The last two years of sleaze have given the false impression that there is something new about the way in which this government now runs the country. In fact it has been an inefficient, authoritarian, hypocritical and morally bankrupt administration almost since the day it took office in 1979. Its ministers have been resigning (or not resigning) in disgrace ever since its inception. The nepotism shown towards its 'family' of opportunistic supporters has been evident from the start but has now grown to such a level that even the Tories themselves are interspersing their frenzies of patronage and self-aggrandisement with calls for moderation and integrity in public office, rather as the inveterate drunk forswears all alcohol during a hangover. The corruption of this long era of Conservative rule extends beyond personal venality. Though loudly committed to the rule of law, especially when it meant ruining the unions in the early Eighties, the Government has found its own actions frequently castigated as unlawful in the British courts, and pilloried in Strasbourg for the infringement of human rights. Its response has been to contrive legal ruses the effect of which has been often to place it quite literally above the law. This contempt towards one great limb of the British Constitution has been matched by the scorn it has shown towards another for which it has also affected respect. The Government's cynical control of the Commons and its contemptuous disregard of the Lords have allowed it singlehandedly to turn Britain into the impoverished and unequal nation that it now finds itself to be. If it is the recent explosion of personal baseness that middle England has now finally noticed, then we should be thankful that they have noticed anything at all. The grasping mediocrity of this administration's members is by no means its worst fault but it is the most beneficial to the nation if it is what eventually leads to its timely collapse.
LRB 9 March 1995 | PDF Download