Friday 27 October 2023

Forming an orderly queue

The Tories are fond of reminding us of the importance of what they like to call ‘British’ values, albeit occasionally prefaced by the counter-productive adjective ‘Great’ with its implication that Northern Ireland is excluded. They are rather less proficient at articulating what those values might be, or at least of doing so in a way which makes their actions in any way correspond to the values expressed in their words. When I try and compile a list of what I always thought were key elements of ‘British’ values, what immediately springs to mind is the way in which the current government undermines them rather than supporting them: think honesty, integrity, rule of law (domestic and international), fairness, justice and compassion, just for starters.

There is, however, one British attribute to which Tory MPs do indeed seem to subscribe in both word and deed, and that is the propensity for forming an orderly queue. It’s not a uniquely British trait, of course – Russians, particularly from the Soviet era, could teach us a lot about the etiquette of queuing. But perhaps the biggest problem with this particular element of Britishness is to do with what they are queuing for. And in the case of Tory MPs, it’s the queue to take their place in the scandal stakes. No sooner does Sunak allow himself a small sigh of relief as one of his MPs is effectively expelled from the House, than another manages to get himself arrested. It’s all very courteous, the way in which they patiently wait their turn to grab the headlines, and it’s been going on for a long time now. I’ve lost count of how many have patiently stepped up to the plate, but one way or another, the Tories are down from 365 at the last election to around 352 today. And the arrow is pointing in only one direction.

The thing is that nobody, not even – or perhaps, especially not – Sunak, knows how many more are currently standing in the queue. All we know is that as soon as the one at the head of the queue gets ‘processed’ another steps forward to take his or her (usually his) place in the headlines. The only good news for Sunak is that, at the rate of, say, one a fortnight, we are unlikely to get far enough through the queue to completely destroy his majority. Only his reputation, mental balance, and hairline. I can almost imagine that he might rather prefer that they abandoned that patient British attitude to queuing and all of the MPs currently in the queue rushed forwards at once. At least he’d then know the scale of the problem. On second thoughts, that’s probably something he’d rather not know. And spotting an empty queue would probably only encourage more of them to join it.

No comments: