Issue 275: 2021 04 15: Self-Justification

15 April 2021


The same as self-preservation?

By Lynda Goetz

This last week has been notable for a number of examples of self-justification by those in authority.  In this country we have had both our present and former Prime Ministers justifying their actions.  The National Trust is also on the defensive having suffered the resignation of several volunteers who objected to the enforced ‘inclusivity/diversity’ training programme.  Abroad there is the American police officer in Minneapolis who has resigned (before being sacked) after claiming that the death of a man being stopped for an expired licence plate or an illegal air-freshener was an accident caused by her mistaking her gun for a Taser and the Israeli government justifying their actions vis-a-vis Iran at a time when the US is trying to bring Iran back to the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew.  Although all very different, each in its way has a definite bearing on a number of national and global issues.

The Greensill issue, in which former PM David Cameron is now embroiled, concerns the question of parliamentary lobbying in this country.  Mr Cameron, before he became PM, was the man who warned that ‘crony capitalism’ was the ‘next big scandal waiting to happen’.  Sadly it seems he was right, but not in the way he had hoped.  As leader of the opposition in 2010, his promises to curb the lobbying industry if the Tories were elected were put into effect once power was obtained.  However it would appear that the legislation did not go far enough.  The Lobbying Act 2014, designed to make lobbying activities more transparent and which Mr Cameron himself steered through Parliament, does not cover the actions in which our former PM himself has been indulging.  As a paid adviser to Greensill Capital, Mr Cameron was not amongst those consultants or professional lobbyists required by the Act to be on a register.  His statement justifying the informal approaches to Rishi Sunak via text and email suggests that his was a general interest and not a personal one and that he has been found to have broken no codes of conduct and no government rules.  This may perhaps be the case, but as he himself admits, in classic jargon, ‘there are important lessons to be learnt’.  Maybe one of them is that self-preservation is instinctive and in spite of legislation hard to eradicate.

Our current Prime Minister’s comments on the UK’s present statistics surrounding ‘The Virus’ seem on the face of it to ignore all his own earlier sound bites about ‘following the data not the dates’ and talk of vaccine rollout success.  Instead, this week Boris Johnson was, rather bizarrely, attributing the plunging Covid figures for deaths, hospital admissions and cases, not to the success of the vaccination programme, but to lockdown.  At first sight this seems ludicrous, and has been scoffed at by a number of commentators, including science correspondents, until you remember that, given the dislike of lockdown even amongst those who approve of it, these comments are designed entirely as justification of these authoritarian measures, so damaging in other ways.  The self-justification is also a move of self-preservation as our leader hopes to ride high on his ‘successful’ handling of this pandemic, rather than, as seemed likely at one point, of being the fall guy for all the ‘mistakes’ made by government in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a pre-emptive move by the PM, justifying extensive and lengthy lockdowns (which incidentally didn’t appear to work before we had the vaccines) which not only does he want to be approved of by the general public, but which he belatedly wants to be seen as instrumental in our success in this ‘war’.  In other words, Project Fear was a good thing in this case (not in the case of Brexit of course) and that success needs recognition.  Could future governments perhaps build on this success?  We could have government advertising campaigns reminding us of how all our plastic waste is not simply destroying baby turtles or dolphins or whatever but will kill us when we have ingested enough of it, or how our failure to buy local is killing our farmers or polluting the air we breathe.  Self-preservation is clearly a huge motivator of the populace and thus a powerful weapon in the armoury of those in power.  The justification for Project Fear No N (there have clearly been many over the course of history) will be the saving of Mankind.  The only problem may well be of course that not all nations will wish to lose trade advantages so early on in this next war, which could leave any country bold enough to use such a weapon alone rather high and dry.  Well, perhaps what we really need is an international coalition of authoritative figures to coordinate this next stage of human endeavour and thus ‘save the planet’, or human beings, which is often considered to be the same thing.

The National Trust’s moves merit a few words.  The Trust has lost many members over the last year, and a huge amount of revenue due to the pandemic forcing closure of venues.  Budget cuts have been made and compulsory and voluntary redundancies have, in total, reached over 1,200.  Some of the membership loss has been due to the Trust’s woke ‘agenda’, which has appalled many of its traditional supporters.  It is this agenda to which the volunteers objected as well as the costs related to the ‘inclusivity’ training at a time when money is clearly so tight.

This new aspect of training has been added to the data protection, health and safety and fire precaution training which all employees and volunteers have to undergo.  However it is also being forced on employees, such as rangers, who have no interaction with the public.  The National Trust has protested that this kind of training is undertaken by most corporate organisations (a Guardian survey apparently found that 81 percent of UK companies subject their employees to it).  Self-preservation?  Well, the former boss of KPMG, the worldwide accountancy firm, was forced to resign after describing unconscious bias training as “complete and utter crap”.

The fact that the government has banned ‘implicit-bias’ training in the Civil Service appears not to be having much effect on the march of these sorts of ‘hocus-pocus’ training measures becoming standard in so many institutions and bodies.  Many of them are positively damaging to relations between people of different ethnicity in that they promote awkwardness and fear of getting things wrong.  ‘Equity’ training effectively demands that we treat people of different ethnicity differently.  Surely this is the very antithesis of anti-racism? And yet a number of teaching unions last week called for this approach to become standard even in nursery schools.

The incident in Minneapolis comes at a time of heightened tensions in the area as the trial of Police officer Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd is ongoing.  Whether or not it is possible to ‘mistakenly’ fire a pistol instead of a Taser is the subject of questions and debate.  Suffice to say the young man who was shot dead was black and the police officer white, so whatever the explanations and room for human error, this simply adds fuel to the fire in the US and around the world.  This is not only shocking for the family of the young man killed, but sad for the police officer whose sacking or resignation was inevitable under the circumstances.  No self-justification was ever going to alter the fact that her 26-year career in the police force was at an end from that moment.

As for Israel, this is clearly a situation of self-preservation, if perhaps lacking the self-justification at the highest level.  The Israelis have not admitted publicaly that it was their covert operations which damaged the Iranian-flagged ship Saviz, believed to be used by the Iranian Republican Guard, nor caused the explosion at the Natanz nuclear site which resulted in extensive damage likely to take many months to repair, but according to the New York Times, Israel had forewarned Washington.  As a reported in the Daily Telegraph, however, Amir Avivi, who founded a pressure group to advocate for Israel’s security, said:  “We truly believe that it’s an existential threat.  The Iranians want to annihilate us and we take this very seriously.”  Basically, it would seem Israel does not see the lifting of sanctions and the return of Iran to the deal as being in their interests, rather that it would lead to a nuclear-armed Iran within 15 years.  Mr Avivi added: “…if they push us to the wall, we won’t stay silent, we’ll do what’s right for Israel.”

Follow the Shaw Sheet on

It's FREE!

Already get the weekly email?  Please tell your friends what you like best. Just click the X at the top right and use the social media buttons found on every page.

New to our News?

Click to help keep Shaw Sheet free by signing up.Large 600x271 stamp prompting the reader to join the subscription list