Written By Izzy Henley
Democracy is based on consent. Consent through representation to set common rules to live by in society. But how far should voters in modern day UK trust our elected government to rule? This is a classic question as old as democracy itself. But one raised now with a twist: how far do we expect our government officials to comply with their word and with the law. Essentially, what do we expect of leaders within a time of crisis?
Since the emergence of the Covid 19 'party gate' scandal within the Conservative party, questions of moral integrity have been raised in the media. How can our country's leader expect the children, voters and citizens of Great Britain to comply with laws and societal expectations when the government are unable to do so? It has raised questions of social responsibility, integrity in democracy and elitist approach: ‘though we set the rules, we don’t have to comply with them’.
Since this, little substantial damage has hit the Conservative party's image. This is partly due to Boris's ability to utilise the global news as a means of distraction from his political downfalls. The Ukraine war has provided a disgracefully perfect opportunity to blow smoke over his mistakes in domestic politics. Johnson needed to boost his public persona as a 'strong leader’ and assisting another country in a war against an international bully was more than fitting. As the Financial Times claims, 'the war saved Johnson's premiership from a likely leadership challenge over "partygate'".
However, April has revealed additional scandals to the public of the government’s dishonourable behaviour. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under fire over his household tax row after discovery that his wife holds 'non-domiciliary status' in the UK and therefore has alternative UK taxpayer arrangements. Not only does this raise a question of conflict of interest for Sunak, but also how can the Chancellor be an authority on UK tax laws when there is a question of honesty surrounding his household tax payments?
Approaching the May local elections, the media has recognised the culmination of hits to the conservative’s credibility. Aside from the ruins of Brexit forcing our economy into a 'standstill' (growing just 0.1% in the first month of the year), the number of scandals relating to Tory party honour has been exceptional. From Cumming's Barnard castle trip during lockdown, to Matt Hancock's suspiciously hypocritical workplace antics - from the man who set the laws on social distancing. The embarrassment of our politician’s behaviour has become almost comical amongst their British constituents. And yet, who's to say the voters will honour these concerns this when coming to vote in the next General Election?
What will it take for British voters to respond to government errors? When will voters lose their apparent blind faith it their government?
I find it strange and daunting the thought of control the government has over our lives, particularly recently with emergency powers used in the Covid lockdowns. This occurs simultaneously as we witness their dishonourable behaviour; acting incongruently with the social morals they preach and foist onto the public.
Why do voters allow this? Has the fear of Covid fuelled the public's dependency and 'blind faith' on the government? Has an artificial web of trust been developed due to an unprecedented crisis that clouds citizen's judgement? Or perhaps voting based on a leader’s integrity is a privilege: a luxury that those who prioritise whichever party helps feed their children do not have. Am ignorant to fail to see why some may vote for Johnson out of financial obligation rather than idealistic choice?
Whilst I appreciate differing voting agenda’s, we should all be aware of the desperate need for change that is due within British political society. A more holistic, serious approach is due to consider the honour of leaders with greater attention and practical means. This would reach far wider than individual party choice. This is about looking at what people do, and not what they say, or claim. This is about looking at the depth and integrity of those who put themselves forward to lead, as I believe this has an impact on how the party’s policy, we vote for is executed. We need to trust our guts when we are at the ballot box and not what we are being fed on social media. The voters’ criticisms and issues with those in power need to be translated onto the ballot box. At the end of the day, we need to actively express our view that we cannot provide consent or offer trust in leadership who fail to honour the values they preach.
So, I raise this; is this series of events going to change voting behaviour, and if not, why not?