Integrity in Downing Street

Integrity means doing the right thing, even when no-one else is watching.

For most of the period of UK covid restrictions, I had a church leadership assignment to advise on the latest government rules and guidelines. This role involved keeping my immediate leader up to date with ever changing policies and also directing the leaders of 7 local congregations. At times the volume of government guidelines and law was overwhelming. As I look back it is hard remember just how restrictive our lives became.

  • Only being allowed out for one period of exercise a day.
  • Visits to relatives in care homes through a closed window only… if at all.
  • Queuing outside shops to keep numbers inside low.
  • No in person church services or activities.
  • No singing in church.

The lists seemed endless. Then each of the council boroughs introduced their own additional rules across our 7 congregations. The level and complexity of tracking changes, increased sevenfold!

To say keeping up to date with rules was time consuming would be an understatement. It almost became a full time occupation. But I felt the responsibility to keep informed, as I would almost daily get asked questions “can we… ?” or “are we allowed to… ?”

I am naturally a rule keeper but this period of time was on another level. Mrs RJR, our family and I, lived the letter of these laws to the very best of out abilities. Including the Christmas where we prepared a roast dinner for all the family, then one of our daughters picked the plated meals up at the door and did doorstep deliveries to everyone else. Visiting a family member with advanced dementia in a care home and just waiving through the window. Our married children visiting us and sitting on our drive. Others we know had harder times, losing loved ones whilst they were alone.

Integrity means doing the right thing, even when no-one else is watching.

I am sharing all this to set the scene. The rules were hard to keep, but we did it

  • Because we were told it was the right thing to do, to protect the lives of others.
  • Because I was instructing others and cannot be a hypocrite.
  • Because…

Integrity means doing the right thing, even when no-one else is watching.

We have as our nations leader a man who divides opinion. Boris Johnson is a hero to some and a buffoon to others. I seldom if ever engage in political posts, but this is not about policy it is about doing the right thing.

In recent weeks the news has bubbled about “Party gate”, a proven catalogue of occurrences, where those in power broke covid laws. The people at the heart of government, formulated, made guidance and laws, seemingly for everyone but themselves to follow. 126 fines have been issued to Conservative staff, officials and ministers. These events are no longer opinion they are fact. After an investigation by the countries most senior civil servant she concluded in her report

“what took place at many of these gatherings and the way in which they developed was not in line with Covid guidance at the time”.

Sue Grey

To make matters worse there has been little to no transparency about any of these events. In December 2021 MP Catherine West asked in the House of Commons,

“Will the prime minister tell the house whether there was a party in Downing Street on November 13?”

Boris Johnson replied:

“No, but I am sure that whatever happened, the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.”

There is ambiguity in this answer, did he mean No, he wouldn’t tell the house or no there wasn’t a party. Did our nations Prime minister lie to parliament or deflect on a technicality? Did denying a party mean there was an “event”? At this point it seems irrelevant to me. All semblance of trust has been sold out.

Yesterday The conservative party held a vote of Confidence in the leadership of Boris Johnson. 211 sitting MPs decided that they could have confidence in a man that cannot or will not keep the laws of the land that he brought in. A man that allowed a party or “event” to take place the night before our Queen sat alone in church at her husbands funeral.

Queen alone

As I have pondered this, my only conclusion is that 211 MPs place little or no value to integrity. Some have said “it is not the right time to replace our leader” Does this mean they would push Boris out if things were better? There is never a bad time to improve and choose core values. If not now, when? Others have said he gets the “important BIG things right” Perhaps Gary Neville has some thoughts to offer on this matter.

Gary Neville tweet

But all this is irrelevant to me because…

Integrity means doing the right thing, even when no-one else is watching.

It feels like there is nothing an everyday person can do. When now even the Conservative party cannot make another challenge on its leader Boris Johnson, for the next 12 months. Unchecked what else will he chose to do or say? But I think the silent majority need to speak up.

Perhaps if enough everyday people make their views known to their MPs they will continue to understand integrity is non negotiable trait in public life. I will be tagging my local MP Debbie Abrahams when I share this post to Twitter. Perhaps no one will read to the bottom, I’m sure no one will share. But at least I have made my position clear…

Integrity means doing the right thing, even when no-one else is watching.

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