By Arun Srivastava
It is a pure case of misuse of power. Police officers using their official status and powers to protect their political masters has been a common practice in a developing country, but the police watchdog using its authority to freeze investigation into Jennifer Arcuri scandal case in Britain where the British prime minister Boris Johnson is seeking electoral mandate on Brexit has come as a rude shock.
Desperate to win the parliamentary election Johnson has been resorting to nasty tricks. Earlier he was accused of suppressing the report from Russia. Now the Arcuri scandal has surfaced. It is irony that the police watchdog has delayed its announcement on whether the PM should face an investigation into possible criminal misconduct until after the election.
Among the allegations being investigated by the IOPC are questions over a payment of £126,000 of public money to Arcuri’s businesses and why she was on three overseas trade missions with Johnson, despite not qualifying as a delegate.
This decision has raised storm in the political circle which holds the view that a ruling had been “suppressed” in order to protect Johnson from potentially damaging headlines at a crucial stage of the election campaign.
It is alleged Arcuri received favourable treatment due to her friendship with Johnson, including receiving large sums of public money for her technology firms. The offence of misconduct in public office carries a maximum term of life imprisonment. Johnson has denied any impropriety.
Morality demands that while the country is in the midst of general election it is imperative that there should be maximum transparency. But the incidents are otherwise. It is incredible. It’s a suppression of information which the public is entitled to have. This incident also raises question how independent the IOPC is and whether the prime minister’s lawyers have been exerting undue pressure to facilitate him win the election.
It is unbelievable that a politician could stoop so low to win the election. The Tory leadership must act fast. They must try to assess the adverse impact his two actions would have on the electoral prospect of the party. True enough these actions; distortion of the fact has already caused damage to the Tories. Its lead over Labour has been cut by four points from 16 to 12 over the past week. Usually just ahead of the elections restrictions imposed on policy announcements and use of public resources. But there is no provision for such action about police investigation.
Tom Copley, a Labour member of the assembly oversight committee, which has launched its own inquiry into allegations related to Johnson’s relationship with Arcuri, said: “If it is true that the IOPC is hiding behind purdah rules then that would be outrageous.
It is really sad that Johnson has so far refused to answer the most basic questions about these allegations, and the public have a right to know whether he is going to face further investigation. As IOPC claims of it being “entirely independent of the government” its role becomes more imperative.
Nevertheless in a significant development an IOPC spokesman admitted; “he was not entirely sure whether purdah rules applied to the organisation but because of the case’s significance it may receive Cabinet Office guidance to be on the safe side”.
As if this was not enough, Johnson has been accused of misleading the public about his own Brexit deal. TV footage have emerged of him telling exporters in Northern Ireland they will not need to fill in extra paperwork. But within a day of his assurance it was denied by the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer: “This is a prime minister who either doesn’t know the details of the deal he has negotiated or isn’t being straight about it. If this deal comes into force, it’s an international treaty that will be legally binding. It’s not for Boris Johnson to waive or ignore the obligations in the deal he has negotiated. Boris Johnson’s making it up as he goes along.”
Boris had also told the businessmen; “if any business is asked to fill in such paperwork, they should telephone the prime minister “and I will direct them to throw that form in the bin”. This flatly contradict the Brexit secretary, who gave testimony to the House of Lords recently that businesses would need to complete “exit summary declarations” when sending shipments from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK. This makes it absolutely clear that Johnson had “very vague idea” of the withdrawal agreement. He is playing electoral politics with people’s livelihoods. It is irresponsible either way.”
In another significant development, Johnson’s refusal to publish a parliamentary report on Russian meddling in UK politics is likely to blow on the face of the Tory Party. Labour has attacked the Conservative of taking nearly half a million pounds from just three wealthy individuals with close ties to Moscow.
Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said that the Tories had an “ongoing relationship with Russian money”. It is alleged that Johnson’s refusal to publish a potentially explosive parliamentary report owes to it. This is purely an attempt by Kremlin to subvert British democracy. Downing Street has effectively shelved the long-awaited report by the intelligence and security committee.
The dossier is understood to examine the flow of Russian money into UK politics in general and the Conservative party in particular. It looks at the murders carried out by Russian spies on British soil, including last year’s novichok attack in Salisbury on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and at attacks on the UK’s allies. (IPA Service)