CLEARLY, I live in a parallel universe.

Michael Gove hit the headlines yesterday, when the High Court ruled he broke the law by awarding a contract to former associates without going to tender.

In my world, that’s pretty serious.

The court didn’t blame his erstwhile pal Dom (though that’s what panicking Tories are now trying to suggest).

It wasn’t an underling. It wasn’t a Big Boy who did it and ran away.

It was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove. He broke the law.

That kind of verdict would have prompted Gove to quit back in the days when cabinet ministers did such things – or at the very least loud demands for a resignation, inquiry or both.

And news of the verdict broke at just the right time for maximum effect – just before Prime Ministers’ Questions.

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But the “Mother of Parliaments” is most definitely another world.

When PMQs finally got going yesterday, the High Court’s damning verdict on Michael Gove didn’t get a single mention.

Instead, Keir Starmer focused his questions with synthetic outrage on education funding in England. Boris Johnson’s response was entirely predictable and utterly inconsequential. I can’t recall a word either man said.

What a wasted opportunity.

Labour had a debate on education scheduled for yesterday afternoon and financing the recovery of pupils is certainly important. But more important than skewering the Tories over dodgy procurement practice? More important than highlighting taxpayers’ money being chucked to cronies again? More important than taking a pop at Michael Gove?

Was the court’s judgment just a bit too last minute for a slow-moving opposition that prefers its own carefully laid plans?

Is law breaking now so unremarkable at Westminster that the Leader of the Opposition won’t throw a deeply unmemorable question aside to hold the UK government to account – even though that is his job?

Or does the demand for an inquiry or resignation after evidence of law-breaking by ministers happen only in that parallel universe called Scotland?

Whatever, the Labour leader opted to apear choreographed when he needed to be spontaneous. Again.

Perhaps that’s why, 14 months into the job, his approval ratings are as low as Jeremy Corbyn’s at the same point. Except Starmer hasn’t got the media and party “colleagues” on his back at the same time.

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Maybe though, the ruling wasn’t as significant as it sounds?

After all, what’s a backhanded £560k government contract in the great scheme of things?

I’ll tell you what it is.


Proof that senior members of the British government habitually break the rules and then try to cover their tracks.

Proof that decades-old governance standards at Westminster have been completely abandoned.

And – according to Jo Maugham of the Good Law Project – proof that “This is not Government for the public good – it is Government for the good of friends of the Conservative Party.”

Of course, Mr Maugham has just proved what Yessers have long suspected. But suspicion is one thing – proof is another. So we should thank the doggedness of Peter Geoghegan, investigations editor of Open Democracy, (who spent months tracking the procurement information down), journalist David Conn and the Good Law Project (which spent months to crowdfund where fully-funded law agencies feared to tread). One tiny corner of the government’s elaborate crony contract structure now sits fully exposed. And whilst the court could only find “apparent bias” – so no jail for Gove – it did prove preferential access exists for ministerial pals.

So, what will happen?

Independence supporters already know the answer – nothing.

It feels pointless to even ask.

And that’s the terrible irony.

The more the British Government is found to have broken the law, the less attention and condemnation their law-breaking seems to generate.

And boy have they got form.

IN February, the High Court ruled that Matt Hancock acted unlawfully by failing to reveal details of contracts signed during the coronavirus pandemic. It transpired that companies referred by ministers’ offices, MPs, peers or health chiefs were “fast-tracked” – and thus 10 times more likely to win a contract. The National Audit Office said more than half the £18bn spent on pandemic-related contracts was awarded without competitive tender. Still so shocking.

But what happened?


That same month, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Home Office’s “scandalously high” fee of £1000 for children to register as British citizens was unlawful.

What happened?


READ MORE: Michael Gove investigation ruled out despite unlawful contract ruling

Last November, Home Secretary Priti Patel was found to have bullied civil servants by the Prime Minister’s independent advisor to the ministerial code, Sir Alex Allan.

Something did happen.

He quit.

Last June, the appeal court ruled that rigid universal credit payment rules were irrational and unlawful.

Nothing happened.

And last May, a judge ruled that English housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s (below) approval of a Conservative-donor’s building project at the Isle of Dogs was unlawful.

The National: Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick

So, it’s not just Hancock and Gove. It’s not just this year. It’s not just this once. And it’s not just about Covid contracts.

Boris doesn’t give a fig about the rule of law.

He broke it over proroguing parliament – he flirted with breaking international law over the Northern Ireland protocol and the resulting bodge is now so unworkable there’s talk of goods from Ireland facing checks to enter mainland EU – despite Ireland being a full EU member.

The situation is outrageous but it’s pointless to complain. Because that’s how the UK rolls, old boy.

Rules are for losers.

Laws are for little people (and asylum seekers).

Boris and his team are masters of distraction and no outrage ever sticks around long enough to hit Boris where it hurts – in the polls.

No wonder many folk simply switch off.

But this is too serious a revelation to be shrugged off with a “what did you expect” response. Opting to express outrage at the loss of democratic function in Westminster does not make you a slack-jawed, naïve sucker.

In a functional democracy with a proper separation of powers we’d see several criminal investigations happening now over the Covid contracts for chums scandal.

But there are none.

That has to matter. We have to keep proofing Westminster behaviour against decent democracy so we don’t lose our own standards, expectations and moral compass in the journey to independence.

But in the end, what will finally defeat the Tories is not legal action or political reaction from Her Madge’s woefully unresponsive “official” opposition – it’s the court of public opinion in Scotland.

So stay angry. Independence can’t come fast enough.