THIS week has seen two widely contrasting examples of moral behaviour by politicians.

On the one hand we have Boris Johnson, somebody who does not seem to believe that normal rules apply to him. Somebody indeed who has been fined by the police for breaking the laws that he himself introduced. 

We're still awaiting the report of Sue Gray and as yet no photographs have been published of the events that Johnson attended. I suspect when they are it will give an entirely new perspective on his claims about what happened in those events.

He offered a sham apology to Parliament and then went straight back to a meeting of his own MPs and try to bluster his way through the situation. It's a sad indictment of the current Conservative Party that they went along with that even where they had huge reservations about what he had done.

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Contrast that with the behaviour of Keir Starmer. He has been the subject of a campaign by the right-wing tabloids orchestrated by Number 10 over the so-called Beergate scenario. He is given a full explanation and it seems to me that it is a good one.

But as somebody who has set a moral bar for the prime minister to climb over so he has set that same bar for himself.

He has said that if he is issued with a fixed penalty notice by the police that he will resign. To my mind there can be no greater example of integrity then what he has done.

There is no element of hypocrisy, there is no element of attempting to get away from the situation. He has said publicly that he believes there should be high standards in public life and that they should apply equally to him.

What a contrast with the current occupant of Downing St.

In years gone by the sordid behaviour that we have seen from Boris Johnson would automatically have led to a prime minister resigning.

Until this current Conservative government came into power it was widely accepted that there were some issues which would cause ministers to resign.

Sometimes it could be quite unfair because ministers had to resign over things that their civil servants had done but it was accepted that that was the way the system worked.

This current group of politicians in the Conservative Party have driven a coach and horses through the normal standards of behaviour that have been always been expected from politicians at Westminster .

There are any number of examples or behaviour by ministers from Priti Patel to Boris Johnson himself that would automatically have led to their resignation in years gone by.

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The old Conservative Party would not have put up with such behaviour. Sadly, standards in that party have dropped and even those who are concerned about the behaviour of the prime minister and indeed deplore it are reluctant to speak out.

By failing to do so they are collaborating in a decline of standards in public life that their predecessors would never have tolerated.

Keir Starmer’s decision is of course fraught with risk. He has already established himself as a credible moral character because he is putting his neck on the line. If he is fined and resigns however there can be no reason or excuse for Boris Johnson to stay in power.

It would be the behaviour of a leader of a banana republic to fail to resign in no circumstances when the opposition leader has taken an honourable course in the same circumstances.

If he stayed it would simply show how far down into a moral pit the current Conservative leadership would be content to go.

Boris Johnson has had a warning from the electorate last week in the local council elections.

Many no doubt hard working Conservative councillors will have lost their seats because of the behaviour of their leader in Westminster.

The Conservatives in Wales lost 40 per cent of their seats and it is hard to imagine any other party where the leader stays in place after those catastrophic losses.

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But there's a wider issue here how degraded do we want standards in political life to be? Politicians are not exactly up there with doctors and nurses in terms of popularity to begin with and the kind of behaviour we have seen at Westminster over recent years has simply contributed to that view.

As I've said before most of the politicians I've met, in whatever party, go into politics for the best of reasons but what we are seeing now tars them with the same brush as those who misbehave in such a bad way.

Kier Starmer has set the standard or behaviour that should be expected of politicians. Obviously I hope that he comes through this situation but I admire him for what he has done. I doubt whether there are many in the Conservative party who admire the current prime minister’s behaviour.

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