WHEN I was a little boy and had done something wrong, I knew I was in real trouble when my parents didn’t shout at me, instead using the tried, trusted and soul-destroying: “We are not angry with you any more, we’re just really disappointed.”

And that’s exactly how I feel about our government’s leaders at the moment. I am beyond anger, I am simply ground down by the normalisation of rule-breaking, incompetence and complete unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions.

But what’s really getting me down is the feeling that the government is just laughing at us.

There’s a long litany of reasons. This list isn’t comprehensive but includes: Advocating ‘herd immunity’ as a means of controlling the virus; massively overpaying for PPE while giving contracts to companies with no history of PPE supply; discharging the elderly from hospitals into care homes without coronavirus tests with tragically fatal results; constantly acting too late in taking steps to control the Covid-19 outbreak; refusing to fund free school meals for the most vulnerable during school holidays until Marcus Rashford shamed them into it; the fiasco over A-level results; wasting millions on the failed NHSX track and trace app; and wasting billions on the ‘world beating’ Dido Harding track and trace system that is still not working properly.

Being charitable, I could just about come to terms with all these errors being down to collective ineptitude and lack of ability in a cabinet chosen not for its skills or any vestigial competence but solely because of slavish devotion to the Brexit project.

But Boris Johnson defending Dominic Cummings when he broke lockdown rules by driving to County Durham was a step too far and ranks as simple abuse of an 80-seat Parliamentary majority.

Surely Boris Johnson and the government couldn’t sink any lower. Well actually, it could and it has.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you home secretary Priti Patel. Irrespective of her politics or how tough her job is or how nice she is to her friends, the report by Sir Alex Allan, the independent adviser on ministerial standards was unequivocal. Ms Patel was found to have bullied staff at the Home Office and had broken the Ministerial Code. Protocol dictates she either have resigned or been sacked as a minister.

But not in this broken, debased government. No, the prime minister disregarded the report and Ms Patel keeps her job. Just what kind of signal does this send out to every victim of bullying?

Ironically, and you couldn’t make this up, Johnson’s decision came right at the end of the government’s anti-bullying week.

So what are we to make of all this.

I think arch-Tory political commentator Tim Montgomerie, a former adviser to Boris Johnson and once described as "one of the most important Conservative activists of the past 20 years, summed it up pretty well when he tweeted: “I have great respect for @pritipatel but this is exactly what I fear. This government is in danger of looking like it plays by different rules to the country it governs.”

But this kind of ‘one rule for them, one rule for the rest of us’ isn’t confined to the big beasts at the top of government.

We can look a little closer to home.

This is a quote from Warrington South Tory MP Andy Carter’s website: “Voting to support another national lockdown isn’t a decision any MP takes lightly, as a libertarian this is the last thing that I wanted to do, but unfortunately the situation in Warrington, with rising hospitalisations, particularly among the over-60s and increasing hospital occupancy meant the decision was necessary.”

So what does he do? He rocks up at an unofficial Remembrance Sunday event at the town’s war memorial along with several hundred other people.

He said he had not been invited to the event and went to the cenotaph intending to lay a wreath privately. He added he had 'no reason to believe' it did not comply with rules.

Just to be clear, Warrington Council cancelled the official Remembrance Day event on health and safety grounds and government guidelines issued when England's lockdown began stipulated that Remembrance events could only go ahead if they were organised by councils or faith leaders. Lockdown guidelines state that event organisers should record the contact details of attendees for test and trace purposes, and members of the public should be "discouraged" from attending. Did this happen?

It remains unclear who actually organised the unofficial event, but this doesn’t seem to have bothered Mr Carter.

But surely if he wasn’t invited, when he turned up and saw all those people, wouldn’t it have made sense to wait until everyone had gone to lay the wreath rather than joining in, having his picture taken then seeing it all over social media?

Smacks of one rule for them and one for the rest of us.

PS, this is the same Andy Carter who had to self-isolate after a face-to-face meeting with Boris Johnson and other ‘Red Wall’ MPs at 10 Downing Street – complete with a picture of him stood less than two metres from the prime minister – when one of them tested positive for Covid-19. Haven’t they heard of Zoom and working from home during lockdown?

One rule for them, one for the rest of us.