Friday 20 January 2023

Double standards


As crimes go, failing to wear a seatbelt in a moving car is pretty minor stuff. There is, however, a difference between failing to fasten the belt when getting into the car – which might legitimately be described as a genuine ‘mistake’ – and removing it once the vehicle is moving. The PM has described it as an ‘error of judgement’, but there is no escaping the fact that it is, as a matter of fact, the deliberate commission of a criminal act. Whether it really deserves the attention of Mr Plod is open to debate. The police have better things to do with their time, even if this is an open-and-shut case, with the criminal freely acknowledging that he deliberately chose to break the law. The question is one of equity: if the police prosecute others for breaking this law, why should the PM be exempt?

In a strange way, it also ties in with another story from yesterday – the government are trying to amend the online safety bill to make it illegal to post any video which might show small boats crossing the channel “in a positive light”. They are probably going to struggle with producing a sufficiently precise definition of that to stand up in a court of law, but that won’t stop them trying, even though it is not entirely clear that getting into a small boat and crossing the channel is in itself an illegal act in the first place. But if a video giving a positive impression of an act which only might be illegal is to be banned, where does that leave a video giving a positive impression of an undoubtedly illegal act – such as being in a moving vehicle without wearing a seatbelt – to which the perpetrator has freely admitted?

Sunak is, of course, merely perpetuating the approach of his predecessor but one, for whom criminality is described by one of those pesky irregular verbs, whose conjugation runs: “I make mistakes, you commit errors of judgement, he is being prosecuted for the foulest of crimes”. It is not the commission of a minor crime by the PM yesterday which is the issue, it is the differing standards which the elite seek to apply to themselves. They expect us to accept excuses from them which they would never accept from the rest of us.  And that is something with which they should not be allowed to get away.

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