THE term ‘banality of evil’ was coined by political theorist Hannah Arendt after watching the 1961 trial of top Nazi, Adolf Eichmann. This spare phrase captures the idea that evil acts are not necessarily perpetrated by evil people. Instead, they can simply be the result of bureaucrats and others dutifully obeying orders.

Now, there is no suggestion the present behaviour of the Boris Johnson government compares to the obscenity of the Nazi regime, but there are clear signs that the UK may be travelling the very same route.

For instance, this week Michael Gove was found guilty of breaking the law. The courts decided it was a clear breach. He has offered no apology. There was no contrition. Life has carried on much as before for the wayward minister. The media made little of this unlawful act. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is another notable offender.

It has become routine for ministers to lie and divert contracts to friends and party donors. We have become conditioned to accept such bad behaviour as the norm.

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But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Such decay is only possible if the institutions of the state are content to collaborate. Civil servants and many others are required to overlook conventions and their consciences to become enablers of iniquity. Indeed, by many accounts the head of the UK civil service seems to be more exercised in preventing Scottish independence than upholding the integrity of his office. He could, had he wished, deplored the brow beating of officials. He could have made clear that the proud record of an impartial service be upheld at all costs. But no, he opted to enable. And not oppose. Or even object, it seems.

Quietly and almost without demur, the BBC has also been co-opted to the government cause. Its leadership is now unashamedly partisan. Indeed, its bosses may have been chosen on that basis. It would be the height of foolishness to expect impartial output from an organisation so profoundly compromised.

All of this increasingly foul and fetid ethos is due directly to the lack of controls over ministerial behaviour. Because the UK constitution is whatever the government of the day, with a working majority, says it is; officials are placed in a quandary. Imagine you are a civil servant in some government department and a minster tells you to contract with a company without a tender and/or absent the normal conditions that apply to all government deals? What do you do?

You could go through channels and appeal to your bosses to protect you from ministerial wrath when his/her friends complain that some juicy contract has been delayed. Your boss may be sympathetic. But, knowing the supine posture of the upper ranks of the service, this is unlikely to go further, and you may be told to get on with finalising the contract. Pronto.

People are not stupid. They see what is happening around them. They shudder when it becomes clear that all must conform. Or else. Thus, bad behaviour becomes institutionalised. All too soon, it becomes unnecessary for ministers to threaten. A raised eyebrow is sufficient, however odious the command. The mere hint that mortgage payments may be at risk is generally enough to bring even the most moral characters to heel.

Once this ethos of low standards is embedded, any behaviour is possible. The fourth estate, the so-called monitors of standards, is mostly devoted to the supposed inner workings of the Royal Family, while giving little attention to the moral decline around them.

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All of this could have been prevented had the UK been in possession of a written, codified constitution. Civil servants would have pledged their allegiance that constitution which likely would have embodied safeguards preventing the corruption we now see all around us. Ministers would have been prevented from behaving as they wished. Clear conditions would be in place to ensure that anyone breaching the constitution would be subject to the full force of the remedies enshrined in the constitution.

As is the case in most developed countries.

But no. What we have instead is a mish mash of easily overturned or ignored conventions together with beseechings for politicians to behave like good chaps. In other words, the UK constitution is a chimera. An illusion to be dispensed with as required.

I earnestly hope I am wrong, but history teaches us worse is to come. The banality of evil may have its day again. And the moral morass that is the UK is a threat to us all. It’s time to go.

Look out for another important guest on the TNT show on Wednesday at 7pm on IndyLive