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Whenever Theresa May might think matters could not get any worse, they always seem to. A cascade of sexual harassment allegations has engulfed Westminster this week, sweeping away Sir Michael Fallon from the Ministry of Defence, putting several MPs under investigation and raising questions about the future of other serving ministers. The stories are likely continue to emerge while the electorate looks on.
In FT Weekend, our editorial argues that the UK’s reputation is suffering from its inept political leadership. On Brexit, the state of the economy and the misconduct allegations, there is a lack of decisive action that is deepening the sense that the country is adrift. Yet as Sir John Major and Gordon Brown’s administrations taught us, unsustainable situations have a habit of being surprisingly sustainable.
The decaying physical condition of the Palace of Westminster is an irresistible metaphor for the crisis at the heart of the UK’s political institutions. Bronwen Maddox has written about how British politics is profoundly destabilised and argues that the current situation might result in lasting change. As well as the problems with working conditions, she argues parliament is also struggling to fulfil its basic role of legislating and holding the government to account.
Much like the MPs’ expenses scandal, there is a danger that the sexual harassment imbroglio adversely affects how the electorate views its representatives. MPs must realise how problematic the situation currently is and act accordingly. So far, Westminster appears stuck on the back foot.
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“ ‘Anyone who has worked closely with these animals will, however, tell you they can be vicious.’ I think the FT has gone too far with the panda metaphor, at least in this story about China. ‘Vicious’ is a word that well suits human behaviour; pandas, not so much. Indeed, using the word to describe any wild animals is just plain silly. Animals (big and small) will defend their territory from intruders and will be particularly aggressive when killing prey or defending their territory and/or young. Is it not natural, then, that they do not take kindly to intrusions or perceived threats to the habitats on which they depend.? This is not ‘vicious’ so much as it is ‘defensive’.”
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Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs commentator, and William J Burns, former US deputy secretary of state, will discuss the world in the Trump era in London on November 13. Buy tickets here.
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