The Corruption of the Political Class

Photograph Source: Daniel Lobo – CC BY 2.0

“We could slip into being a corrupt country,” said Jonathan Evans, the former head of MI5 and the crossbench peer who chairs the Committee on Standards in Public Life, as he denounced the government’s bid to save Owen Paterson’s political career and neuter parliamentary regulation of paid lobbyists.

On the same day Chris Bryant, chairman of the Commons’ standards committee, said that what the Boris Johnson government was trying to do in overturning Paterson’s suspension was “a perversion of justice” and is “not what we do in this country – it’s what they do in Russia when a friend or a foe is suddenly under the cosh in the courts”.

But perhaps the government’s botched attempt to save Paterson’s skin – despite detailed evidence of him lobbying hard for the two commercial companies paying him £9,000 a month – is, on the contrary, exactly the way we now do things in the UK. Bryant’s analogy with Russia – he might have mentioned Iraq or Turkey or a score of other countries – may not be too far off the mark. Lord Evans is demonstrably correct about the slippage into corruption and wrong only about how far this process has gone.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).