To restore trust in politics we must put an end to the lying and conspiracy theories
During Prime Minister’s Questions today, a photograph emerged that suggests Boris Johnson attended an alcohol fuelled Christmas party in Downing Street - a party he previously claimed had never happened.
A few weeks ago, my constituent got in touch with me to share her horrifying experiences of lockdown in 2020. After having worked in the NHS for 30 years, she was diagnosed with a tumour on her spine which required major and extremely painful surgery lasting over ten hours. Sadly, the procedure uncovered two more tumours that needed further treatment.
Her family were unable to visit her and continued to obey the lockdown rules set out by the Prime Minister. This was the most distressing moment in my constituents - and her family’s - life. The physical and mental suffering they all had to endure is unthinkable.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister and his Downing Street chums attended a Christmas party. We know this isn’t an isolated incident, with many other parties rightly being investigated by the police.
In my 25 years as a Member of Parliament, I have never seen a British Prime Minister stoop so low
This is hardly the way to treat somebody who has dedicated her life to our country’s health service. Boris Johnson has thrown my constituent’s trust - and the trust of everyone who obeyed lockdown rules - back in their faces.
As I stood opposite the Prime Minister about to raise this tragic reality, I felt betrayed, lied to and furious. I know my constituent and her family will feel the same. Photographic evidence shows that Boris Johnson attended this party, yet he still stood in front of the House of Commons and claimed I was wrong.
The Prime Minister’s behaviour over the last few months has been an insult to our democracy. He has repeatedly lied to the House of Commons about gatherings in Downing Street and has parroted conspiracy theories about one of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles.
Whether Labour or Conservative, in my 25 years as a Member of Parliament, I have never seen a British Prime Minister stoop so low, dragging our Parliament through the mud with him.
The sad reality is that the case I raised directly with the Prime Minister today is just one of hundreds of similarly horrifying experiences of lockdown in North East Leeds alone.
The contempt with which the Prime Minister has treated every single person who obeyed the rules to protect our NHS from the virus is unforgivable, but it also poses questions for the integrity of our democracy and how we conduct political discourse in this country.
Thanks to the Prime Minister’s repeated lies to Parliament, trust in politics is on a serious downward trajectory. It’s now vital that MPs on all sides of the House come together to re-enforce the importance of truth and integrity.
One country we can look to for inspiration is Chile. The recent Presidential Election saw socialist Gabriel Boric sweep to power against right-wing candidate, Jose Antonio Kast. This was the first time that a committed socialist had faced the far-right in a Presidential Election in a country usually dominated in recent decades by centrist political figures. Despite the vast polarisation of their political views, public debates were well tempered, with no personal insults, blatant lies or abuse.
Following Boric’s victory, I was shocked but delighted to see Kast had publicly congratulated him and urged the entire country to get behind the President-Elect. The sitting President, who was also on the opposite side of the political spectrum to Boric, publicly telephoned to congratulate him on his election victory in a national television broadcast.
In Chile, which suffered a tragic period of authoritarian dictatorship, politics is once again an honourable occupation and it is seen as the ultimate privilege to serve those who vote to put you into office. It is therefore conducted with the utmost graciousness.
In Britain, such a relationship between politicians and voters is now largely unheard of. This needs to change and we could do much worse than taking a leaf out of Chile’s book so that the Mother of all Parliaments can get back treating the House and the public with the respect they deserve.
That means bringing the lying and the echoing of conspiracy theories to an end - and it has to end now, before the rot sets in permanently.
Fabian Hamilton is the Labour MP for Leeds North East.
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