SUPPORTERS of the British state have always prided themselves that the British system was a cut above the constitutional and political systems of other countries. They complacently assumed that Britain was protected by an armour of fair play and decency in public office that provided an absolute guarantee that inhabitants of the UK would never be troubled by the corruption, authoritarianism and intolerance which plagued lesser states.

Indeed, this was one of the arguments made most loudly by opponents of independence during the independence referendum campaign of 2014. Scotland, they assured us, depended upon the Westminster parliament in order to guarantee democracy, the safety of minorities, and acceptable standards in public life. They told us that without Westminster there would be nothing to stand between Scotland and rampant corruption, naked authoritarianism and the overt abuse of power by the rich and well-connected.

The last few years of misrule by this miserable Conservative government have provided a stark warning that corruption, authoritarianism, unaccountability and the subversion of government to serve the interests of the few are already here and are inseparable parts of the Westminster system, a system which gives enormous power to a manifestly unfit individual like Boris Johnson and which then provides no effective means of ensuring that he can be held to account.

Johnson and his allies insist that we must all wait for the Gray report to be published before judging Johnson, and Downing Street is already trying to provide the serial liar at the head of the Conservative Party with sufficient wriggle room to allow him to survive the embarrassing findings of the report. However, the fundamental weakness of the British system is that Sue Gray, the civil servant investigating the lockdown-busting parties, is subordinate to Johnson in the Downing Street hierarchy, and he will be both judge and jury on her findings.

The chances are that Johnson will survive this immediate crisis because there is still no clear successor to him in the Conservative Party. No putative successor would want to be left taking responsibility for the battering that the Tories fear that they are going to receive at the hands of angry voters at the local elections in England in May. There are of course local elections in Scotland as well, but the Tories don't care about Scottish votes, Scottish Conservative seats at Westminster are not required to ensure a Conservative majority. It's more likely that moves will be made against Johnson after May.

In the meantime, Johnson will attempt to save his skin with a raft of right-wing populist policies designed to appeal to the pro-Brexit readers of the frothing Mail and Express who make up the Conservatives' core support. Just as happened with Brexit, everyone in the UK will have to suffer the consequences of the Conservatives acting as though the interests of the state are subordinate to the interests of the Conservative party, which is precisely what passes for a constitution in the UK allows them to do.

We are in for further restrictions on the right to protest, the continuing demonisation of migrants and asylum seekers as convenient scapegoats, and yet more attacks upon any remaining institutions in the UK which are capable of restraining the wilder excesses of the Conservatives. The next Tory leader is likely to be even worse, he or she will embrace a full-throated Thatcherism, and emboldened by a surge in public support in England during their honeymoon period, will seek a snap election which could entrench Tory rule for decades to come.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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