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Nothing to declare

Against the boring tyranny of proceduralism

Artillery Row

Rishi Sunak is under fire for failing to declare his wife’s stake in a childcare agency. She, Indian heiress Akshata Murty, is set to benefit from a policy announced in the Spring budget that sees childminders awarded a signing-up bonus. Although Mr Sunak declared the interest to the Cabinet Office, which oversees the list of minister’s interests, it does not appear in the register of interests for MPs. Cue the brouhaha.

The media is delighted by the apparent slip-up and has launched full tilt into the story. The broadcasters are positively thrilled to deliver a good nag about the importance of the rules. “They’re there for a reason,” the BBC chides. “Most would expect a prime minister to be particularly careful about the paperwork,” they assert. Asked to source this claim, a BBC spokesperson said, “I made it up” before floating into the air.

Rules schmules, anyway — those are for high-trust economies like Japan

Reporters stare down the barrel of cameras — like Philomena Cunks sans the irony — reporting that the row puts the PM “under pressure”. The news will “come as a blow” to his party ahead of the local elections, they say. They recite vagaries wrapped in innuendo: “The investigation could see the PM suspended from the house, but that’s a long way off,” one radio newsman said. The story is extended to fill webpages that take longer to scroll than the Bayeux tapestry. Whether out of hatred or a desire to increase time on site stats, Boris’s Colin the Caterpillar saga is endlessly relitigated at the bottom of each article, where he is branded a “serial offender”.

As well they might, the opposition is wading into the row. Labour accused the PM of dodging proper scrutiny, and the Lib Dems said he was bending the rules. Mr Rules, as Lisa Nandy once dubbed the Labour leader, is keen to stand his party apart from the sleazy Tories. We might be an economy sliding into the second world, sitting on the sidelines of a war which threatens to go nuclear, but we’ll be damned if the paperwork isn’t in order.

For a certain person (the type that controls the media), jobsworth rule enforcement is an end in itself — unless the rules concern invading Iraq, arriving in the country through a port of entry, or basic biological tenets, in which case: the man in the back of a Baghdad cab was a trusted source, no person is illegal, and trans women are women. It’s bookkeeping errors that, as the BBC reported, “threaten to undermine the system”.

Tory MP Jamie Wallis was commended after crashing his car whilst wearing a leather mini-skirt and high heels, before fleeing the scene. He was jointly praised for his bravery by Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson. Sophie Ridge sat down with the now-convicted MP for a lengthy softball interview for Sky News. When it comes to Rishi “Mexican Coke” Sunak, the biggest square in the third dimension, the knives are out over a technical error by his office. 

Rules schmules, anyway — those are for high-trust advanced economies like Japan. We’re fast becoming Italy without the weather, except they have bunga bunga parties and we have cross-dressing MPs smashing into lamp posts. This latest Sunak saga is as boring as the last. Not a thinking person in Christendom is invested in the question of whether the PM should be declaring his interests as an MP, in between navigating economic collapse and nuclear Armageddon. Fewer still think he’s out to bung his wife, who is worth around $800 million, a few thousand quid. 

It’s much ado about nothing whilst the ship sinks

If we are going to continue to fixate on sleaze and corruption, rather than the rapid onset collapse of Britain, let’s at least do the fun stuff. We’ve got a lot going for us on that front. One example being we might just be the only country in the world where you can buy yourself a seat in the legislature. Or where your ability to buy it has more to do than not with whether your ten times removed grandfather was mates with William the Conqueror. Buying Lordships shouldn’t be the thing of backroom deals, it should be advertised on huge billboards; lord knows we could do with some more FDI.

Then there’s foreign aid, which sees the UK squander enough money to build two aircraft carriers every year. Rather than pretend it’s for the Sudanese Spice Girls, let’s showcase our terrific record of ennobling CIA-trained warlords — all without the need for any paperwork at all. Some of our money might now be well spent on the streets of Khartoum as rival army factions fight to see who will rule over the rubble of the US satrap.

Our MPs walk out of parliament and through a revolving door that sees them paid to advise firms on their tax arrangements and the UK’s regulatory framework. Change UK MPs (the favourites of the rule-following grownups in the room) retire from the Commons to render themselves unto bookmakers and utility firms. Who could forget Matt Hancock, the unsung hero of the Sigma male grindset, whose £10,000 daily rate puts us all to shame. 

I know someone who had their US visa application rejected because they inadvertently responded “Yes” to the question: “Are you a terrorist?” That the Prime Minister, who might be busier than Ben the electrician, failed to twice declare a minor interest, is of minor interest. More intriguing, but less palatable for the broadcasters, is the Prime Minister’s undeclared interest in securing a trade deal with India. 

The Asian country is said to be demanding more visas for its citizens before it will sign up to a multi-billion-pound agreement. The PM is a second-generation Indian, and his wife is a citizen of the country. Indians were delighted to see Sunak take his place as PM, perhaps enjoying the schadenfreude of an Indian and a Pakistani fighting over the break-up of Britain — or perhaps because they think he’ll sign up for a favourable deal.

In any case, it’s the kind of question that dare not be asked by the media. Most of the silliness that has overcome us is born of that same fear. Ageing XR protestors ruin the snooker not over concern for the impending death of the planet, but for fear of their own. Many conservative pundits lean on the trans crutch because it actually won’t get you cancelled, and even Bill Maher can agree with it. Keir Starmer talks about paperwork because he’s too afraid to put policies to the public. The BBC obsesses over it because reporting on illegal migration might lead to unpleasantness. It’s much ado about nothing whilst the ship sinks, with the crew keen to make sure we all stand around in an orderly fashion as it slips beneath the waves.

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