12th November 2017

Death By A Thousand Cuts

Steven Paterson

By former Stirling MP, Steven Paterson

The metaphor “death by a thousand cuts” probably has its origin in the tortuous and brutal form of execution known as Ling Chi, which was used in medieval China for heinous crimes such as treason.

The phrase which is now commonplace in English means a slow, painful, incremental and inevitable demise. Such a certain death can hardly be more accurately applied than to the slow collapse of the present UK Tory Government.

We have had Tory Governments imposed on us here in Scotland for the majority of my lifetime, and democracy for Scotland is at the heart of my politics. In the most basic of terms, Scotland should always get the government Scotland votes for.

Unfortunately, the cherished Union means that in governance terms, “we get what we’re telt”. Or to put it more bluntly, “shut up, Scotland, and eat your cereal”. However, even comparing the present incarnation of the Tory regime with its predecessors, Theresa May’s class of 2017 is as weak as dishwater to a degree unprecedented.


Any Prime Minister with an ounce of backbone, or a modicum of credibility, would have sacked blunderbuss Boris Johnson ages ago, for any number of idiotic incidents. Indeed, it says everything about the desperation of Theresa May that she felt compelled to put this national laughingstock into the critically important role of Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary so as to keep him off the backbenches, where he might be a magnet for support to topple her.

Instead, we have witnessed nothing short of abject and abysmal failure from the future Lord Boris. This would all be a hilarious Boris jolly jape if it didn’t involve real people’s lives. But, unfortunately, it does, and real people are suffering.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has dual UK and Iranian citizenship and travelled to Iran early last year to visit Iranian members of her family. She was arrested and detained in March 2016 at the airport on her way back to the UK, accused of espionage, and has languished in an Iranian prison ever since.

Officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have been involved in this case throughout, and from my experience as a Member of Parliament, these men and women are dedicated and effective professionals working hard to resolve issues such as that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is faced with. One can only imagine their frustration at the bungling incompetence of the Minister at the head of their critical department; incompetence so sadly in evidence this week.

Indeed it doesn’t take much imagination to picture senior civil servants with their heads in their hands after the Foreign Secretary’s clumsy comments to a parliamentary committee that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was involved in training journalists, which saw Iranian authorities threaten to increase prison sentence in response.

Crass Stupidity

These crass and stupid comments from the Foreign Secretary come hot on the heels of the resignations from the Cabinet of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon for admitted inappropriate behaviour towards women, and the International Development Secretary Priti Patel for undertaking a series of unsanctioned and unauthorised meetings with senior Israeli officials including Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Make no mistake: this is a government in complete chaos. In any other era, under any other government I can remember, Boris Johnson would have been sacked for incompetence. Yet Theresa May lacks the authority to do so and feels compelled to tolerate his continued and repeated failures through fear that he may still be even more popular among Tory MPs than she is herself, and needs to keep him busy.

Meanwhile, the country is forced to endure this weak and failing Tory Government a bit longer. The only remaining question is how many more cuts can this condemned administration take before the inevitable end?

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