THE Tories under the current Prime Minister really love to flirt with populist authoritarianism.

I “flirt”, but honestly a lot of the time it really goes beyond that. With their big majority, and a Labour opposition that is useless, they have become so emboldened that there is no mask left to slip. They no longer feel the need to even hide what they are doing.

I often reference how Scotland hasn’t voted Conservative since 1955, but it is revealing when you look at the UK more broadly. People like to think British politics is a constant back and forth between Labour and Conservative prime ministers in equal measure.

This isn’t true. By 2024, Tony Blair will have been the only elected Labour Prime Minister of the last 50 years. The UK historically has undoubtedly elected more Conservative governments than Labour ones.

Even then, Tony Blair only got in because he moved to the right. The UK has, therefore, been conditioned to more right-wing policies over a prolonged period of time. All our political and social discussions are viewed through a very neoliberal lens.

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In many ways we have been conditioned to accept completely avoidable things as somehow inevitable – such as poverty, homelessness and refugees drowning in the English Channel, to name a few. So, when I say “there is no mask left to slip” I suppose I am really asking – how right wing do you need to be to become far right?

In an age where political discourse has become a bin fire, where fake news is only ever a click away, I do not ask this question flippantly. You only need to look to the events after Trump lost in America to see how fragile democracy truly is.

When we consider that the Tories have proudly breached international law, have illegally shut down Parliament and want to bring forward laws that criminalise protest, I think it is a fair question to ask.

This week however,the current UK Government took yet another turn down this sinister road they have us on by attempting to scrap the Commons Standards Committee, which monitors the conduct of MPs. They appeared to be doing this to save Owen Paterson, a Conservative who was found by the committee to have used his position as an MP to lobby on behalf of two companies worked for.

He was sentenced to a 30-day suspension. This Prime Minister is so emboldened that he whipped his MPs to vote in favour of not just letting Paterson get away with it and face no punishment, but to completely get rid of the independent oversight system altogether.

The scary thing is, it passed. The Tories show the public exactly how they will exercise the power that has been entrusted to them, and they do so shamelessly. Journalists and politicians have been referring to “sleaze”, which there undoubtedly is, but let’s call this what it is – corruption. It is one rule for them and one rule for everybody else.

It’s a pattern of behaviour now, that started with the illegal shutdown of Parliament; promoting Priti Patel who had been sacked from the last government after holding 14 unofficial meetings with Israeli ministers, businesspeople and a senior lobbyist; and defending Dominic Cummings driving hours to visit family and test his eyesight during a national lockdown.

Let’s not forget the anonymous donors paying to renovate 10 Downing Street. You only need to look at the Prime Minister’s record with the truth to see how trustworthy he is. Combine with this the blatant relationship between media and the Conservatives, we begin to see a scary picture.

If journalists were describing a party in any other country where the government decided to abolish a committee that was investigating them, and replaced it with a committee where they have a majority, to be chaired by someone with scandals of their own, they would call it authoritarian.

But here, for Boris and pals, it’s just “sleaze”.

I think the Prime Minister got a shock at the backlash he received and the next morning, he announced they wouldn’t be following through with the plan and that Paterson would be suspended as recommended.

Paterson resigned rather than accept that suspension. Presumably the halls of Westminster will be much quieter now that he won’t be having business meetings in his parliamentary office anymore.

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There is still more for the Prime Minister to do here, though. He must apologise to Kathryn Stone, the Standards Commissioner who investigated Paterson’s rule-breaking, and he must rule out giving Owen Paterson a job for life in the House of Lords. I doubt he will do either of those things, however.

This one U-turn doesn’t undo the mistrust built up around him from the years of scandals.

Nor does it end any doubts people have about the Prime Minister’s own conduct.

It makes me think of the frog analogy. If you put a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out and escape the deadly heat. If you, however, place the frog in cold water and begin to slowly raise the temperature until boiling point, the frog will not notice until it is too late.

I mention this because despite all these scandals, the Tories are still strong in the polls. The part of the electorate that voted the Prime Minister into power has never, as yet, cared about any of these scandals.

My fellow SNP MP Pete Wishart put the whole matter very succinctly from the Scottish perspective: “Scotland wants no part in the sleaze, cronyism and corruption which has become endemic in Westminster. The only way we can shake it off for good is to become an independent country.”

He’s right.