Kevin McKenna: UK sleaze is a godsend for SNP grifters

SO frenzied is the stampede to leave Downing Street that a military helicopter may soon be needed on the roof of Number 10 to get everyone out safely. By tea-time yesterday and in the space of 24 hours five of Boris Johnson’s aides and advisers had chosen to flee. They know what’s coming down the pipe. So too does Rishi Sunak, who obviously thought the year-long Festival of Covid being held next door was merely the volume on the Johnsons’ telly turned up while Carrie watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

Eventually, someone was on hand to tell him that there had actually been 20 lockdown parties while he was working away in his study with his Dr Dre Beats on. How jolly damnable. If he’d known sooner he might have intervened to tell them to desist as they were all breaking the law and, as such, might risk bringing down the Prime Minister.

Even so, the show must go on. The Chancellor was now free to execute the traditional sideways shuffle away from his doomed boss without a stain on his trousers. He even managed to convey a sense of sorrowful reluctance on Thursday as he gently but firmly slipped his knife between Mr Johnson’s ribs.

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When Boris Johnson’s political obituaries come to be written (and don’t bet on it happening just yet) they will all agree it was sleaze and his own conduct in public office which brought him down. The Tory brand will be left unmolested to be taken up by Mr Sunak or Priti Patel or Liz Truss. There surely can’t even be many Tories who seriously think that Dominic Raab could ever be leader.

The ‘sleaze’ justification for getting rid of Tory prime ministers when they threaten to jeopardise the career prospects of their MPs is a convenient one. It suggests that these aren’t normal patterns of behaviour for Conservative administrations and that efforts will be re-doubled to restore their natural sense of decency and morality.

This was what finally did for John Major in the mid-1990s when, after he put family values at the centre of his offering he was let down by a slew of lascivious Tories getting up to all manner of concupiscent activities. Mr Major himself, the son of a trapeze artist, was later revealed to have engaged in some contortions with the Right Honourable junior health minister, the member for South Derbyshire, Edwina Currie. “How would you like your eggs in the morning John; with or without salmonella?”

The sleaze factor deflects scrutiny of a far greater insidiousness that always clings to Toryism. It seems that you can cheerfully abandon entire working class communities and fail to make preparations for the impending cost of living crisis. That you can lie about your desire to level up disadvantaged communities while choosing to make them bear the cost of Covid by increasing their National Insurance contributions. Rather that, of course than impose a windfall tax on energy suppliers. This week the political website openDemocracy revealed that the big six energy companies increased their profits by more than £1bn during the pandemic while paying its senior executives multi-million salaries.

You can sell off Britain’s national utilities and energy reserves, as happened in the Thatcher era, and then walk straight from government onto the boards of the companies who fell upon these heavily discounted Dutch auctions. “What am I bid for telecoms and gas? Lower! Lower!” And, in the Boris Johnson years you can exploit a lethal pandemic by turning it into a lovely-jubbly business opportunity for family and friends. Yet this seems to matter less than a few Tories breaking lockdown regulations by acting like, well … Tories: with the sense of entitlement most of them were probably born with and a cheerful insouciance about rules.

For the last 25 years the UK Labour Party rather than campaign against such immoral excess has adopted an attitude of if you can’t beat them, join them. But do so with better suits and tidier haircuts. Tony Blair has amassed a multi-million pound property empire and hawked his status as emeritus Prime Minister to relieve Middle East princes of some of their oil riches in exchange for providing them with the fig-leaf of respectability.

Several of his most senior ministers insinuated themselves into the boardrooms of the corporate elite quicker than they could open their contacts books: Alistair Darling; John Reid; Douglas Alexander; Alan Milburn; Brian Wilson. Their collective contributions while in office made not the slightest difference in the lives of those they’d been elected to represent. And when Labour did finally stumble upon a leader who actually meant what he said about being for the many and not the few they howled him down as being ‘extremist’.

In Scotland, the SNP would appear to have taken cognisance of this and followed suit. A quarter of a century of Britain being run as a capitalist enterprise by the ruling Conservative/Labour establishment has fed and sustained a lucrative independence sector for the SNP’s elite. They have adroitly exploited Tory sleaze and Labour’s benign compliance to keep themselves in power for 15 years without improving the lives and prospects of Scotland’s neediest communities. Instead, with the assistance of their Green glove-puppets, they’ve made this country a cut-price Klondike for the global energy sector for whom Scotland is little more than a glossy brochure on a conference table in Texas.

Here they are trying to get all statesmanlike by pontificating about Ukraine. And there they are commandeering the civil service to push the transgender grift. And here they are again telling teachers to take a saw to their classroom doors to combat Covid. And all the while, they dangle independence before their gullible supporters: just visible, but tantalisingly out of reach.

In time, they’ll take their seats alongside Labour’s quiet capitalists in the world’s boardrooms or at NATO, or Brussels, or the World Bank; perhaps some visiting professorships in Chicago or Massachusetts. And they’ll still be wringing every penny out of their Scottish independence fairy-tale and stroking their pension pots.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

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