told, compiled the weekly “Ins and Outs” reports on Tory MPs’ sexual offences. Sir Michael’s name was on the Tory sleaze spreadsheet apparently compiled by the whips’ office and it is now being alleged that further claims were made about his behaviour to minority prime minister Theresa May yesterday afternoon (November 1), right before the former Defence Secretary resigned.
It also looks very much like a case of life imitating House of Cards – not the US knock-off starring the now-disgraced (due to a sex scandal) Kevin Spacey, but the superior BBC version of the 1990s, in which fictional chief whip Francis Urquhart uses the sexual indiscretions of fellow MPs to climb the Parliamentary heirarchy, eventually becoming prime minister. And it is said that Mr Williamson has prime ministerial ambitions himself.
Already, Twitter is abuzz with information about him:
So. The chap who sat on the dossier of indiscretion is the new Secretary of State for Defence. I won’t reveal the words used in the newsroom
As I write this, some Tory is on the BBC News spewing tripe that Theresa May has been strong, having zero tolerance for the kind of behaviour that has triggered this minor reshuffle. It is ridiculous. Michael Fallon is just one of dozens of Tory MPs who stand accused, and she has done nothing about it at all. The allegations themselves merit suspension. Just look at the contrast with Labour:
Jared O'Mara, whip withdrawn, investigation set up for Bex Bailey assault, and still all is quiet on #TorySleaze, sickening, #Newsnight
The new Chief Whip is the former Deputy Chief Whip, Julian Smith (who?).
And the new Deputy Chief Whip is none other than Esther McVey.
That’s right – Fester McVile is in the whips’ office. This woman was ejected from the Wirral West constituency in the 2015 elections, in response to her abominable treatment of jobseekers, the sick and disabled as an employment minister. She spent a couple of years shoehorned into a cushy job as chair of the British Transport Police Authority before being parachuted into the Tatton constituency after George Osborne quit to become a newspaper editor (among multiple other jobs).
What a revolting development.
Meanwhile, the lashing of Sir Michael Fallon continues. People in his Sevenoaks constituency – and the usual commentators – are angry that he seems to think his behaviour fell short of the standards expected of a defence minister – but was fine for a constituency MP. They want to know why he hasn’t resigned from politics altogether:
‘I’m much too predatory to be defence secretary. I’m just about the right amount of predatory to be an mp’. Doesn’t make sense, tho, does it
Labour’s Chief Whip, Nick Brown, whose speech at a Momentum conference forms the excuse for the latest tantrum from the party’s right wing [Image from LabourList].
Apparently Labour backbenchers who still oppose Jeremy Corbyn are threatening a ‘work-to-rule’ after the party’s Chief Whip, Nick Brown, spoke at a Momentum conference that called for mandatory re-selection of Parliamentary candidates.
With Constituency Labour Parties now dominated by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, the move could mean many Labour moderates’ (right-wingers’) Parliamentary careers could come to an abrupt end.
To muddy the issue, the backbenchers concerned have also complained about a perceived lack of disciplinary measures against three shadow ministers who did not support the party’s position in a Commons vote on Brexit last week.
But the simple fact is that these MPs are now badly out-of-step with the mood of the party as a whole, and their opinions are seen as abhorrent in many ways – so their ‘work-to-rule’ threat is in fact a gift to those of us who would actually welcome it if they shut up for a while.
But kicking this can down the road won’t stop the worms crawling out of it.
Look at the anonymous source quoted in the Huffington Post, who said, “If you feed the dogs at a Momentum meeting, all requests for loyalty go out of the window.”
“Feed the dogs”?
If that is the attitude shown by these so-called “moderates”, then they can be thrown to the real dogs quite merrily.
And it is hard to believe another anonymous source who apparently told the HuffPost the Parliamentary Labour Party had been “fairly” united since Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership victory in September, when we all saw Chris Leslie doing his best to undermine the leadership on the BBC’s Sunday Politics last weekend.
Grassroots campaigners have had enough of this silliness.
In a letter to Labour’s leaders, members have demanded a public show of support for the leadership and Labour’s 10 pledges to the people of the UK, from every Labour MP.
The letter states [boldings mine]: “Some members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are still working to a divisive and destructive agenda… MPs should rather be appearing in the media to attack the Government and to talk about Labour’s solutions to the country’s problems. That would be unity.
“When engaging with the public on doorsteps and in High Streets, we are finding that these MPs’ public declarations, showing lack of loyalty to both the leadership and to socialism, are confusing and alienating the electorate.
“We strongly request that the Leadership now ensures a declaration of support to the 10 pledges, to publicising them and to implementing them, and to the leadership from each MP.
“We fully endorse freedom of speech. However, we believe that the public actions of the MPs in question are causing such significant damage they simply cannot remain unchallenged. Their actions will that ensure the Party is never elected to government despite our huge membership base and its overwhelming endorsement of our party leader. In fact, we believe that this is their intended purpose.
“These deeply unsettling times require a strong, proactive declaration of unity from elected Labour MPs, councillors and other officials that reflects the will of the members. Only then will we, the Labour Party, re-engage the public and move forward to government.”
No elected representative can last long when they have alienated their support base.
That is what Labour’s right wing members have done, and their attacks on the principle of mandatory re-selection are simply attempts to avoid the consequences of their actions.
But the writing is on the wall – and it says: “Sort yourselves out, or get out!”
Why does the BBC want us to pay more attention to a squabble between this overprivileged cyclist and a policeman than to the wholesale privatisation of the National Health Service, for which we have all paid with our taxes?
In the mid-1990s I interviewed for a reporter’s job at the then-fledgeling BBC News website. I didn’t get it.
Considering the BBC’s current output and apparent lack of news sense, I am now very glad that I did not succeed. I would be ashamed to have that as a line on my CV.
Unfortunately, the BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on British television – and 40 per cent of online news read by the public. It has a stranglehold on most people’s perception of the news – and it is clearly biased.
Take today’s story about PC Keith Wallis, who has admitted misconduct in the ‘Plebgate’ affair by falsely claiming to have overheard the conversation between Andrew Mitchell and another police officer. He admitted the falsehood at a court hearing in the Old Bailey.
The case is important because he had been lying in order to support the allegation that Mr Mitchell had shouting a torrent of profanities at the other police officer, Toby Rowland, after being stopped from cycling through Downing Street’s main gates. PC Rowland had alleged that one of the words used had been the derogatory word “pleb”, and the resulting scandal had forced Mitchell to resign as Tory Chief Whip.
It casts doubt on the integrity of Metropolitan police officers – a further four are facing charges of gross misconduct.
However, the officer at the centre of the case – PC Rowlands – is not among them. He remains adamant that his version of events is correct and is suing Mitchell for libel over comments he made about the incident which the officer claims were defamatory.
This is the story the BBC decided to make the lead on all its news bulletins, all day. It contains no evidence contradicting PC Rowland’s allegations against Mitchell; the worst that can be said is that the admission of guilt casts a shadow over the entire Metropolitan police service – and in fairness, that is a serious matter.
But the fact is that people will use this to discredit PC Rowland and rehabilitate the reputation of an MP who was a leading member of the Coalition government until the incident took place – and that is wrong. It is an inaccurate interpretation of the information, but the BBC is supporting it by giving the story the prominence it has received.
In contrast, let’s look at the way it handled revelations about the Coalition government’s plans to change the National Health Service, back when the Health and Social Care Act was on its way through Parliament.
You will be aware that Andrew Lansley worked on the then-Bill for many years prior to the 2010 election, but was forbidden from mentioning this to anybody ahead of polling day (see Never Again? The story of the Health and Social Care Act 2012). Meanwhile all election material promised no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS. Former cabinet minister Michael Portillo, speaking about it on the BBC’s This Week, said: “[The Tories] didn’t believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do.” Considering the immensity of the changes – NHS boss David Nicholson said they were “visible from space” – this lie should have sparked a major BBC investigation. What did we get?
After Lansley released his unpopular White Paper on health, David Cameron tried to distance himself from the backlash by claiming “surprise” at how far they went. This was an early example of the comedy Prime Minister’s ability to lie (so many have issued from his lips since then that we should have a contest to choose the Nation’s favourite), as he helped write the Green Papers that preceded this document (see Never Again). If it was possible for the authors of Never Again to dig out this information, it should certainly have been possible for the BBC. What did we get?
Not a word.
In contrast to Cameron, Lansley, and any other Tory’s claims that there would be no privatisation of the NHS, KPMG head of health Mark Britnell (look him up – he’s an interesting character in his own right) said the service would be shown “no mercy” and would become a “state insurance provider, not a state deliverer”. This important revelation that the Tories had been lying received coverage in less popular outlets like The Guardian, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail but the BBC only mentioned it in passing – four days after the story broke – to explain a comment by Nick Clegg.
One of the key elements used to get members of the medical profession on-side with the Lansley Act was the claim that GPs would commission services. This was a lie. It was well-known when the plans were being drafted that general practitioners simply would not have time for such work and it was expected that they would outsource the work to private management companies – many of whom would also have a hand in service delivery. There is a clear conflict of interest in this. East London GP Jonathan Tomlinson told Channel 4 that the scale of private involvement would be so large as to include “absolutely everything that commissioning involves”. This was a clear betrayal of the promise to GPs. The BBC never mentioned it.
Another phrase trotted out by the Tories was that the changes would increase “patient choice” – by which we were all intended to believe patients would have more opportunity to choose the treatment they received and who provided it. This is a lie. The new Clinical Commissioning Groups created by the Act – and run, not by doctors, but by private healthcare companies on their own behalf – have a duty to put services out to tender unless they are sure that only one provider is able to offer a service. In reality, this means all services must be opened up to the private sector as no CCG could withstand a legal challenge from a snubbed private provider. But this makes a mockery of Andrew Lansley’s promise that CCGs could choose when and with whom to commission.
In turn, this means private firms will be able to ‘cherry-pick’ the easiest and cheapest services to provide, and regulations also mean they can choose to provide those services only for those patients they believe will cost the least money. Anyone with complicated, difficult, or long-term conditions will be thrown to the wolves. In other words, far from patients having increased choice, the Health and Social Care Act means private companies will be able to choose the patients they treat.
We are still waiting for the BBC to report this.
Add it all up and you will see that the largest news-gathering organisation in the UK – and possibly the world – sees more news value in a slanging match between an MP and a policeman than it does in the wholesale betrayal of every single citizen of the country.
Why do we allow this to continue?
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Unrepentant: Ignorant old Tories like Lord Young cannot see anything wrong with starving workers – and, through lack of tax revenue, the benefit budget – to make fat profits for greedy business bosses. The families of all those who have died because of these policies might have a different point of view.
Apparently we are living in an excellent time for businesses to boost their profits – because labour is cheap.
That is what Lord Young, who advises David Cameron on enterprise, told the cabinet yesterday (May 11). His words make it crystal clear that working people who vote Conservative are classic examples of turkeys voting for Christmas. They beg to be exploited.
He said low wage levels in a recession made larger financial returns easier to achieve – in other words, he actually admitted that bosses could use the current state of the UK economy, as caused by his own government (not the previous Labour administration, for reasons we’ve covered in the past), to push workers’ wages down and keep more moolah for themselves.
Vox Political has accused the Conservatives of exactly this behaviour in the past, but we never expected to see a member of the government admit it so brazenly.
Perhaps this is more of the government’s pet ‘nudge’ theory at work. We have seen that benefit increases have been lowered in order to instil fear of destitution in the jobless, and in those who have low-paid jobs. Now, businesses are being urged to capitalise on this, exploiting their workforces with the obvious threat: “There are plenty of other people out there who’ll do it for less!”
Let’s just back this up with some statistics, courtesy of The Guardian , shall we? UK employees’ average hourly earnings have fallen by 8.5 per cent, in real terms, since 2009. That’s adjusting for inflation, and the newspaper got its figure from the Office for National Statistics.
Meanwhile, the 1,000 richest people in the UK are now worth more than £414 billion – up more than £155 billion in the three years to December 2012. And in April, the Tory-led government gave those people a £100,000 per year tax cut.
Lord Young is not to be confused with Sir George Young, the Tory Chief Whip who once famously said “the homeless are what you step over when you come out of the opera” – but he is cut from the same cloth.
He had to apologise after telling the Daily Telegraph that “for the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good, ever since this recession – this so-called recession – started”.
For this reason it is easy to suggest that he would have stepped over the body of Stephanie Bottrill, had he been the first to find it.
Oh – do you think that statement goes too far? Please, reserve your judgement until I have explained my reasoning.
Like so many members of the Tory government, this is a man who absolutely point-blank refuses to understand the relationship between the decisions he makes and the conditions in which the majority of us are forced to live.
This former advisor to the Prime Minister on health and safety laws has advocated relaxing them, ignoring the fact that this will increase the likelihood of work-related injury that makes it impossible for people who need the money to go to work.
This enterprise advisor was asked to conduct a “brutal” review of the relationship of government to small firms, presumably with a view to cutting off as much public assistance for small businesses as possible.
This former chairman of the Manpower Services Commission advised the late Baroness Thatcher on unemployment, and we may take it that it is due to this advice that joblessness skyrocketed during the Thatcher years.
He refuses to see that his attitude is causing the problem: By ensuring that Britain’s labour market remains “flexible” (read “low-wage”), he ensures that the national tax take remains far lower than it should be; low-paid workers form the overwhelming majority of the workforce. In turn, the low tax take means the government cannot pay off its debts and provides it with an excuse to cut public spending – especially on benefit payments.
Stephanie Bottrill had an auto-immune system deficiency, Myasthenia gravis, which meant she was permanently weak and needed constant medication. Doctors said she was too ill to hold a job, but she never qualified for disability benefits.
She committed suicide because she could not afford the cost of living after the Bedroom Tax was forced on her, and it has been said by others that she died for want of £20 per week.
It is the attitude of Tories like Lord Young that has deprived her of that money – and ultimately, of her life.
Andrew Mitchell: Either you believe him when he says the police log of ‘Gate-gate’ (or ‘Plebgate’) was false, or you believe him when he admitted abusing a policeman and apologised “profusely” for it. I prefer not to believe a word he says.
The announcement that former Coalition chief whip Andrew Mitchell has made a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission about the so-called ‘plebgate’ row almost made me smile. Almost.
Having had experience of this organisation and it’s amazing cover-up tactics, supporting police officers who deny the existence of any laws that conflict with what they’ve done, I view the affair with scepticism.
If the outcome goes badly for him, it will confirm the IPCC’s position as principle rubber-stamping organisation for police behaviour – no matter whether they have behaved rightly or wrongly.
If it comes out in his favour, for me, it will confirm that the system works only for privileged members of society such as Mr Mitchell – those in influential positions – and not for ordinary citizens like the rest of us.
The facts of the case are completely unimportant to the outcome. Inconsequential.
For the record, it relates to an incident on September 19 last year, when it was alleged that the then-Chief Whip swore at police, calling them “plebs” (of all things) when they refused to open the Downing Street gates for him to cycle through on his pushbike.
Mitchell resigned his position but CCTV coverage later cast doubt on the accepted version of events and four people, including three police officers, have since been arrested.
Now, in a letter to the IPCC, Mr Mitchell has accused the police of a “dishonest and illicit attempt to blacken my name and destroy my career”.
Personal experience tells me he’d better have a mountain of evidence to back up that claim.
My own experience, as outlined in previous Vox articles, related to an incident in which somebody illegally published information identifying an alleged crime victim, in an attempt to blacken a suspect’s name, prior to a trial. I reported this, quoting the relevant law down to the section and paragraph, to the police – who flatly refused to investigate, claiming that the law had not been broken by ignoring the references I had given and referring to a different section of the same legislation – a section that was totally irrelevant to the nature of the crime.
You see, prosecuting this individual would have been inconvenient as it would have weakened the case against the suspect they had lined up for trial. Easier to flout the law, apparently. One law for us… another law for them.
I made a full, detailed complaint to the IPCC, quoting the relevant legislation with a printout of it from the government’s own website, pointing out where the officer involved had gone wrong, and explaining why I believed the error was intentional. All I got for my efforts was another flat refusal to acknowledge the facts. The investigator spoke with the officer and decided that his interpretation of the law was correct – despite having it quoted to them, in black and white, by me! For me, the only way forward from that point would have been to hire a lawyer and get a judicial review, but that costs money and I simply don’t have enough. Again, it’s one law for us… another law for them.
Mr Mitchell, on the other hand, does have money. But since he is, by definition, a member of “them”, any success he may enjoy will not affect the fact that is the theme of this article, which is (one last time):
It’s one law for us… another law for them.
Actually, now that I have a police commissioner, I might take the case to him and see what he makes of it. At least, that way, he’ll have something to do. The outcome will show whether his appointment – and that of all the others – really was the waste of time and money that the vast majority of Britons believe it to have been.
What on earth does Andrew Mitchell hope to achieve by reviving ‘Gate-gate’, three months after the event?
It seems a police officer who was not on duty, but allegedly witnessed the incident last September when Mitchell verbally abused a colleague at the gate to Downing Street, has been arrested under suspicion of falsifying his report.
And Mitchell himself has appeared on television, telling ITV News the contents of the police log of the event – which would have been written by the man he attacked – were falsified.
It would be very easy to take these two things together, and believe that the police faked the incident. That would be completely wrong. They are separate things.
First, we have the investigation into the officer who was off-duty. There is a suggestion that this person may not have witnessed the incident at all, but still supplied an account of it to his MP.
From there, it seems we are supposed to believe that The Sun was able to get the same person to provide it with a copy of a confidential Metropolitan Police report on the incident. The constable was arrested as part of a wider inquiry into how confidential Met information got into national newspapers.
That doesn’t have anything to do with the first-hand report, written by the policeman who actually received a tongue-lashing from Mitchell.
This states that, when asked to get off his bicycle and refrain from using the vehicle entrance to Downing Street (there’s a pedestrian entrance as well), Mitchell subjected the officer to a string of abuse, told him to “learn your place” and said “You don’t run this government”. The piece de resistance was the allegation that Mitchell described the policeman as a “pleb”.
Mitchell has always disputed the exact words, especially the “pleb” appellation. But he has admitted an incident took place, and admitted saying “I thought you guys were supposed to f*cking help us”. That’s enough for him to be arrested on a charge of abusing a police officer, which is a public order offence. Mitchell is on record as having apologised “profusely” to the officer. That comes from a Downing Street statement.
So why is he saying the police log of the incident is false?
Apparently, on ITV News on Monday, he said: “I’d just like to reiterate once again that it’s the contents of the alleged police log which are false … they are false and I want to make that very clear.”
He’s not just referring to the “pleb” reference here – he’s talking about the log of the entire incident. That’s an incident which he has admitted took place. For which he apologised. “Profusely”.
I do not believe him.
Not only is the first-hand evidence against him, I think we should remember that weight is given to the honesty of the police. It has to be – they deal with contentious situations on a regular basis and it is therefore necessary for us to rely on their integrity in accounts that follow, such as court cases. Even after the revelations about cover-ups such as Hillsborough or (going back a bit) the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, I don’t think we should be discouraged from believing the average bobby on the beat is actually trying to uphold the law, not undermine it. If you want corruption, look further up the ranks.
It is also very important to see this in the context of other Conservative MPs and their alleged misdeeds. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards is investigating Maria Miller over her expenses claims (as is well-documented, including in this blog). And George Osborne used taxpayers’ money to make up to £1 million on property including a farmhouse and paddock in Cheshire; he claimed the cash as Parliamentary expenses so we are meant to believe the paddock was a necessary expense incurred by his duties as an MP. What utter nonsense!
Let’s not forget Liam Fox, who became a former Defence Secretary after misbehaviour was alleged against him.
So Conservatives have been giving themselves a bad reputation. It seems to me that they want to tidy up their image. What better place to start than by undermining and rubbishing their worst PR disaster of 2012?
I do not believe them.
My advice is that you should not believe them either.
Exactly who does support David Cameron’s government these days?
He’s got Tory ‘grandees’ like Lord Tebbit calling it a “dog”; he’s got the 2010 intake of Tory MPs rebelling against him – presumably in the belief that they’ll have more chance of promotion through backstabbing than waiting for him to shuffle them into his ever-growing Cabinet; and he’s got Cabinet members who are themselves liabilities.
I suppose he should count himself lucky he’s got the support of all those corporate doners, pouring millions into Conservative Party funds in return for the billions of pounds worth of government or NHS contracts he’s been handing out to them (and the devil take the public, who won’t benefit at all).
The ‘youth revolt’ might be a serious threat to Cameron’s authority, but it is the attack from Tebbit that will be the most damaging. At a time when polling shows only one per cent of the population believes the Coalition is likely to be more competent than Labour, he made it perfectly clear that he thinks Cameron doesn’t know what he’s doing.
“This dog of a coalition government has let itself be given a bad name and now anybody can beat it,” he wrote in an Observer column.
“The abiding sin of the government is not that some ministers are rich, but that it seems unable to manage its affairs competently.”
This is an attack that the coalition will find hard to disprove, especially after Cameron’s hastily-announced plan to force energy companies into putting everyone on the lowest possible tariffs (of which the Energy Secretary and department apparently knew nothing). “Back-of-the-envelope” policymaking, as Ed Miliband might say.
“It has let itself be called a government of unfeeling toffs,” said Lord Tebbit.
Again – impossible to deny. Look at the Comedy Chancellor, Gideon George Osborne, sitting in a First Class train seat with a standard class ticket. One wonders if this will re-ignite the debate over rail ticket pricing – as they are clearly too costly even for a millionaire like him…
And then of course there’s Pleb-gate, or Gate-gate – the saga of the short temper and long decline of now-former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell. Whether he actually called a Downing Street police officer a “pleb” or not is immaterial, and has been ever since it was first reported; that was the moment the public made up its collective mind and Cameron should have known it. Instead he hung on to a lost cause, dragging his entire administration down as the story dragged on.
Mitchell’s replacement is Sir George Young, a man who is on record has having described the homeless as “What you step over when you come out of the opera.” He has been described on the Void blog as “a stuck-up, not so nice but dim, advert for class war” and as a “chinless f*cking wet-wipe”. In other words, he’s likely to be even more unpopular than Mitchell.
Lord Tebbit, who – we are told – represents a growing number of senior Tories who are questioning whether Cameron has the qualities necessary to lead a government, said Cameron must impose “managerial discipline, not just on his colleagues but on himself.”
He continued: “Had Mr Miliband concentrated his fire on a long list of muddles – from the proposed sale of our national forests to the BAE and energy policy muddles of recent days, it would have been far worse.”
With respect, Lord Tebbit, Mr Miliband didn’t have to – you did it yourself.
And with friends like these, Cameron doesn’t need enemies. The Nasty Party’s reputation for back-stabbing is well-deserved.
On the day Andrew Mitchell finally resigned as Chief Whip after the now-notorious ‘Gate-gate’ incident, George Osborne (the Chancer of the Exchequer) has been found fare-dodging on a train (he was sitting in First Class but had only a standard ticket).
Meanwhile, the man who disrupted the Oxford/Cambridge boat race by swimming in the Thames while it was taking place has received a six-month prison sentence, raising questions about the disparity between punishments for MPs and those for other UK citizens.
Perhaps it really is time for MPs to have some of their own medicine. We’ve had “We’re all in it together” thrust down our throats for two years, now – isn’t it time members of the government took an Atos-style assessment to see whether they’re fit to govern?
Personally, I think the demarcation point suggested by the cartoon is unfair and that they should all be placed in the “sub-normal” category (when I was typing this, my fingers automatically tried to type “sub-moral”. Draw your own conclusion). However, this is an Atos assessment regime, so fairness has nothing to do with it!
“If you get 100 points for shooting one policewoman and 200 points for shooting two policewomen, how many do you get for shooting a lawyer?”
With these words, Derbyshire Conservative councillor David Stephenson signed his political career’s death warrant.
It was clear that he was referring to the deaths of PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Tameside, and for Stephenson it was a sick joke too far.
But he would have got away with it if it had not been heard by the wife of serving police sergeant Jason Farrar, who telephoned the councillor to complain and was told to “go away, you silly man”.
In response, the officer contacted Derbyshire police federation, MP Jessica Lee and Erewash Borough Council leader Chris Corbett, who immediately removed Stephenson from the council executive and from the list of approved Conservative candidates, so he will not be allowed to stand for re-election as a Conservative.
That’s a bit different from what happened with Andrew Mitchell, isn’t it?
But just take a look at the Conservative Party’s record, and you’ll see that Stephenson is the exception that proves the rule.
We all know about Mitchell’s comments now – in fact, thanks to some of our renowned national newspapers, we can all read the police officer’s report. I don’t think there’s any doubt that he told the constable to “learn your place” and called him a “pleb”.
But he was only continuing a tradition of insulting the common citizenry of this nation that has been alive and well throughout this Parliament.
Only last month we heard about the new book Britannia Unchained, by right-wingers Priti Patel, Elizabeth Truss, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore, and Kwasi Kwarteng, all members of the Free Enterprise Group of Tory MPs. In it, they argue that British workers are “among the worst idlers in the world”, that the UK “rewards laziness” and “too many people in Britain prefer a lie-in to hard work”. Britannia Unchained? It seems more likely that they want to chain us to our work-stations!
And what about Philip Davies, the Tory MP who said the disabled should be “allowed” to work for half the minimum wage?
Too many voters were misled by that lie in the run-up to the 2010 election, but then, it’s easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled (according to Mark Twain). It’s time for us all to admit that there’s no such thing as compassionate Conservatism.
We all need to accept that Mr Mitchell’s remarks to the Downing Street policeman are representative of the way the majority of Conservatives see the British population.
David Cameron cannot sack Andrew Mitchell because, if he does, he’ll have to sack half his party membership.
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