Public distrust in the UK government following the partygate saga has fallen to levels not seen since the expenses scandal of 2010, meaning the UK is now the Western democracy with the lowest levels of trust in our politicians.
According to modelling by the New Statesman, 62 per cent in the UK think the government ignores rules and procedures. This compares with just 40 per cent in Italy, and 34 per cent in Germany. Britain is not merely cynical about those in power; these numbers show that partygate has made the country downright distrustful.
It’s not normal for people to rank their lack of faith in politics and politicians as the most important issue facing Britain today. Normally, it’s the cost of living, unemployment, Brexit and immigration. But right now 17 per cent of the population say that their lack of faith in politics and politicians is the most important issue facing politics.
Partygate has fomented apathy. If you’re a party activist, or a participant in a focus group, or someone who regularly goes out door-knocking, one thing you’ll notice is the rise in the number of people who say, “they’re all the same”.
Voters are increasingly of the view that it’s a product of politics itself being poisonous, as opposed to being the reserve of the present occupants of Downing Street.
Will this change things? Can they get better?
The Conservatives currently have a parliamentary majority similar in size to Margaret Thatcher’s election victory of 1987. But if an election was held today, Labour would emerge as the largest party with the increasing probability that Keir Starmer would be Britain’s next prime minister.
According to the New Statesman’s modelling, the Labour Party would win 290-300 seats in parliament, and the Conservatives would have 250; a stark difference to how Britons voted in 2019. This is closer than most elections but a five-point lead in the polls is seemingly enough to remove Boris Johnson from office.
We can’t be sure that a Labour election victory would necessarily clean politics up, but Keir Starmer – visibly a world away from Johnson – might just push it in a different direction. The acclaimed historian, Peter Hennessy, in an interview with the Financial Times said, “the one thing I’m sure is, whoever replaces Boris, whatever the [circumstances], he or she will make great play of being anybody but Boris in terms of due process, and care and attention.”
Partygate has injured British politics, but it won’t last forever. Right now, it seems only a flesh wound.