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Sleaze, envy and the politics of sin

Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo. The Sun

Tory MPs fall from grace in a different way to lefties, says Giles Fraser in UnHerd. “It tends to be all about willies and wallets.” Before Owen Paterson, we had Boris and his wallpaper, then “Hancock with his assistant over the photocopier”. Going back a bit, there’s Neil Hamilton trousering backhanders from Mohamed Al Fayed, and David Mellor sucking the toes of his mistress in full Chelsea kit. The trouble for Labour is that “posh people doing sleaze is generally priced in when we vote Tory.”

Human imperfectability is baked in. Dante thought lust, gluttony and greed – what I call typical Tory sins – were all “disordered versions of the love of intrinsically good things”: love, food, material well-being. These are the more forgivable sins. “A tiny part of me even admires their loyalty to their friend and political ally,” admitted Labour MP Chris Bryant, the chairman of the parliamentary standards committee, in reference to Paterson. The problem is that Labour’s sin, after so many years out of power, is envy. “And envy is a particularly wizened-up mean-spirited vice in the way lust and gluttony are not.” For Labour, a far better attack line is surely to concentrate on Boris’s bungling U-turns. “To paraphrase a French wit: it’s worse than a sin, it’s a mistake.”