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I don’t know about you, but sleaze is one of my favourite words


It’s one of those words which makes you prick up your ears without even knowing what it’s referring to.

For example, imagine you’ve just tuned into the evening news on telly and the first thing you hear the newsreader saying is: “And coming up, yet more sleaze exposed by the BBC.” Now at that point, the last thing I’m going to be doing is heading off to put the kettle on. And come on, admit it, while we all like to think we’re above that sort of thing and that we will make informed judgements once we have all the facts to hand, we actually can’t wait to see what it’s all about, who is involved, and the depths to which another public figure has plumbed.

(You may be asking at this point, what has this got to do with the Leither Magazine celebrating its 20th birthday? Well, recent events have had me looking back in time to confirm what we all know - that sleaze isn’t something new, and as far as I can ascertain, hasn’t been mentioned in our favourite organ in any great detail to date. So read on.)

In the past I’ve made it clear to anyone who will listen that what people get up to in their personal lives really doesn’t concern me. And in the vast majority of cases, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to have muckraking journalists going through your bins in the dead of night or lead you to lose your job.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with public figures indulging in all sorts of sexual practices, fantasies, and adventures as long as it’s consensual, within the law, and doesn’t impinge on their ability to carry out their duties without risking national security. However, evading tax, misusing public money, bullying, and corruption are an entirely different matter and should be rooted out of public life at source.

You can’t fail to have noticed the media shitstorm that has recently blown up around the Labour MP Angela Rayner. In short, the main allegation to have been made is that she failed to pay the appropriate amount of tax ( around £2,000) on the sale of a council house.

While Greater Manchester Police are investigating the allegations, Ms Rayner has stated that should she be found guilty of any criminal offence, she will resign. The right-wing press and the Tories have gone all-in on this coming to fruition and that’s a dangerous game for them to play.

The reason they have gone tonto on this is not that they are distressed about any suggestion of avoiding tax, (I mean come on, the Tories and tax avoidance) rather, it’s being used as a deflection tactic as they hurtle towards another embarrassing electoral defeat in the forthcoming local elections in England and Wales.

If she is found guilty and does resign, it won’t stop Sunak’s Cabinet of millionaires and billionaires and his own sleaze-ridden party avoiding defeat at the next general election, but it might just give a few of his ex-MPs the macabre satisfaction of having brought down a working class woman who has been wiping the floor with them for years.

It’s also worth saying that when Sunak stood up at a recent prime minister’s questions and sniggered about the affair while replying to Keir Starmer, Starmer gently reminded him about being a billionaire prime minister whose family had previously used schemes to avoid paying millions of pounds in tax. As you’ll recall, no resignations arose from that revelation.

And yes, to my opening remarks. Sleaze and corruption have been around ever since a talking snake convinced a woman to eat a magic apple. And in politics, it’s no different.

Whether it be sexual activities which have local party activists clutching at their pearl necklaces, or dodgy financial dealings which make Labour activists apoplectic and Tories jealous, they have been around forever.

Some of the doozies which spring to my mind include Jeffrey Archer and his predilection for prostitutes and perjuring himself in court; David Mellor and his predilection for toe-sucking and subsequent resignation; Neil Hamilton and the cash for questions scandal; Ron Davies and his nocturnal pursuit of badgers; Peter Mandelson failing to declare a massive loan and resigning; Henry “it’s a muddle not a fiddle” McLeish and Officegate; Neil Parish and his tractor porn videos (niche work if you can get it) and Liam Fox, who had to resign after he “mistakenly allowed the distinction between his personal interest and his government activities to become blurred” over his friendship with Adam Werrity.

You might remember that one as ‘Bullshitgate’.

And sailing along all the way through this with not a stain on its reputation is our dear Leither, 20 years old, and for whom the word ‘sleaze’ is nothing but an alarm bell for our esteemed editor. Here’s to the next twenty. ■

Corruption has been around ever since a talking snake convinced a woman to eat a magic apple



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