Why Tory sleaze row won’t matter come election time

EDITORIAL


“I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country and I genuinely think that our institutions are not corrupt.”

Boris Johnson, November 11

IF the Prime Minister has to clarify that his nation isn’t corrupt, there’s obviously something to be suspicious about.

Following the Owen Paterson scandal – and the subsequent resignation, weeks too late – both the Conservatives and Labour have been under scrutiny about ‘outside income’ earned by MPs.

There’s been some pushback from elected officials, who suggest that the £82,000+ salary is not quite enough. One wonders what the 95 per cent of Britain earning below them feel like.

For some Tory voters, this appears to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Centrist Dads everywhere rejoiced as Labour enjoyed their first lead since Sir Keir Starmer’s honeymoon period in Spring 2020.

With the seemingly stubborn 40 per cent base for the Tories finally eroding, this may seem like Labour’s time to shine.

But history suggests that this could only be a minor blip for the Conservatives – especially if Labour’s policy of inaction continues.

Predictably, Labour have failed to knuckle down on the scandal as strongly as they should have done – because some in the party also have questions to answer.

Starmer himself earned thousands from legal work while being an MP, while Jeremy Corbyn’s office have briefed that the Labour leader had to be stopped from taking a second role while in Shadow Cabinet.

If Labour go any harder, it could even come back to bite them.

Even if Labour had its house in order on the scandal, the sleaze row is likely to be little more than a footnote in the government’s tenure.

Loyalist Nadine Dorries suggested the ‘second job’ fiasco cannot even compare to the Expenses Scandal in 2009.

According to The Times, she told fellow Tories: “The expenses scandal, which began the day of the European Elections campaign in 2009 and ended on the day of the ballot, was a billion times worse than last week.

“One year later, almost to the day, we monstered Labour in the local elections and David Cameron became PM breaking 13 years of Labour domination. Last week wasn’t great, but it was a long way from the worst.”

This theory should be tempered slightly – the global financial crisis, for which the Labour government took the brunt of the blame, certainly had its part to play in the election loss, as did ruling party fatigue.

But Dorries does have a point.

The UK is emerging out of the coronavirus pandemic, in which almost 150,000 have died due to government incompetence. This isn’t subjective, either – the Commons Covid report was damning for No.10.

But still, the Tories maintained a comfortable lead.

The PM’s personal numbers remain strong, even when his own party encounters a temporary slip.

Come the next election, there’s some clear messages the government can espouse to fend off any Labour challenge.

  • The vaccine rollout
  • Economics (furlough, supposed post-pandemic recovery)
  • Clear leadership throughout a time of national crisis – while Labour flip-flopped

The veracity of these is questionable, at best – but they’d be very effective in any campaign.

Starmer should enjoy the polling lead while he can – because, on current trajectory, it’s likely to be his last till he steps down as leader.


Featured Image: Kuhlmann /MSC @WikimediaCommons (CC BY 3.0 DE)

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