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Tory ministers are destroying trust in politics

January 9, 2018 5:28 PM
By Marko Scepanovic; Chair of Crawley Liberal Democrats

Previously in politics, if a politician in one of the great offices of state such as the foreign office, made a blunder on such a level that it led to imprisonment and degrading treatment of a UK national abroad, they would be forced to resign. In early November, Boris Johnson stated that the UK-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff had been "teaching journalism" in Tehran, a statement which was false. She was in fact simply there on holiday. As a result of the blunder, officials in Iran heard about the comments and now Nazanin an additional five years in prison.

Yet, Boris Johnson carries on as Foreign Secretary, having put the life of a British national, a wife and mother of a young daughter, at risk. The overall fallout may even jeopardise British diplomacy between the UK and Iran as a deal has to be negotiated.

This isn't the first time Boris Johnson has damaged British standing in abroad. He joked that the Libyan city of Sirte could be a flourishing city, "[Once the] bodies had been cleared". He recited a British colonial poem on a visit to Myanmar and the British ambassador to the country was forced to intervene tell him to stop. In any other walk of life, the individual would have lost their job.

One of the lessons of the Iraq war was that more detailed analysis and scrutiny of evidence was required prior to any major government decision. Yet, at this very moment, the government are conducting major negotiations without even a basic understanding of the costs and risks to UK industry as a consequence of leaving the EU and the model to be followed afterwards.

David Davis, the Secretary of State in charge of negotiating our exit from the EU, said in October there were 58 or so impact assessments in existence, and that the Prime Minister had read summaries of them. But, earlier in December he claimed the papers he was previously bragging about, did not actually exist. Not even 1.

It's clear that David Davis either lied to Parliament in October or December. No business would ever consider major changes or investment without a basic cost analysis plan. So how can the government continue without one at the moment?

No wonder then that the British public look at the state of politics, with Boris and his blunders and Davis and his straight up lying, and despair. Trust in politicians continues to fall to the 24% approx mark. Unless those of us in politics learn the lessons of Iraq, and uphold the responsibilities that come with being in public office, we risk permanently damaging a vital relationship with those who trust us to represent their interests.