Polish Versus Sleaze: Examining the continued polling divide in the UK

(Photo: LOESS)

By Rachael Ward – Regular Contributor

Perhaps these oppositional characterisations of polished and crooked are based on the presentation of the parties only. Both parties will have their internal squabbles, dabbles with misconduct and accusations of ‘sleaze’. 

Yet, for the purposes of examining the parties amid the present storm of allegations against the Tories, these characterisations seem useful. 

A growing influx of questions have been met with repetitive rhetoric including anything bar an answer. Listing the accusations hurled against the Conservative Party, never mind the specific accusations against the Prime Minister himself, would absorb too much time and concentration for anyone to find readable. 

That said, the overt dismissal of these allegations by the Prime Minister on the grounds that the people simply don’t care, is unconvincing, not to mention insulting. 

Should we turn a blind eye to possible misconduct and let the Conservatives run the country with unfettered, unchecked, utterly free reign? If the allegations against the party are anything to go by, no we should not. 

The important takeaway from these allegations is that they contribute to the overall aroma of ‘sleaze’. As the Conservatives continue to sink into the quagmire of accusations, the most notable ones range from the dishing out of uncompetitive contracts to Tory donors, all the way to Johnson initially pondering whether to fund renovations of his flat with Conservative Party donations. The personal messages between James Dyson and the Prime Minister, expounding Johnson’s willingness to reform tax rules for the former, only strengthen the stench of sleaze. As the Electoral Commission investigates the refurbishment of Johnson’s flat, the situation gets slightly more serious. 

The uncertainty over the No.11 Downing Street flat refurbishments has been dubbed the ‘cash for curtains’ row. The crucial thing about curtains is that they must be opened for them to be closed. Boris Johnson must let the forces of transparency be the judge of his activities. 

Johnson’s latest defence is that there is ‘nothing to see here’. Does anything imply more strongly that there really is something to see than the claim that there is ‘nothing to see’? The overriding attitude from the Party and its proponents is one of dismissiveness. 

Because the Prime Minister cares so little, is why the country should care so much. 

These allegations are crippling to political integrity, but do the allegers possess much weight? Labour have called for investigations, inquiries and plainly called out the behaviour of the party and Government. 

Clinching to the characterization of sleaze, Labour have indulged themselves in the so-called scandals in hope of boosting their own political positioning as local elections near. But toppling the Tories will require a great deal more than demonization of Boris Johnson. As Dominic Cummings so eloquently reminded us recently, close aides and Downing Street insiders are willing to throw their beloved Boris under the bus if he loses the favour of the electorate. 

One of the only sentiments Enoch Powell can be credited for must be that all political careers end in failure. It is probable that Johnson’s will be no different. So, when his que to step down finally beckons, this does not indicate the inevitable shift to Labour. Sunak, Raab or Gove will promptly step up to the plate and insert themselves into the political vacuum. Labour must do a lot more than point the finger on Johnson or even the Government as a whole. They must find a way to make themselves compelling in their own right. Reliance on Tory weaknesses is not going to cut it. 

As the Tories attempt to dodge the showering bullets of questions launched against them, only one answer comes to their minds: vaccinations. 

The comically repetitive referral to the astounding success of the vaccination rollout is beginning to wear thin. In seriousness, the vaccine has been a big tick for the Government. But let’s be clear, if you get one thing right while getting a growing list of things wrong, you do not pass the test. 

Credit is given where credit is due. Which is why we cannot credit the Government on every front for the singular success of vaccination rollout. May it also be added that the vaccine success is the collective success of the country. It is not Tory ministers sustaining the all-day shifts to administer the vaccine. Although it is those ministers who will happily absorb all credit for such. 

Calling out incompetence and sleaze are of course imperative tools for the operation of the opposition. But Labour are currently acting as though the Tories weaknesses enhance Labour’s strength. By calling out the weaknesses of your opponent you merely discredit the government without adding credit to your own campaign. 

If Labour continue to rely on calling out Conservative incompetence, they will never establish themselves as a credible party in their own right. 

The ‘polished’ Labour Party need to use their own strengths to climb up the polls, as the sleazy reputation of the Tories fails to fold their lead. 

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