Toxic tribalism in politics got us into this mess. It has to stop.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

At last! Two things happen that all sane, honest and fair-minded people have been praying for!

1) Peter Stefanovic’s tweeted video compilation of Johnson’s very many lies to parliament surged through the 10 million views barrier and beyond, and finally began to gain some traction with both the media and politicians.

and (partly as a consequence of Peter’s film)
2) six opposition parties united behind a letter urging the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, to allow them to table a motion calling for Johnson’s wilfully mendacious conduct (or “failure to be honest”, as they rather coyly expressed it) to be examined by the committee of privileges.

Intentionally misleading parliament breaches the ministerial code, though in this crazy through-the-looking-glass world, guess who is the arbiter on whether or not there should be an inquiry into a breach? Yup. You guessed it. The arch breacher himself: Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson, aka the #KnownLiar. if the past eighteen months have taught us anything, it is that the checks and balances on a rogue government are virtually non-existent or toothless.

The six opposition MPs concluded that the Committee of Privileges was their last hope of any sort of sanction. Johnson is, prima facie, in contempt of parliament according to Erskine May, author of the rule book, so there looks to be a strong case for the committee, led by Chris Bryant, Labour MP for the Rhondda, to get involved and bring Johnson’s behaviour under the scrutiny of an inquiry.

Of course, Johnson’s unassailable majority and army of sycophants mean that there’s as much chance of the proposed motion being passed as there is of me winning a Pulitzer, but the debate could be enormously uncomfortable for Johnson as his many falsehoods are legitimately laid bare for all to hear and read about…The letter lists just six lies for starters – lies that Johnson has never felt any inclination, much less compulsion, to retract or correct. Surely the mainstream media will not close its eyes and stop up its ears when it hears the catalogue spelled out in the chamber?

The normalisation of lying is something we have written about oh so very many times. We even started a series Lies of the Week, which got swept aside by the tidal wave of corrupt and dishonest subject matter with which this government is so generous. Lying in office is a dangerously pernicious phenomenon, undermining democracy and truth and leaving people disempowered, disengaged and discombobulated as to what is fact or fiction. The persistence of lying and the sheer size of the lies are all part of a strategy that was employed by Trump and, of course, our very own Britain Trump. It’s nothing new, but that must not numb us to its horror or power.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Ascribed to Joseph Goebbels

It really was a huge relief to see politicians taking up the sword of truth on our behalf. But this is where some of that ‘at long last’ euphoria died away.

The letter to the Speaker was organised by the Green MP Caroline Lucas and was signed by five other parliamentary party leaders: Ian Blackford (Scottish National party), Sir Ed Davey (Liberal Democrats), Colum Eastwood (SDLP), Stephen Farry (Alliance) and Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru).

But not by Sir Keir Starmer for Labour.

Why the hell not? (I wish there was a scream or bellow font!)

If Labour cannot oppose lying, what’s the point? But here’s the really sickening bit: the reason why the letter was no co-signed:

“The Labour leader was invited to sign the letter, but declined. A party source said Labour did not normally sign up to initiatives launched by other parties.”

This, of course, will come as no great surprise to seasoned political observers, but it was like a stomach punch for us ordinary folk despairing at the government’s headlong descent into the swamp, taking the country with it. If ever the people of this country needed a sign that political parties were prepared to unite for the greater good, it is now. This is a government rotten to its rotten core. It can do and is doing untold damage to almost every aspect of our civic life. It threatens our rights and freedoms. It abuses its power. It has exploited the pandemic for its own gain and that of its mates. It has absolutely lied its sorry backside off on Brexit and wrecked the prospects of our youth with careless disregard.

I am not party political. In fact, I have come to rather despise the parties for their tribalism and I am sure I am not alone in that view. I do not give half a putrid fig what party convention or tactic justifies failing to signal open abhorrence of this government’s endemic, systemic lying. I do not care one jot if the strategy is to allow this cabal of kleptocrats to run amok until they are finally rendered unelectable(…Labour hope!). The Right is united. Its voters are united. The Left and Centre split the opposition vote. We’ll have Conservatives in power forever at this rate, especially if Scotland leaves the Union…and I doubt Johnson very much cares if they do, given that endless Tory rule will mean lifelong immunity from investigation into his crimes and misdemeanours.

Meanwhile, our lives are destroyed and our hope extinguished.

For goodness sake, Labour! Your enemy’s enemy is your friend. The identity of that enemy could not be plainer so, for the country’s sake, team up and stop enabling! You had a chance to send the nation a sign that country would come before party, truth before tactics. You might just as well sanction the lies. You might just as well tell the Mail and Express and Telegraph readers and the BBC news watchers that there is, in fact, nothing to see here.

The politically-homeless, the moderates, the apolitical decent folk of this land beg you: no more toxic tribalism. The UK has all the toxicity it can take…on tap…from this government. We need a united opposition, a progressive alliance. Now. Just long enough to see these scoundrels prosecuted and driven out of office and electoral reform put in place so that our votes can finally count. Is that too much to ask?

For the rest of us? Some actions we can take:

  • Write to your MP with the link to Peter’s video. Yes, they will almost certainly have seen it already but they don’t know that you have! Keep sharing it everywhere.
  • Vote for non Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners and send a message to Patel.
  • Vote for non-Conservative councillors and make it clear, if asked, that you won’t tolerate lies and corruption.
  • Send this article to your Labour MP, if you have one.
  • Push your local party to focus on the objective from which everything else hangs: the removal of the corrupt and mendacious government. Nothing else in politics matters for now. The country’s soul is at stake.
  • Support Make Votes Matter and electoral reform.