• Philip Ammerman

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Photo (c) Anadolu / Getty Images from The Guardian


I wonder what kind of system invests billions in the illusion of being a great power when the system itself cannot renovate a Prime Ministerial residence without private funding in exchange for public favours.


Here is the UK deploying aircraft carriers and even a new royal yacht, maintaining a Royal Household and a string of ex colonies (or sovereign bases in ex-colonies) etc. and yet these days it can't seem to do the most basic of political tasks without massive fumbling, lies or corruption.


For those not informed, Boris Johnson renovated his Prime Ministerial residence at Downing Street for UKP 112,549. Because only UKP 30,000 was covered by the official budget, he solicited private money, and then claimed there was no conflict of interest.


It then turned out that this was a lie. He claims he forgot texts, didn't have his phone available, didn't know what was promised, etc. Except now some his texts have been made public. And it was painfully obvious that he was asking at least one donor directly for money, in exchange for "consideration."


Earlier, an investigation claimed that Johnson's expenses had been met personally by the Prime Minister. Johnson repeated this during PMQ.


"On 28 April 2021, Johnson insisted he had not broken any laws over the refurbishment and had met the requirements he was obliged to meet in full. During Prime Minister's Questions, Keir Starmer also specifically asked "Who initially paid for the redecoration of his Downing Street flat?" and Johnson responded "I paid for Downing Street's refurbishment personally, Mr. Speaker." (Wikipedia)


It now looks like what this means is that a trust was set up so that private donors could pay in. (The Downing Street Trust). So, it wasn't really his money at all.


Is the UK alone in this? Of course not.


But the gap between the truly amazing UK citizens I know, and their crumbling political system, could not be greater.


The people I know are scrupulously honest and are working overtime to build their businesses or working in the public interest. They are truly excellent citizens and people, whether in London, Athens, Limassol or Brussels, and they are a pleasure to be with.


It is sad to see ordinary academics, public sector officials, educators, or entrepreneurs living on a super strict budget and making real sacrifices because life in the UK has become so expensive.


It's a real shame to see the quality of their leaders.


It's especially a shame to see their ruling party engaged in scam after scam, while promising to return probity to public life and efficiency to the public service.


One of the foundations of UK public life is the idea that integrity underlies society. "An Englishman's word is his bond". This also gave rise to common law: one of the great gifts of British civilisation to the world. In contrast with civil law, which contains specific rules and regulations, common law is based on precedent. And this precedent, at its heart, is based on the idea of personal honesty and innocence.


Undermine personal honesty, and you undermine the entire system of governance. The experience of Greece, Cyprus and so many other countries shows that no amount of laws or regulations will make an honest state if the decision-makers at the heart of it are corrupt.


And while the same applies to a common law system, what is lost when we move from common law to civil law is the pre-existing idea of innocence. That any man or woman is fundamentally innocent and must be proven guilty.


This is no longer the case with civil law, at least now as currently practised in the EU. Law after law, from GDPR to others, now require you to comply with extremely complex regulation, and to prove your innocence when asked to.


This is even in the absence of any harm to anyone. Under current law, I can be fined simply for not being in compliance, irrespective of any demonstrable adverse impact from this.


Innocence = compliance

Non-compliance = guilt


And with each massive breach of the concepts of integrity and responsibility come yet more regulations. And, yet more public distrust.


There is no country in the world where we can have an insider political class that claims one set of rules for itself, and a middle class with a different set of rules, and expect and kind of social cohesion or harmony.


Yet that is exactly what we have created. And what we appear intent on maintaining beyond all common sense and at any cost.


History shows us what comes next.



Sources

Boris Johnson accused of corruption after ‘great exhibition’ text emerges

The Guardian: 6 January 2022


Downing Street Refurbishment Controversy

Wikipedia. Accessed on 7 January 2022


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