Dawn Butler spoke the truth in the least honourable place in Britain.

Toby Lipatti-Mesme
4 min readJul 23, 2021

The fact a backbench MP gets kicked out for the day for speaking truth to power, while a PM can lie day after day to the house, shows us how broken and antiquated our system of government really is.

Our political system in this country really is pretty bizarre. Everyone is an Honourable Member, even if a fraudster or a sex pest (there have been both on the Tory backbenchers, as is public knowledge), or indeed a genocidal war criminal (the Labour frontbenches in the noughties). So strange, and it means our system is essentially the institutionalization of the “good fellows” view of politics, one all about people and personalities, “goodies V baddies” and moral absolutes, the clash of values. In other words, a perspective totally separated from real politics, and disbelieved by all excepting liberals on Twitter who posted Obi-Wan Kenobi memes about Kenneth Clarke becoming Prime Minister and stopping Brexit, is at the core of, and indeed dictates the rules within, our parliamentary system.

Most countries have bizarre traditions that remain in their legislative chambers, and we all see far too much pomp and far too many antiquated rules for what should be a deadly serious practice of democracy in action, but Britain has always come out miles ahead in the “weirdness contest” here. Our rules have barely changed for a very long time, surprisingly recently the speaker had to wear a silver wig! The Honourable Members thing remains the worst of the worst though, since it basically acts as a gilded cage where you can be elected to parliament and speak out in the chamber, as long as you don’t call out the corrupt scumbags all around you, since that will see you admonished. A strange way to run a country!

It must be reiterated by everyone, very very clearly: Boris Johnson is a pathological liar. He lies to his friends, he lies to his ministers, he lies to his MPs, he lies continually to parliament, and he lies chronically to the public. Previous PMs have told barefaced lies constantly; see Blair on Ira, an unforgivable and genuinely deadly deception; but Johnson has made lying his reason to be, as if he wakes up every day with a new list of lies to tell. Listen to a Boris Johnson speech and you’ll be unable to count the cheer number of deliberate factual inaccuracies; easily provable lies about the govt’s achievements, and the opposition’s positions, and things sold in such a shameless way plenty believe it!

Dawn Butler did something very brave on the final day of parliamentary business before Summer Recess, and it was something most MPs claim to be in the habit of doing but vanishingly few every truly do outside the accepted parameters of discourse as set out by the establishment: she spoke truth to power in a clear and principled way, in a house that abhors truth, filled with the least principled, most dishonourable punch of charlatans you could hope to meet. These last nearly 18 months under Keir Starmer’s leadership have shown why Dawn wasn’t acceptable for a place in their shadow cabinet: she has core values and beliefs she betrays for no one.

In many ways Dawn Butler is the total opposite of Angela Rayner. Both MPs are relatively non-factional at core, broadly with left leaning values, both served under Corbyn without plotting, and both accepted more centrist leadership (Dawn worked under Gordon Brown, Rayner cooperated happily with Keir Starmer when she was elected alongside him), and both very skilled political communicators with a real authenticity to them. So where’s the difference? Well, the core difference is that in the post-Corbyn era, Rayner has taken every opportunity possible to stand against things she stood for, and to throw comrades and members under the bus the minute it is politically convenient to do so; this is what make her acceptable (although still they brief against her) to the Labour establishment. Butler in the post-Corbyn era has stuck by her values, reneged at every chance to throw her comrades under the bus, and spoken truth to power; this is what makes her unacceptable to the Labour establishment.

The fact we’ve seen no solidarity from the Labour leadership, not a peep from Keir Starmer, indifference from many Labour MPs generally very keen to show themselves attacking the Tories, and centrist pundits sniggering at this as “populist” and “strategic”. In one day Dawn Butler has had more engagement and cut through than LOTO all year! More populism please! The reason there hasn’t been any solidarity for her from her colleagues is very telling and shows something we all already knew; there is an acceptable box of discourse, she dared to go too far and step outside it, and the Labour establishment couldn’t stand it any more than the Tory establishment could, so blinded by factionalism and hatred of the left they view attacking Tories as unproductive. Shame on Labour, all the solidarity in the world to Dawn Butler, a true gem!



Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.