Integrity

This is a word, with some relevance these days concerning politicians. I am not interested in this post about actual party politics, it is irrelevant. Yes of course it is prompted by our current Prime Minister and his difficulties but it is not about any political party. My thoughts are more general. His difficulties simply made me think about it.

I am old enough, sadly, to remember when the Defence Minister, John Profumo, lied to the House of Commons. He came to the House of Commons, admitted he had lied, apologised and then immediately resigned. No ifs or buts, just a simple resignation. There was no trying to get away with passing the buck. He spent the rest of his life in what seems to me a form of atonement working for a charity.

What a contrast. The present incumbent of Downing Street has clearly lied to the House of Commons over what has become known as Partygate. It seems that he has a track record of lying over many issues including before he was a politician. However, it is the Partygate issue I have been thinking about.

When the parties emerged the PM simply denied there had been any sort of party, he had been reassured there had been no parties and no Covid rules had been broken. This persisted for some weeks. A total denial. Then there was the embarrassing video talking about parties and pretending they were a “work event”. The PM was furious and the lady in the video offered her resignation which was accepted. The implication along being portrayed about parties was that the PM knew nothing about any party and was furious to have learnt about them.

On it went and then, oh dear, it becomes clear that his office invited 100 people to a party, yes described as a party, and some thirty of forty people turned up, bringing their own booze as requested, including it transpires the PM and his girlfriend. Oh and a couple of his girlfriend’s friends too. That is a bit of a problem as the PM has said there were no parties. He has assured the House there were no parties. Clearly, he has lied to the House of Commons. People call for his resignation for lying to the House, breaching the Ministerial Code. No instant resignation, pathetic buck passing and ridiculous excuses about it not being a party were made in order to cling to office at any price as well as hiding behind an impartial Inquiry with very limited terms of reference. As the PM says frequently the buck stops with him. Then do the right thing and resign.

So what is integrity? Being truthful, open doing the decent thing.  I have no claim to the moral high ground, very far from it. In my life I have lied many times some with serious consequences, some with little consequence save to my own wellbeing. You live with shame because whether or not your lie is detected, whether it has consequences, you know you have lied or not been straightforward and open.

One of the really difficult areas for me to come to terms with is that I have lived a lie for the majority of my life. I became detached from being authentic, being economical with the truth, lying, was a way of surviving and it filtered through into everyday behaviour. What has been really hard is first to recognise what you do and then to change it. From bitter experience even if you want to change, it is not just a question of flicking a switch. In all honesty although living an authentic life having transitioned, it has taken longer to recognise and deal with ingrained habits. I am very fortunate I have people who care for me and call me out when I need to be. I believe I have improved yet it is something I still keep an eye out for. It matters.

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