James Belchamber

We really needed to trust our government this year - but they keep betraying us

COVID-19 - the pandemic that has swept around the world and brought modern civilisation to its knees - should have been a moment in which the British people rallied together. Even Nicola Sturgeon has turned her eyes from much-coveted Scottish Independence to deal with managing the pandemic. We really need to be able to trust our politicians, in our hour of need.

This Conservative Johnson Ministry, however, has repeatedly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted - and with an attitude so careless, one wonders if they actually believe they could walk out on Oxford Street and shoot someone, only to have another small bump in their poll numbers.

What was the moment you realised this government could not be trusted? Leave them in the comments - and we'll give you three of ours:

The Ballad of Dominic Cummings

After Neil Ferguson, Scientific adviser to the government, was pressured to resign after "undermining" the lockdown (he was visited by his partner), the country could see that this was serious. We knew we must follow the government's lead - we're all in this together, nobody is above the law. Then Dominic Cummings, in what he later claimed was an extensive test of his eyesight, drove to Barnard Castle in County Durham.

We all knew what would happen next.

Yes, of course - the government tried to bury the issue. Matt Hancock, who was "speechless" at Ferguson's transgression, ironically could not string a cogent sentence together when asked about it. Boris Johnson pretended that he was being asked about his new spectacles. We then had the extraordinary "rose garden confessional", with an apparently irate Cummings gas-lighting the nation.

This demonstration of the government's "do as we say, not as we do" attitude became all the more galling when, apparently, all it took to oust him was to wind up one too many members of the Conservative Party.

Cash for bin bags

One of the more sobering stories of this awful pandemic has been the sight of nurses and doctors being given repurposed bin bags to protect themselves. 30 microns of Polylina between them and a disease that has killed more than 620 NHS staff and social care workers. Still, they marched on bravely - if this is all the country can provide, then they must make do.

We have since learned that, far from working to support our front-line staff, this Conservative government have been caught handing out contracts to their mates. Suppliers with political connections were 10 times more likely to be successful in their bids for providing PPE - part of a mountain of cronyism and corruption during our hour of need that we are only just starting to learn about.

"Form a square around the prittster"

For those that have not studied Etonian Current Affairs, a "forming a square" is what soldiers would have done during the Napoleonic wars. This apparent WhatsApp message to Conservative MPs was in response to the government report into Priti Patel's bullying at the Home Office (which Boris Johnson "tried to water down" before release).

The report was (surprise, surprise) not published in full by the Prime Minister, but Sir Alex Allan - who advised that Patel had breached the Ministerial Code, and therefore resigned when the PM ignored his advice - said that she had met the definition of bullying. This decision to put Patel above the rules has "fatally undermined the Ministerial Code" according to the Institute for Government.

Johnson's ignoring of the report, and of expert advice, demonstrates - again - that the rules don't apply if you have the connections.

Only one conclusion

There have been many, many examples of things that we Liberals don't like from this first year of the Johnson Ministry - but those were expected. What has been more galling (though not altogether unsurprising) is the constant betrayal of the electorate, in favour of a select few at the top of this gross hierarchy. The time-and-again litany of corruption, unaccountability and Crony Capitalism that Liberals (and voters) have long expected to be off the table - now served with such contempt that they couldn't care to hide it.

What is being demonstrated is something that Liberals have always suspected - that Conservatism simply isn't the genuine set of beliefs top Conservatives claim to hold. With each demonstration that they don't live by the ethics they preach to others, the only conclusion we can reach is to believe what we're seeing - it's nothing more than a con.


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