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Does the tide of Tory sleaze matter? As ever, the late Christopher Booker has the answer

Tom Winnifrith
Friday 30 April 2021

Gosh I miss my late uncle Chris and our hour long, weekly, chats that would just go on and on skipping from topic to topic almost seamlessly. He may have founded Private Eye but we both did the jokes. We both have a history of falling out with folks and made sure that we had no such bust ups so if we disagreed as we did just now and again there was always a workaround. So we disagreed on Brexit as he regarded me as a “no deal” hard line fruitcake and I wore that badge with honour. But rather than debate it we just agreed that Theresa May was the worst Prime Minister in history, laughed and moved on. Back in the nineties those chats would see us spending some time on Tory sleaze. You remember that MP who shared a bed with another chap and said he was doing it to save money? The jokes wrote themselves back then.

Chris’s father, a classical liberal, had a famous phrase “never trust a Tory”  and instinctively – whatever we voted we both might have agreed with grandpa. But the electorate does appear to still trust the Tories or, at least, is prepared to vote for them. I suspect that on May 6 they will do exceptionally well in local, mayoral, Senedd and Scottish hot air shop elections. And that is despite the fact that this Government is mired in sleaze.

In part the Tory’s success is down to the sheer hopelessness of the opposition. Labour has provided no opposition during lockdown simply going along with the GroupThink gripping all parties. Now, which journalist was the great expert on GroupThink and could have covered it so brilliantly? Gosh Chris is missed! Labour too has problems with corruption and cannot hide how it despises its traditional working class vote. The SNP appears to be run by a liar who tried to get her predecessor jailed on false charges. There is no opposition and that allows many a Tory fail.

But the sleaze is still there. Boris Johnson appears to have indirectly had his flat decorated with cash that in part came at one point from the party (i.e. donors). We now know that as Mayor, he took his mistress on foreign trips she should not have been on and gave her joke firm vast sums of cash.If a politician takes cash from someone he may be beholden to that someone and that is why it is wrong. If he hands out taxpayer cash to his, undeclared, mistress that is, surely, wrong.

Matt Hancock’s mate who runs his local boozer won a massive PPE contract.Whatever. All above board.  I will have a pint of lager, a packet of pork scratchings and 27 million masks mein host. Put it on the tab. David Cameron lobbied for crooks at Greensill to get them taxpayer cash. The list does go on. But nobody seems to care.

A demonstration of the genius of Booker was when he viewed this last time the Tories were in power and seriously sleazy. I do not recall if he printed this but in our discussions the analogy he made was with throwing rocks into a small pond. They make a splash which is the media headline, but then sink beneath the surface and it appears there is no impact. Then you chuck in another. Splash. It sinks again. The media coverage and faux outrage of the opposition is forgotten.

The fact that the pond appears undisturbed is like the Tories poll ratings not being shaken by revelation after revelation. And that will encourage The Tories to think that they are getting away with it so they will carry on. But beneath the surface the pile is growing and one day a rock heads into the water. Splash! But it sits there on top of all the other rocks and is visible. In the same way that voters say look this is just getting ridiculous now, sleaze is an issue we cannot vote for these shysters any more. Same old Tories. Same old sleaze.

I find it incredible that anyone can consider this Government anything other than corrupt. But there you go, so far the rocks hurled into the pond lie beneath the surface. How far? We do not know but they are not visible. The Tories will do well on May 6th and, as my Grandpa would have noted, they are inherently an arrogant bunch so will take that as a cue to carry on as they have been doing.

Uncle Chris would have surveyed the results and we’d have joked about how a “vindicated” Boris Johnson will now be getting a party donor to install an incredibly expensive and tasteless pole dancing pole in No 10 and how maybe Theresa May was not so bad after all. A Chris Booker golden rule about Archbishops of Canterbury is also true of Tory leaders since the blessed Margaret. Each appears to be the worst in history and a subject for scorn and ridicule. That is until the next one comes along and suddenly the last one seems almost Churchillian.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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