The latest episode of government sleaze, focusing yesterday on allegations that Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab used his taxpayer funded mansion to host a Conservative party campaigning event, means that allegations of government corruption simply won’t go away.

Less than a fortnight ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to speak publicly whilst at the COP 26 summit to attempt to reassure the world that our country isn’t corrupt, but each scandal following on swiftly after the last paints a different picture.

Last week, widespread concerns were raised that second jobs cloud the judgement of MPs whose basic pay is £80,000 per year.

Last month, local press reported that the MP for Lincoln had been found guilty of breaking the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament three times after failing to declare his ties to a family firm ironically named “Moonlighting.”

Labour have been unequivocal in saying that they would ban second jobs for MPs with the exception of public service jobs within areas such as the NHS, Police and Army Reservists.

All this background noise drowns the very real issues facing Lincoln residents whose everyday worries include: Government’s removal of £20 per week from families claiming Universal Credit. In Lincoln there are 10,800 families with 7,008 children living in households who claim the benefit. Low wages locally mean that many families rely on benefits to “top-up” earnings which simply don’t cover rising housing, heating, and food costs.

Earlier this month, the Tory government broke its manifesto pledge and voted to suspend the Triple Lock. This was brought in to ensure that yearly pension increases keep up with rising prices and this will force hardship onto both current and future state pensioners.

Our NHS is struggling because of shortages of both doctors and nurses, as well as ambulances queueing outside of A&E departments right across the country. On a visit to an NHS hospital recently Boris Johnson chose not to wear a face covering, at a time when staff are expected to wear a mask for the entirety of their 13-hour shifts. The PM displayed a shocking lack of leadership or willingness to abide by the rules the rest of us respect in order to help bring the COVID pandemic to a close.

Government voted changes through yesterday to the funding of social care, measures which mean that the poorest in society will pay as much as the wealthiest. The £86,000 cap on lifetime costs means many people may end up having to sell their homes to pay for care, something Boris Johnson promised the country wouldn’t happen.

“Levelling-up” is a Conservative election promise which has been broken time and time again over the last two years. At a time when this country needs strong leadership after a pandemic the reality is that we aren’t getting it. Our country and our city quite simply deserve better.

Karen Lee was the Labour MP for Lincoln between 2017 and 2019. She is an NHS nurse and a Labour County Councillor for the Cathedral and Ermine ward of Lincoln

“And now the end is here, and so I face that final curtain” goes the opening line to the song immortalised by Frank Sinatra. They have now become the new national anthem of the United Kingdom as it slips inexorably towards dissolution.

In real time reality the United Kingdom has already gone. While it hangs on as a polity it has long ceased to be a nation, an anachronism at best and a relic of empire at its worst. Like many of the pluralistic democracies of the world it continues in its zombie state because of the fear of change and the mistaken belief that past glories offer a workable substitute to a promising future.

The four nation United Kingdom is on simple observation in the same condition that the old British empire was at the end of its decline, struggling against political corruption and facing populations who have lost all faith, not only in the political parties but in the political system itself. There is no solution ahead in maintaining the status quo, nothing short of a revolution will effect any change at all. This is not a matter of repair but of tearing down the ruin and building anew.

At the political party level we have two ossified and defunct entities both long dead in terms of ideas and integrity. To paraphrase the journalist Peter Hitchens the only reason either of them is still standing up is because it is leaning on the corpse of the other. Quite simply, the problems the UK is facing are not ever going to be resolved by a general election, or for that matter by some Farage style maverick with a set of tap room wisecracks.

The UK needs root and branch reform and that includes dissolution of the Union as it still stands. Time and time again we have heard politicians talking of what they will do when they are in power and time and time again they have let us down. Switching the current Conservative in name only government for a Labour in name only government will achieve nothing if they are elected into the current system.

And what about the system? The UK claims to be (one of) the oldest democracies in the world. We have in effect only been a democracy in the true sense of the word since 1928 when The Equal Franchise Act of that year gave women equal voting rights with men. Not quite a hundred years then. The UK as a political entity is also a lot younger than our colourful history suggests. The Act of Union 1707 post-dates many of the suggested ‘origins’ of Britain by some centuries.

It is however old enough to call time on it, time indeed to put it behind us and move on to a prosperous and fair future for all the nations that currently constitute the United Kingdom. It’s time to become nations of the 21st century not of the early 18th or for that matter the imperial power of the late 19th. A democracy where a citizens’ vote does count and where government is about governing for the benefits of the citizen, not the vested interest and certainly not for the benefit of the political elite.

Dissolution of the Union could bring this about. It is inevitable that both Scotland and Northern Ireland will leave the UK in the near future. It might be during the tenure of the current Prime Minister if his own party don’t stab him in the back first. It is a fact that one of that crowd of 650 MPs now sitting in the House of Commons will be the Prime Minister that presides over the dissolution of the UK. That is oddly something that most of them fear, they should embrace it instead.

This dissolution of the UK would bring great opportunities. The root and branch reforms our society needs cannot be delivered by the current system. Dissolution would give all four of the nations opportunities that the United Kingdom never can. England will not be a loser in this it will benefit in so many ways. The new independent England can be freed from the ossified historical theme park it currently inhabits.

The Bill of Rights of 1688 can at last be rewritten into a modern constitution. The monarchy can be abolished as a political entity, the House of Lords, perhaps the most preposterous institution that could ever exist in a country that calls itself a parliamentary democracy could be totally scrapped and replaced with an elected second chamber. Regional governments could be given executive power in a federation rather than governed as medieval fiefdoms from Westminster

Why wait for Scotland to declare independence and for the population of Ireland to vote to unite with the Republic? A UK government should take the initiative and go now.

The irony is that Brexit was the final call for the UK. Leaving the EU did not preserve the Union or strengthen Britain’s role in the world, it hastened its demise as a political entity giving Scottish nationalists and Northern Irish pragmatists all the encouragement they needed. The Brexiteers voted the UK not only out of the EU but very soon out of existence.

Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.

Professor in International Law and Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln, Duncan French assesses CoP26.

How should one score the Glasgow CoP? Is it even possible, or meaningful, to try to give a balanced scorecard for an event – actually more like a process – that is both so complex (i.e., made up of many actors and so many moving parts) and so political and thus contentious? And from a legal perspective, how does one evaluate what is essentially a political and diplomatic exercise?

So, there were some key outcomes of CoP26, both from the formal (though not legally binding) process and the informal (but politically significant) negotiations. First, the Glasgow Climate Pact as the headlining final day decision, and which has rightly received significant attention, reflects the strained consensus achieved on the broad range of issues, including mitigation (notably, strengthening Parties’ Nationally Determined Contributions), adaptation, Loss & Damage, finance and technology, and the specific referencing of coal and fossil fuel subsidies.

The “Pact” of course, though difficult to negotiate, is not a legally binding treaty but the best that could be achieved on that day, and in light of both global and domestic political considerations. The best that could be achieved on mitigation was a commitment to review national determined contributions (NDCs) again next year, but as most States feel they have gone as far and as quickly as they can up to this point) many will wonder if this is simply postponing the admission of where ambition hits the realpolitik.

However, despite the challenge, it is fundamentally important, as based on reports, current NDCs will get us to 2.4°C above pre-industrial levels, way above the stated ambition of either 1.5°C or 2°C by the end of the century. This level of temperature rise will cause untold human and planetary damage.

Moreover, most NDCs get to where they state they want to get to by being “net zero” – and not by mitigation alone. Net zero importantly includes the significant use of natural and technical sinks and reservoirs – but as we have seen recently, forests can also be net emitters (particularly due to deforestation). As many noted, we don’t have enough land, seas and forests to absorb the carbon which NDCs hope to capture (rather than simply not emitting in the first place). The Deforestation Declaration from the first week of CoP26 was a welcome surprise but forestry remains an exceptionally difficult issue to regulate globally, and commercial pressures on forests means that stopping deforestation by 2030 is an ambitious (too ambitious?) goal.

Most of the attention however was on the inclusion of language on the “phasing down” rather than the “phasing out” (following India’s late intervention) of unabated coal – the combustion of coal, the GHG consequences of which are not removed by technological interventions – as well as inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. The language was already precariously weak, and corresponded poorly with the more positive rhetoric (and hopefully action) of the Oil and Gas Coalition of the Willing which developed during the Conference. Fossil fuel corporate actors were said to be the largest non-State presence at CoP26, and if so, they failed if they primary objective was to remove all references to coal from the documents (the first time it has been explicitly mentioned) but were successful if their secondary objective was to minimise the impact of its inclusion.

Of course, a CoP has many aspects to it, including important – but less headlining – work on completion of the “Paris Agreement” rulebook, which governs how the treaty is to be implemented, with important provisions on transparency and verification. It will be these rules that determine how States must account for themselves going forward.

But ultimately, this was a Conference about climate politics and not climate justice. The calls on developing countries for more finance, and for a clearer commitment from development countries on “Loss and Damage” – supporting ecological and human harm which has already occurred and can’t be adapted to, remain inchoate and far from adequate, by the order of billions and billions of dollars.

The juggernaut of climate politics rolls on; unfortunately as the extreme weather events this year has shown, we don’t have a lot of time left. Whether Glasgow was a success or not can only be judged by future generations.

Duncan French is Professor in International Law and Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln

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