I had to pinch myself today. The letter page of the Daily Telegraph (Friday; best puzzle day) was almost exclusively taken up with anti-Johnson correspondence, and Twitter is alive with criticism of him, from the mildly critical, to the obscenely offensive. But I was forced to remember that it is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom that they are talking about.
This is the man with one hand on the tiller of UK plc, and the other one poised above the button marked ‘Nuclear Armageddon’. How on earth did we get here?
None of us is devoid of blame—a democratic country deserves the government it gets—but some animals are more equal of blame than others...
Conservative MPs and members of the party in the country overwhelmingly voted Johnson leader, recognizing an engaging personality capable of winning elections. And they were right. Johnson won in 2019 with the largest government share of votes since Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Not only did he have great appeal to the average voter, but the main opposition, the Labour Party, had imploded into a factionalised agitprop throwback to the 1960s. Johnson’s easy and reckless disregard for the truth was quietly forgotten, even in the so-called ‘red wall’ seats.
The people that voted for Johnson, as well as the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, were, in my view, equally culpable.
Johnson’s government soon showed itself incapable of making decisions, as U-turn after U-turn became normal business. But then a more sinister side began to emerge. His apparent disregard for probity showed itself in his illegal attempt to prorogue parliament. He disregarded the conclusion of the enquiry showing Patel to be guilty of bullying her staff, and he attempted to change the law to prevent Owen Paterson being suspended from parliament for breaking lobbying rules. There was a report in The Times this week, that the government is considering legislation to allow them to throw out any legal decisions from the courts of which they do not approve. So much for the time-honoured separation of the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary...
Johnson made the UK guilty of ignoring international treaties and agreements—freely entered into and endorsed by him—on the Northern Ireland protocol and on fishing quotas. He then entered into diplomacy via Twitter, such that the president of our closest neighbour angrily declared that he could not take him seriously and refuses to do business with him.
We are faced with a massive series of problems at home and abroad. There is the terrifying prospect of the already grossly underfunded NHS collapsing under the pressure of the pandemic. There is the crisis in care-homes and the hopelessly undermanned police force. Then, come April next year, the fuel price cap will be revised substantially up, pushing millions more people into fuel poverty as the soaring cost of natural gas feeds through to consumers (remembering that natural gas is also the largest fuel source for electricity generation).
Internationally, there is the on-going problem of the Northern Ireland border and our relations with the EU, and the apparent breakdown in relations with France vis a vis migrant channel crossings and fishing licenses. More worrying, is the potential for armed conflict overseas in Ukraine, Taiwan, and Iran, and the need for ultra-careful and sensitive diplomacy in those areas.
For all of these and many other issues, we need a leader who can not only lead, but can hold the respect of the nation. There is little doubt that the current incumbent has neither of these qualities. The real worry I have, is that if Johnson does resign over illegal parties or wallpaper—both of which are entirely trivial in the canon of his misdemeanours—who on earth is there in the government capable of providing us with the sort of leader we so desperately need?
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs