There is strong evidence of Russian corruption in UK politics, yet voters seem unlikely to change their vote over it.
This can only lead to corruption getting worse and worse. So why don’t voters seem to care?
What Kind of Corruption?
The British Conservatives have received millions in donations from Russians connected to Putin. Uncoincidentally, they are also refusing to publish reports on Putin’s interference in UK politics.
Motivationally this is pretty clearcut corruption. The report would be damaging to the party and to Putin, so the party blocks the report while in government and Putin’s pals keep funding the party.
The public, however, don’t much care. The Tories have lost no standing in polls during the election campaign. That should be surprising as this kind of thing is in obvious conflict with national interest. So why don’t we care?
Do We Even know?
One reason the public might not care is that the public might not know. Much of the press is highly partisan towards the Conservatives, and it now seems BBC figures have attended dubious parties with Johnson and his Russian pals too.
So there is naturally little interest in the press making a big deal of all this, except those small bits of the press that oppose the Tories (primarily just the Independent, Mirror, and Guardian).
The corruption is being reported heavily abroad – severely damaging the UK’s international standing. But the British public are not particularly engaged by foreign news sources, so that is unlikely to seep through.
In theory, the silencing of the British press could be bypassed by social media. The trouble here is that even when confronted by information, the British public themselves often don’t care – particularly if facts and information are bad news for “their side”.
We saw something similar play out recently between Rachel Riley and Corbyn supporters. Rachel is a longstanding critic of Labour’s response to antisemitism under Corbyn. She then whitewashed an anti-apartheid sign out of a famous photo, replacing it with an alternative message about Corbyn being anti-semitic.
The online debate involved almost no one critical of both Corbyn’s failure to deal with antisemitism, and of Rachel Riley’s disregard for apartheid history. Instead, Corbynites exonerated Corbyn and labelled Rachel racist, while anti-Corbynites exonerated Rachel while labelling Corbyn racist.
This is a pretty standard trend in UK politics now.
First Past The Post
In politics, the willingness to overlook awfulness can be heightened by lack of voter choice caused by an out-of-date binary electoral system. Ultimately the UK presently has a choice between a government led by Boris Johnson, or a government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
That means voters have a choice between hard brexit or a people’s vote, but also a choice between Russian corruption in Westminster, or failure to deal with anti-Semitism, and a choice between a manifesto by a mistrusted liar, or a manifesto that will cost more in tax – and so on and so on.
Because of this, voters will often forgive, ignore, or pretend not to believe, any negative about the side that can deliver the thing they care more about.
Conclusion: Corruption Will Expand
The upshot of this is that corruption is likely to grow and grow, as is foreign interference and infiltration in UK politics.
This is because corruption will rarely seem more critical than big and pressing political issues.
As such, we must get used to being a much more corrupt country, or decide to prioritise ending corruption over other things.