Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once famously said that a week is a long time in politics. Recent events at 10 Downing Street have shown that nowadays even 48 hours may be enough to unseat a political leader. Boris Johnson who only 36 months ago led the Conservative Party to the biggest election victory since 1987, ended up delivering his resignation speech after losing support of more than 60 MPs and cabinet ministers in less than two days. The Tory leader lost his job as he was deemed no longer fit for purpose in the wake of repeated scandals which exposed double standards, errors in political judgement and some might even say a prime minister who was caught lying with a straight face to the electorate.

For us in Malta these events should serve as a textbook case in political responsibility, ensuring functional watchdogs which are at arm’s length from politicians and parliamentarians placing country before party interests.

Though there is no democracy which is completely immune from corruption and abuse of power, the real test is how such situations are handled when they crop up. In the case of the British Prime Minister, his demise was the result of a series of incidents some of which resulted in criminal investigations such as the so-called ‘partygate scandal’. The latter prompted the Metropolitan police to launch an investigation into claims that members of government and staff, took part in organised gatherings during lockdown, in breach of the law and of what was being urged by Johnson himself. Moreover, an inquiry was launched and some 70 individuals questioned. Whoever read the damning conclusions of the inquiry, could vouch for the fact that the investigators did not mince their words even on attempts to influence the findings. Ultimately, more than 100 fines were issued by the Metropolitan police.  Essentially, this was a case of politicians and those in their inner circles who thought they were above the law. It turned out they were not, but only thanks to the media and functioning law-enforcement agencies.

Johnson also found himself in hot water over his decision to appoint an MP as chief whip despite being aware that the latter had committed sexual offences. In short, MPs’ stood up to be counted over the appointment of an individual who was not fit for purpose.

Though criticism were also levelled on a policy level, the common denominator among the ‘rebels’ was on the lines of the letter penned by Health Secretary Sajid Javid who said “The tone you set as a leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country…I served you loyally and as a friend, but we all serve country first. When made to choose between those loyalties there can only be one answer.”

Back to the Maltese context, we can all reflect on draw our conclusions should similar situations arise. Comparisons are odious but necessary at times to learn whether one is on the right track or not. Integrity and trust are based on institutions, reforms and regulations but ultimately it all depends on the individual’s integrity standards as well as the electorate’s expectations.  After all, every country gets the government it deserves.