MPs need to stop carrying on like snitches

Politicians used to clash and debate. Now they report each other to the police.

Lauren Smith

Topics Politics UK

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Remember proper political scandals? You know, the ones that involved drugs and extramarital affairs? As the Angela Rayner story about the sale of her old house in Stockport rumbles on, it’s hard not to be nostalgic for those days.

Worse still, now the police are involved. Rayner, the UK Labour Party’s deputy leader, is now being investigated by Greater Manchester Police for potentially breaking electoral law.

We’ve been subjected to endless headlines recently about Rayner’s living situation a decade ago. Earlier this month, the Mail on Sunday published a report claiming that she had lied about her permanent address in order to avoid paying capital-gains tax when she sold her house in 2015. According to reports from her neighbours, she was actually living at a different property with her then husband. This would have saved her around £3,500 in tax.

Greater Manchester Police initially said this did not warrant an investigation. But at the end of last week, they announced they would be investigating whether Rayner broke electoral law by providing false information about her living situation. This was after Conservative MP for Bury North, James Daly, brought the claims of Rayner’s former neighbours to the police’s attention. Rayner, for her part, maintains she did nothing wrong. She has even vowed to resign if the police find she did indeed break the law.

Rayner is undoubtedly getting a taste of her own medicine here. In recent years, she has spent much of her time railing against Tories over their allegedly questionable tax arrangements. She also led the charge against Boris Johnson over Partygate. When the police investigation into lockdown-breaking parties in Downing St began, Rayner insisted Johnson resign immediately.

But that doesn’t mean this police investigation is anything to welcome. MPs are now regularly reporting one another to the police over the most minor of infractions. It’s reminiscent of the way the institutions of American justice are now routinely being weaponised, particularly against Donald Trump. Ours is just a naffer, tamer version.

The Covid years put this political snitch culture on steroids. The Partygate scandal dragged the police into politics, with cops poring over grainy images of terrible-looking parties at No10. It was a large part of what eventually brought Johnson down. The Tories then retaliated, insisting the police investigate ‘Beergate’ after Starmer and Rayner were caught enjoying a beer and a curry in Durham during one of the lockdowns.

But the trend started long before that. In 2006, MPs from the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru reported New Labour to the police over the Cash for Honours scandal. Tony Blair was interviewed by police on three occasions. In 2021, Labourites begged the Met to investigate the Tories for allegedly committing the same offence.

The Angela Rayner ‘scandal’ reminds us that lawfare – even its more trivial examples – is a poor substitute for politics. Politicians should not be above the law. But nor should the law be weaponised by politicians to harm their opponents. It is bad for the law and for politics. MPs should stop getting the police to fight their battles for them.

Lauren Smith is a staff writer at spiked.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics UK


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