By Andre López Turner
Even its most fervent defenders cannot deny that journalism is a profession which, like sport, has a natural tendency towards jingoism. And in the case of British political reporting, long time ago its editors decided not to use the same adjective they so freely and frequently use on other countries and their political elites. Is this another attempt to maintain their vacuous and erroneous idea of exceptionalism?
For years and years, I’ve read predominately western based newspapers and magazines and listened to news shows on radio and television. The word corruption was and is used liberally by the mainstream press, politicians, and various social commentators, especially when it comes to countries in the global south – Africa, Asia, South America and beyond. “Corrupt dictators there,” “Corrupt officials” and “Corrupt governments and regimes there.” The old chestnut – “The problem with Africa is its corruption” used to be written, voiced, and shown with great regularity, the “corrupt regime in Burma, the corrupt generals in Indonesia and so on and so forth.
What I have come to notice is that here in the west, and in my case as a Londoner, there is no mention of the word Corrupt when our establishment and media class takes a look at itself. When I first arrived in England, I was stunned by the liberal use of the “C word” by so many – from pub conversations, comedians on T.V. to people from all walks of life and class. Growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand with a progressive feminist mother; I was told the “C – word” was taboo, never to be used. Every once in a while, if someone voiced it in my mother’s company, they would be told never to utter this “most derogatory word for the female vagina again.” I certainly took note.
Anyway, I digress to the modern era we live in now. It’s hard to know where to start if we look at the current political class in England. Both sides of the political spectrum have been happy to take the money of Russian Oligarchs for a good twenty years or more despite knowing how they’ve acquired it – death squads, violent intimidation, political assassinations, shell companies, destroying pensioners lives – to name a few of their methods. The taking of political fundraising donations for peerages in the house of lords. We know many politicians sit on corporate boards and are paid for doing so. Of course there is no conflict of interest, favours, or law changes that result from this process. We know both sides of the aisle refuse to legislate against tax havens for the richest, the biggest multinational corporations, the narcotraffickers, the peddlers of various smuggling rackets and sex traffickers. I hear some people argue all the above is legal. Yes – so was slavery and forbidding women the vote legal too.
What I have come to notice is that here in the west, and in my case as a Londoner, there is no mention of the word Corrupt when our establishment and media class takes a look at itself.
In the very real present, it seems hard to get through a day here in England without an incident from the current conservative party. We know that contracts during the pandemic were given to close friends of Matt Hancock – a drinking buddy from his pub got a nifty contract. We know other conservative MPs benefited from various deals in communications, technology, medical equipment. We know the prime minister and his finance minister and others enjoyed their “party gate” whilst enforcing lockdowns on millions. We know the chancellor and his wife, billionaires, tried avoiding taxes, set up non domicile statuses, had green cards and God knows what else while generously offering people in household heating crises a £250 pound loan payable with interest.
Despite the above summary of our very real present – the “C word” is never voiced in our “free” press. The word sleaze is used instead. For most the word sleaze has connotations with flirty sexual behaviour but when I consult my dictionary I find more nuance – the words immoral, sordid, corrupt behaviour or activities arise from my phone.
So let’s talk sleaze – there’s certainly been a bunch of it recently in the Western and European political class of late. I remember those Bunga Bunga parties so liked by Italy’s former president Silvio Berlusconi and many members of the EU. Bill Clinton and Donny Trump have given it a good go in the not too recent past. The Conservative government led by Boris Johnson have been particularly sleazy of late…The Dover MP Charlie Elphicke was sentenced for two years in jail for sexually assaulting two women. His wife Natalie succeeded him in post! Rob Roberts was suspended for twelve weeks for repeated and unwanted sexual advances to a member of staff. Matt Hancock had to resign as health minister during the pandemic for an affair with his aide (no pun intended). Boris Johnson gets in trouble for decorating his flat and taking a free holiday to Mustique. Owen Patterson breaks lobbying rules for taking £100 000 from a firm whose board he sits upon, thus lobbied for. In December of 2021 Andrew Griffiths, a former conservative minister is found to have raped his wife; his wife then succeeds him as MP for the same constituency. That same month Simon case, the UK’s most senior civil servant steps down after breaking lockdown rules. In April of 2022, David Warburton the Conservative MP for Somerset and Froome is suspended for cocaine use and sexual harassment. In April Imran Ahmed Khan, Conservative MP for Wakefield, is found guilty of sexually assaulting a fifteen-year-old boy after plying him with Alcohol. In May Neil Parish (conservative MP) resigns after admitting to watching pornography in the house of commons chamber. Last week Chris Pincher, the conservative party deputy whip, resigns after reports he drunkenly groped two men at a private members club, having stood down once before in 2017 for making an unwanted pass at a Tory activist.
The Conservative government led by Boris Johnson have been particularly sleazy of late…
Phew, the above paragraph was becoming exhausting to write, let alone read. I think it’s time we in the west and certainly here in England start to move on from the word sleaze, a synonym for corruption if ever there was. How about we tell it how it is. The current state of affairs is sleazy on many fronts and frighteningly corrupt! If you can liberally use corrupt for many other parts of the world it’s time to write and voice it here. I’m no fan of a monarchy but when the time comes, I’d like to see King Charles (no stranger, like his brother “Randy Andy”, and William also to a bit of sleaze/corruption) come out and say its time to acknowledge our human frailties, our human conflicts. Let’s clean up our system here and abroad and become proper CUNTS… The acronym in our household stands for Caring, Understanding Nineties Types.
Andre López Turner is a podcaster, writer, keen open-air swimmer and a mental and physically well being practitioner. He is the author of the book D-Pendency dealing with drugs and alcohol abuse. He is Co-presenter of the podcast The Programme in ZTR Radio. He lives in North London