Ian Dunt’s scathing book is a must-read for everyone interested in the workings of the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ and indeed the political parties that purport to govern our ‘United’ Kingdom. We get a brief glimpse of the chaos and dysfunction through brief moments of clarity, as in the ongoing Covid inquiry. Dunt’s book, however, paints a more detailed picture of the paucity of governance at the heart of Westminster. No part of the establishment is exempt. Dunt casts his eye over the political parties, MPs, the Civil Service, the Lords and the Press.
The Case studies
The great joy of Dunt’s book is through detailed case studies he casts a light on the working of all branches of government that we only manage to catch a glimpse of in our busy working week, perhaps in the Sunday papers if we get the chance. Chris Grayling, a serial failure at the heart of government and a minister who cost the UK taxpayer millions, is detailed as one of Dunt’s case studies. The ineptitude is astounding. How can such a man have such a successful public life? Is this leadership? Is this the best we can do in the UK in the 21st Century? We haven’t even started on Boris yet. Grayling is merely one of the warm up acts.
Rory Stewart’s experience at the Foreign Office is another illuminating example of why Westminster doesn’t work.
Rory Stewart’s experience
“Rory Stewart brought with him considerable experience when he entered the Foreign Office as a Minister of State. He had worked in Afghanistan, advised Hillary Clinton, written two books on the subject and sat on the foreign affairs select committee. He was shocked by what he found there,
“I was briefed on Afghanistan by a team of five people, four of whom had never been. The one that had was in a junior role, hadn’t been there long and didn’t speak the language. They were trying to convince me to continue funding the Afghan police. I had written on it a lot – why it didn’t work and had no impact. What they were arguing was a mainstream view from five or six years earlier.”
The Afghanistan evacuation debacle
On 15 August 2021, Kabul fell to the Taliban, a fascistic theological government, and a disaster for all progressively minded people in Afghanistan. Over the next 11 days the full dysfunction of the UK State, and it must be added the Conservative Government, was laid bare for those of us who took the time to watch.
The UK Government faced two major issues – the first was our commitment to the countless Afghans who had helped the UK in Afghanistan over two decades leading up to the fall of Kabul, and the second that these very people were vulnerable to reprisal killings by the Taliban when they took over.
Dominic Raab was the foreign secretary at the time. Dunt states of Raab,
“He was a former solicitor with no expertise in foreign affairs of any meaningful accomplishments either in his constituency or in his ministerial career.”
What happened next Dunt records in detail thanks to two whistle-blowers in the civil service who worked in the Foreign Office’s Special Cases Team. Their account of the utter confusion at this time of major crisis is alone worth getting a copy of the book for. Leadership from the top appears to be non-existent. What can only be described as a ‘Westminster cock-up’ appears to have had no effect on the career of Dominic Raab, the minister in charge. This is the same man as Dunt points out, who during his time as Brexit secretary (please don’t get me started!) was principally remembered for his admission that he ‘hadn’t quite understood the full extent of how much UK trade relied on the Dover – Calais crossing’. However, after supporting Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership election, he was duly rewarded with high office and the people of Afghanistan duly suffered as a consequence.
Post Afghanistan, Dominic Raab has since gone on to become the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and the Deputy Prime Minister.
“The single biggest and most important change we can make is to the electoral system.”
Dunt argues that this is at the heart of our problems, leading to many citizens feeling that their vote does not count, leading to a standard of leadership that would not be tolerated in any other walk of life in the UK.
This is a rallying cry for the next General Election in the UK. If we get a new government, a more progressive government that wants to quickly create a legacy for the long-term improvement of governance of the UK, then we need to change to some sort of proportional representation. This might deliver a Westminster Parliament that better reflects the views of the people of the UK. It may also give us better and more consensual politics, and quell the growing demands for a break-up of the Union that so many in Scotland are justifiably demanding. When you read Dunt’s book, it’s no wonder we are desperate for something better than what we have had over the past decade or so.
This book is a must-read for all citizens who have an interest in how we are governed. It will make the ideal Christmas present, and I recommend it as required reading for all students of politics, economics and journalism.
We need your help!
The press in our country is dominated by billionaire-owned media, many offshore and avoiding paying tax. We are a citizen journalism publication but still have significant costs.
If you believe in what we do, please consider subscribing to the Bylines Gazette from as little as £2 a month🙏