Editorial: Chumocracy on the Thames is Priti appalling

Graham Ogilvy

‘Old Corruption’ was the term given in Georgian times to the system of patronage and preference which saw government sinecures, pensions and contracts handed out to cronies and relations. Thank goodness it could not happen today.

As we show below, Henry Dundas, who looks down upon Edinburgh’s citizenry from his lofty perch in St Andrew Square, was the lynchpin of the looting of the public finances facilitated by the extraordinary crisis presented by the Napoleonic Wars.

The Covid pandemic has created a new crisis with unprecedented peacetime public spending creating new opportunities for cronyism. And like mushrooms after rainfall, revelations and allegations regarding contracts and appointments spring up almost daily. Once again, the stench of Old Corruption hangs over the Thames like a veritable Great Stink. This time it is dubbed ‘Chumocracy’.

The House of Lords is packed with the PM’s pals. Former England cricket captain Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham now brings his legislative prowess to the world’s second largest second chamber. So too Johnson’s wee brother after the briefest of ministerial careers. And, to the dismay of the British intelligence community, Evgeny Lebedev has taken the title of Baron of Hampton and Siberia – a reward for supporting Johnson via his ownership of the Evening Standard and putting up with him at interminable vodka and caviar parties.

The National Audit Office is dismayed at the lack of tendering transparency. The Good Law Project has swung into action seeking judicial review of government appointments. Little wonder that the government is seeking to scrap judicial review and draw the teeth of the Supreme Court.

For all of the suggested incompetence of the Scottish government and the alleged Machiavellian machinations surrounding the Salmond affair, it has yet to descend to the levels of Westminster.

The surprise of last week was not the action of decent and principled Scottish lawyers like crossbencher Lord Hope of Craighead and Conservative Lord Mackay of Clashfern in opposing the Internal Market Bill with its disregard for devolution and declared intention to break international law in “a specific and limited way”. It was the resignation of the Prime Minister’s Ministerial Standards Advisor Sir Alex Allan after Johnson ignored his report on breaches of the ministerial code by Home Secretary and ‘unintentional’ bully Priti Patel.

Given the Prime Minister’s well-known mendacity, many were amazed that such an advisor actually existed at all. Johnson is a total stranger to ‘standards’ and is much more of a Flashman than the Churchill he seeks to impersonate.

It is unlikely that Scotland’s lawyers will be rushing to employment tribunals anytime soon to plead that their clients’ bullying was ‘unintentional’. But is anyone surprised that the Home Secretary, with her vicious attacks on “activist lawyers” and mad ideas for incarcerating asylum seekers on islands in the South Atlantic is a bully, unintentional or otherwise?

The fitness of Johnson and the Brexit populists to govern is highly questionable and the future of the Union in their hands is far from certain.

But their ascent to power underlines the crying need for constitutional reform in the UK and a new settlement between the home nations and regions of England.

This weekend former Foreign Secretary and member of the Faculty of Advocates Sir Malcolm Rifkind joined the chorus calling for a Federal UK.

I do not pretend to know what a federal Britain would look like but how long can we continue with the present bourach?

Graham Ogilvy

Tags: editorial

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