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It’s time to stop using ‘u-turn’ term to define this government

Comedian MITCH BENN explains it is barely an adequate metaphor to define what this government is doing.

No longer in the driving seat, Brexiteer and former minister Owen Paterson. Photo: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images.

It’s been quite the week for traffic metaphors, hasn’t it, what with the government performing a sudden u-turn on plans to scrap the Parliamentary Standards Commission, which, in turn, required throwing Owen Paterson under the very bus he’d expected to be driving happily along Backhander Boulevard for the foreseeable future.

Is it just me or are traffic and driving metaphors starting to feel a bit worn out?  You can always tell when an analogy is descending into cliché when commentators start autonomically trotting it out without considering what it actually evokes.

The government didn’t really pull a u-turn on parliamentary standards last week; that wording suggests a calmly executed textbook manoeuvre, carried out in full awareness of one’s surroundings and with all consideration given to fellow road users.

What the government pulled last week was a screeching handbrake turn, in blind thrashing panic, spinning through clouds of tyre smoke, mounting the kerb briefly before charging off into oncoming traffic.

In fact, given that the situation has yet to fully resolve itself in terms of what happens next, it would be most accurate to say that last week the government slammed it into reverse with the steering at full lock and have been doing late night shopping centre car park donuts ever since.

Okay, I’ll own up to it; that was pretty fun to write.

… was that executed by the aforementioned Owen Paterson, who upon resigning from parliament, announced that he would “… remain a public servant, but outside the cruel world of politics.”

The first few words of this statement elicited a bit of snark out in the Twittersphere, but credit where credit’s due, Mr Paterson has been an excellent public servant.  Any member of the public with a couple of hundred grand to spare, he was their servant.

It’s that next bit that I’m wondering about; if Mr Paterson – who was, remember, just 24 hours prior to his resignation, allowed to vote for himself to be let off the hook for paid advocacy – thinks that the world outside of politics is going to be less cruel than THAT, he’s got a bit of a shock coming.

… was that endured by Angela Richardson, Conservative MP for Guildford.

After being one of a handful of Tory MPs to defy a three-line whip and abstain on the We’re Going To Abolish The Whole Concept Of Parliamentary Standards Partly To Let Owen Paterson Off But Mainly Because We Think Boris Is Next bill (or the “Leadsom Amendment” for short) Ms Richardson found herself dismissed from her post as parliamentary private secretary to the Minister for Levelling Up and Getting On Down himself, Michael Gove.

Then, just 24 hours later, Ms Richardson was reinstated, as the government undertook the most desperate attempt to turn back time and pretend the last day or so simply never happened since the end of the first Superman movie.  
Ms Richardson marked her rehiring by tweeting simply “Pleased to be reappointed to my role as PPS to Michael Gove.  Busy department and work to get on with #Levelling up” which would suggest that even if Conservative Central Office doesn’t yet possess a time machine, they’ve definitely got a few of those memory-erasing flashing pen thingies from Men In Black lying around.

While the Daily Telegraph remains staunchly loyal to its former columnist turned prime minister and his “administration”, the other Voice Of Tory Britain, the Daily Mail, seems to be running out of patience.  It’s almost certainly NOT a coincidence that the government lost its bottle and backed down after the Mail published an edition whose front page read SHAMELESS MPs SINK BACK INTO SLEAZE which, apart from being a pleasing rhyming couplet, was definitely meant to evoke memories of the mid-90s “Cash For Questions” scandal, which – common wisdom has it – contributed to the Conservative government’s crushing defeat at the 1997 election.

Tempting though this analogy is, it doesn’t actually go far enough.  John Major’s Tory government was too weak and complacent to get to grips with the sleaze and corruption which had taken root in the parliamentary party.

By contrast, last week, Boris Johnson’s Tory government came within a hair’s breadth of enshrining sleaze and corruption as party policy.

No more brown envelopes; today’s Conservatives want their bungs brought to them on silver platters.

No standard too low
No commission too high
We’ve the finest government money can buy.
If you’ve got the money
They’ll always comply
The finest government money can buy.
Don’t call it bribery
Don’t call it sleaze
We’re simply bypassing
Some formalities.
So whip out your chequebook
And give them a try
They’re the finest government money can buy.
Like everything else
It’s demand and supply
They’re the finest government money can buy.

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See inside the 11 November: Betrayed by Britain edition

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