The Thin Blue Line of Politics

26/5/2022

Now, I was never really one for politics, if I am honest. As I am sure a great many people in this country might agree, there just simply isn't enough time in the day for the majority of us to care for its complexities or indeed its laboriousness. But the arrival of Covid brought with it a huge looking glass through which the Nation peered. Every action now magnified across both the scientific and political spheres, into our lives directly. Perhaps inevitably - this magnified existence has shone a light on stories of questionable behaviour, hypocrisy in the highest of offices, moral injustices and some hero/villain archetypes.

Backdrop

There is no doubt the gender gap is still existent in UK politics, but with 220 females elected in 2019 it shows equality is on its way to being addressed, with the 34% representation in the House of Commons expected to grow. This is in no small part due to Elizabeth Vallance's  “Women in the House” published all the way back in 1979 – that highlighted a stark absence of females in UK politics. Since then, we have had two female Prime Ministers in Thatcher and May.

As with most institutions gender isn't the only variable, there is also the differences in opportunities dependent on social class and background. I find more now than ever there is an abundant variety of MP's across the board in terms of gender, background and education. Where previously politics was rife with the “elite” and those who came from more privileged roots, we can now see a more marked change in diversity. As politics is considered, generally, to be “inaccessible” to the majority of the public, does it help to have representatives who are relatable?

I would argue that the interventions in Government Policy from the likes of Marcus Rashford have proved that engagement from unlikely sources can have a positive impact more widely. Someone considered an “outsider influence” can affect political decisions. But does it work vice versa?

Foreground

It is true diversity and awareness has improved over the years, but are these individuals managing to break through a long established barrier of inequality that is still present in most major institutions?

At the time of writing we have a male Prime Minister in Boris Johnson, notorious for a great many things, but also a very strong character. He represents to many a notion that this repressive barrier is still alive and well. When looking at these barriers, I speak in particular of his often disrespectful attitude towards his Opposition, with a specific focus on the likes of Angela Rayner (Deputy Leader of The Labour Party), but also his wider dealings with prominent figures such as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick with whom he flip-flops with his support.

Johnson and his Conservative colleagues have often come under fire for their misogynistic “gaffes” which haven't gone unnoticed – several times in the last year alone we have seen male Tory members get questioned in Parliament, but in return snipe to female Opposition members to “mind their tone” or “reconsider their tone”. These women, like Dr Rosen Allin-Khan (who was on the receiving end of these comments from Health Secretary Sajid Javid) were simply holding the Government to account methodically.

Is this attitude or contempt, for females that seek to challenge them, a feature of a Johnson Government or is it more commonplace than we are led to believe? After all, our current Deputy Prime Minister (Dominic Raab) genuinely believes misogyny can be committed by women, and men get a “raw deal”.

Its true Johnson has defended and backed his female colleagues Priti Patel and Nadine Dorries, both known for their hard-line attitudes and approaches to political policy, in the past – he has even defended the beleaguered Met Commissioner during periods of tense public outrage. But is his motivation to do so because of their merits and achievements or simply to keep them as vital pieces in his overall plan? Does he believe they are more malleable given the hurdles they have already endured to get where they are that they are willing to do his bidding? Hurdles such as lack of childcare support, misogyny in the workplace and more often than not; a male-dominated political arena or “boys club” education to stand out from. As I said, this is a story of heroes and villains.

 

Everyone loves a Hero

There is a great many reasons one can stand out above others; honour, integrity, bravery, honesty, humour, overcoming adversity...the list goes on.

Perhaps its the events of the last two years or indeed my prior love for the New Zealand Prime Minister (Jacinda Ardern) that has made me more keenly aware of women's ability to think more logically than the peacocking male leaders. Displaying foresight, leadership and courage in the political decision making process, as well as demonstrating a caring side seems more likely from a female politician than our current selection of males. Again, I refer to Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel in terms of tangible politicians that fit this mould.

Angela Rayner, Dawn Butler, Caroline Lucas, Yvette Cooper, Rachel Reeves and Emily Thornberry have all shown that it is possible to push back against male driven Government narratives, call out hypocrisy and suggest workable Public Policy. It takes a certain motivation to keep on battling to be heard over the loud jeering from the Tory Party opposite. It shouldn't be a female only affair to suffer jeers & heckling from the Tories, but seems to me it's more frequent these days. It's almost like they don't like being challenged by competent people. These are just some examples of women speaking truth to power. But what of other women in power?

 

The Good, The Bad or The Scapegoat?

It's worth mentioning that the role of “villain” in this piece doesn't necessarily mean that anyone discussed is an evil person intent on causing harm or having the last laugh on James Bond, rather they are an example of how the system can paint someone so.

As the title suggests – the main subject in this article is the Met Police Commissioner herself. A unique and ambitious woman – who is the first female Commissioner of our time. She is also openly homosexual which is another first for the Met. In 2013 she was named one of the top 100 most powerful women in UK by BBC Radio 4.

Prior to 2017 she had worked for both the Metropolitan Police as well as a two year stint in the Foreign Office. Her 2015 role with the Foreign Office raised eyebrows as an unspecified job shrouded in secrecy (according to the BBC). After a Freedom of Information request was filed for more clarification, the Government's HR Directorate claimed she was a “Director General” but the details of the role and responsibilities it carried were exempt from release under section 23. Further adding: “Section 23 is an absolute exemption and therefore we are not obliged to consider the public interest in disclosure”. After two years working for Government she returned to the Met to take up the mantle of Commissioner.

Despite her criticisms of Brexit and cuts to Police budgets, it was the Conservative Party that gave her both her position as Commissioner (2017) and her Dame title (2019). Many of her predecessors – all 26 of which were male - had been ousted from the position early whilst she has been offered another two-year extension. One should consider this as no mean feat.

It is precisely this range of experience and connections to politicians that brings her latest actions into the spotlight. The Met has along history of being tarred by the unholy trinity of dishonesty, prejudice and incompetence. Horrendous cases such as Sarah Everard and Jean Charles de Mendez have all been handled under Dick's watch. Britain's most senior Police officer has been criticised for how she has managed these.

She has good relationships with those in the Home Secretary position including Amber Rudd (who recommended her for the secret position at the Foreign Office as well as putting her forward for Commissioner and Dame title in Theresa May's departure honours) – now she works closely with Priti Patel, another controversial character in her own right. Despite good working relationships and a solid CV, the fact still remains that she has been the subject of many controversies, resisting calls for resignations year after year.

The ghost of Christmas past and present

Cressida Dick also features in one of 2021's most major stories that came in the month of December when the Daily Mirror broke another damning story about our UK Government, after months of accusations of sleaze, corruption and the idea that its “one rule for them, another for everyone else”.

These accusations rang especially true after it emerged the UK Government had several parties during Christmas of 2020 when the country was put into a last minute lockdown, scuppering many thousands of peoples' plans. Sadly, this also meant that a great amount of people had to continue to suffer in isolation, or worse, died during that time – without loved ones around in many cases. I myself lost a dear friend in a care home (a sector which was badly failed by the UK Government throughout the Pandemic and to this day) over the Christmas period, but the message was clear from Government that this sacrifice must be a national effort. Yet there they were, laughing, drinking and partying with our taxpayers money.

Cressida's involvement began back in December 2020, when the Met Police tweeted “holding a large gathering could be the difference between life and death for someone else”. Indeed, they went about enforcing the law in London which was in Tier 3 restrictions at the time. Fines of up to £10,000 and criminal charges are to this day going through the courts.

At the same time these court cases were being heard, it became clear Johnson's Government had completely decimated & legitimised any authority they had, leading to a huge breakdown of trust between the public and their political leaders. Calls for resignations came from every angle, but more importantly demands that the law was applied equally. These calls have so far been ignored by the Met Commissioner. The response to all legal breaches perpetrated by the Government or the Prime Minister were all ignored this year, with claims that the Met “doesn't believe there is adequate evidence” or that it doesn't “retrospectively investigate breaches”.

One must now question, with trust eroding away in both Government and Police, why Cressida Dick has chosen not to investigate Downing St – a stark contrast to the females in the political opposition parties who continue to call for accountability. In rare interviews she takes part in, like the most recent on LBC with Nick Ferarri, she even appears to defend the Met's position but without offering explanation. Claiming that the Met wouldn't investigate as "nobody had personally written to her asking as much".

Power lies where people believe it lies, in that very vein, does Cressida Dick believe it is unwise to wade into these breaches? Could it do her career harm taking on such a seemingly popular character as Boris Johnson? Does she owe the Party that gave her Commissioner and Dame status in some way? In her capacity as Senior, she has only ever worked with Conservatives after all. Is she part of a political play by Johnson – an “outsider influence” that can be used? If the Police don't think there is anything to investigate, then no wrong doing yes?

Cressida claimed that some men were "threatened, baffled and confused" by a woman doing the job she did. Going on to say: "I long for the day we don't have these kinds of funny constraints in our heads that make us feel: Ooh, there's a different power relationship because that's a man and that's a woman”. Does she believe she is still beholden to this dynamic despite her success? These are all valid questions that need answering. Without answers, the cost would be that a highly decorated individual, ends up in danger of losing her integrity and place for defending the indefensible.

related articles

see all

feeling inspired?

the egalitarian is a growing community, and we're always looking to expand our horizons. To pitch us your idea for an article, navigate to our form below. For enquiries about talks, podcasts or anything else, give us an email.
I want to pitch an ideaI have another enquiry

stay updated

exclusive merch drops, early podcasts and general updates
Thank you!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.