MORE shocking details emerged this week of the extent of the partygate cover-up under former prime minister Boris Johnson, who is being investigated by the House of Commons Privileges Committee for misleading Parliament.

This week, ministers still in office continued to play fast and loose with the truth. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack’s insistence that Scots don’t want to rejoin the EU may have been insulting in its absurdity, but the lies told by Business, Energy and Industrial Secretary, Grant Shapps, as he introduced new anti-strike laws were really quite disgraceful.

To make matters worse, Rishi Sunak perpetuated the deception at Prime Minister’s Questions.

For readers new to the concept of Grant Shapps, he’s a “self-made” millionaire who I think it’s safe to say wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning for the average wage earned by key workers in the UK.

READ MORE: Draconian Tory strike laws endanger public safety - The REAL Scottish Politics

When he entered Parliament, he hid the fact that he had a second job by practising business under a false name and then threatened to sue a constituent who revealed this fact, until he was forced to admit it was true. Nice.

On Tuesday, he drew on all his skills of elision and subterfuge to claim that the new anti-strike laws he will start to pilot through Parliament next week are about protecting the public from danger to life and limb, that they mirror what happens in other countries across Europe, and that they will comply with international labour law.

Lies, lies, lies.

For a start, the word “safety” doesn’t even appear in the bill.

It’s a bill about minimum service levels.

Yet Shapps, the Prime Minister, and other politicians and officials have this week repeatedly talked of minimum safety levels – and they seem happy for confusion between the two concepts to be caused.

Furthermore, as Chris Stephens pointed out in the Commons earlier this week, in some sectors, trade unions are already legally obliged to provide “life and limb” cover. This is usually secured by local agreements.

As to European standards, most European countries have a rather different model of labour relations than the UK which, thanks to successive Tory governments, has one of the strictest systems of regulation of industrial action in Europe.

Labour law experts will tell you that in most European countries, minimum service levels are established by collective agreements between unions and workers.

In so far as legislation exists, it provides a framework for these agreements rather than top-down regulation. The Scandinavians have no such laws.

In contrast, the Tories’ bill will enable the Secretary of State to make sweeping regulations restricting the right to strike with little to circumscribe his discretion.

The bill will affect millions of workers in health services, fire and rescue services, education, transport, decommissioning of radioactive waste and spent fuel, and border security.

As to compliance with international labour law, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has enshrined the right to strike in their convention, to which the UK is a signatory.

Minimum service levels are allowed – but not if they are imposed by the Government, because this would be an infringement of the right to strike and freedom of association.

To comply with the ILO requirements, the levels must be set by negotiation between employers and workers, through their union (if one exists) or by an independent body, as happens in Italy.

Only in European countries well-known for flouting fundamental rights like Hungary and Russia do we see government-enforced minimum service levels leading to the sacking of workers and the bankrupting of unions fighting for fair pay and conditions.

Yet with this new bill, the Tories will give employers the power to fire striking workers and to sue unions if they don’t ensure minimum service levels set by the Government.

PERHAPS we shouldn’t be surprised that despite all their anti-Putin rhetoric the Tories want to emulate his approach to striking workers.

After all, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab hasn’t ruled out the UK joining Russia as one of the few European countries not in the European Convention on Human Rights.

And Home Secretary Suella Braverman is keen that this should happen sooner rather than later.

These laws were not in the Tories’ manifesto for the 2019 General Election, which tends to suggest that they didn’t perceive a problem with the existing arrangements for securing minimum service levels until they were embarrassed by strikes by the very key workers we were enjoined to clap during the pandemic.

Now that the Tories need an excuse to stymie the strikes, government-imposed minimum service levels have become a matter of life and death.

The fact that these laws weren’t promised in the Tories’ manifesto means that Parliament should block them, if not in the Commons then in the Lords. It is to be hoped there may be some Tory rebels.

Labour have promised to oppose the laws and repeal them if they win the next General Election – but based on their past record, there is justifiable suspicion they are not to be trusted on the second part of their promise.

So far, opposition has been led by the SNP, who will continue to work hand-in-hand with the Scottish Trades Unions Congress (STUC) through the good offices of Chris Stephens MP and other distinguished trade union activists including Bill Ramsay and Simon Barrow, who lead the SNP Trade Union Group.

Like the SNP, the STUC recognises that these laws are also an attack on devolution which has enabled a very different collaborative approach to trade union relations in Scotland.

The bottom line is that key workers are striking because their wages have not begun to keep in line with inflation and because interest rate hikes caused by Tory economic incompetence mean they can’t afford their mortgage or rent payments.

The UK Government needs to recognise the stark reality of workers’ lives and work with their unions respectfully to reach agreement.

Instead, the Tories have used these disputes as an excuse for yet another attack on fundamental rights, just as they used the climate action and Black Lives Matter movements as an excuse to clamp down on the right to protest.

READ MORE: Transport Secretary Mark Harper admits anti-strike laws 'no solution'

As the STUC has said, the right to strike is the last resort for workers. The decision to exercise that right is not taken lightly.

People tend to forget that every day of strike action is a day of lost pay for people who are already struggling.

If workers cannot exercise their right to withhold their labour, then they are wage slaves.

Human rights are founded in our dignity as human beings. The rights to work and to withhold labour are fundamental to that dignity.

Why is it so hard for self-made millionaire Tories like Shapps to understand that?