Why are politicans rewarded for incompetence & lies while citizens are punished?

J.E was a nurse, (name withheld) suddenly afflicted with a severe allergic illness. Her lifestyle and work options were unexpectedly limited and she was forced to rely on disability benefit to pay for rent and food. Her benefit payments were halted abruptly in 2016 when she failed to submit a 20 page form on time: “I was in too much pain to write,” she said. (Guardian, Ferguson & Savage 2018)

J.E. explained her difficulties to officials and was told she could take her time. Soon afterwards her landlord told her that her housing benefit had been stopped. Her disability benefits were cut-off because the form was submitted late. Her benefits were eventually reinstated, after weeks of desperate calls and letters. She survived by borrowing money. “The people who work at the DWP simply do not understand the reality of what it’s like to be disabled,” she said. She had been gainfully employed, paid taxes and national insurance until illness forced a dramatic change in lifestyle. She is expected, despite her illness, to take personal responsibility for her welfare and make an effort to find gainful unemployment.

Jeff Hayward, from Clitheroe, was another person who was expected to take personal responsibility for his circumstances. He was an employed taxpayer and insurance contributor for 25 years until he was forced, by chronic illness, to seek assistance. His medical doctor declared him unfit to work but officials refused to certify him liable for disability benefit. Mr Hayward appealed this decision as his circumstances became more desperate. He fought his case for almost a year with no income and no hope of employment. His appeal was finally decided, in his favour, seven months after he died. Jeff Hayward took responsibility for his life and was treated with contempt by the state system into which he had contributed tax and insurance for many years.

These are real people, like millions of others, subject to arbitrary and life-altering decisions by officials applying a stringent moral code based on the principle that individuals should take personal responsibility for their affairs and they should face stiff penalties for failure to do so. Citizens are held accountable for their actions. Failure to provide accurate information, to appear at appointments or answer letters on time can result in life-threatening sanctions. There have been cases of people arriving minutes late for interviews being penalised. In one case a disabled woman, summoned to an interview at a government office, found the entrance was up a flight of steps & she couldn't get into the building. She was threatened with withdrawal of her entitlements because of failure to attend.

Requirements for honesty, fair effort and timeliness might seem reasonable but they are not applied equally. Rigorous standards of accountability are applied to ordinary citizens while public figures can lie and cause serious harm to the public interest without any sanction. Prime Minister Blair led the UK into a disastrous war in Iraq on a false pretext of seeking weapons of mass destruction, despite public findings by the UN chief weapons inspector that these weapons didn't exist. Blair misled parliament and the people in pursuit of an unnecessary war. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed and the Iraqi state collapsed into disorder. Many UK servicemen and women were killed and injured in that war, which cost British taxpayers in excess of £1.7Billion. Blair refuses to accept he was wrong. He is rewarded with a large pension, many times higher than the average salary. No state agency has levied financial penalties against Blair for his reckless dishonesty and the appalling carnage he caused.

David Cameron's Tory government descended into chaotic infighting over his referendum on EU membership. Rarely has such a torrent of lies been unleashed on the public. Boris Johnson MP's notorious claim that £350million per week would be diverted from the EU to fund the NHS was proved wrong by impartial observers (Britain’s gross contribution, before EU payments in return, was less than half that amount). Johnson carried on anyway. He was rewarded by being appointed Foreign Secretary. He caused such offence in that office he was publicly described as “a liar” by both the German and French foreign ministers.

Chris Grayling, Secretary for Transport, pledged millions of taxpayers' money on a ferry contract with a start-up company that owned no ferries. Eurotunnel sued the government and won £33million damages because of Grayling's no-ferries deal. His errors in government are believed to have cost about £2.7Billion in total. Grayling continues in office despite becoming an international joke. Personal accountability doesn’t apply to the rich or powerful. A poor citizen who falls ill can be punished with life-threatening financial sanctions for minor errors while government ministers make stupid decisions costing Billions. They can lie and cheat without fear of any consequences.

Britain is trapped in a chaotic Brexit, with a dysfunctional government, in part because ministers & MPs can lie & make delusional promises without fear of any real, personal consequences. MPs aren't subject to the same rules of accountability applied to ordinary citizens. It's hardly surprising Britain is in such a state when personal responsibility doesn't apply to those in power.

Respect for the rule of law requires fairness between the powerful and the powerless. MPs and ministers found guilty of dishonesty or incompetence should face the same sickening fear as a disabled or homeless person deprived of the basic means of survival. Only if the liars and charlatans who rule Britain face severe retribution at great risk to their personal wealth and comfort can we expect to see any change for the better.


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