The resignation of two cabinet members, Chancellor Sunak and Health Secretary Javid, has thrown Boris Johnson’s tenure into a tailspin that he’ll find hard to reverse.
Now, typically I refrain from delving too deeply into the political rough-and-tumble of Britain. Since I’m not particularly interested in political mechanics and machinations myself, I don’t see how I can keep my readers, especially non-Britons, from stifling yawns.
However, the political problem Britain is facing is neither strictly political nor indigenously British. It’s existential and international or, if you will, civilisational.
We can argue about the pros and cons of our democracy run riot till the MPs come home from their summer recess, but one thing is indisputable. This system consistently fails to elevate to government those fit to govern, which is after all a principal desideratum of any political method. And practice shows that, whenever any system fails to deliver on its remit for decades, the problem lies with the system, not just its specific operators.
As I look at the line-up of Western leaders this century, I genuinely fear for our collective survival. Seldom does one see such a complement of fools and knaves in any important jobs, never mind those that affect the whole world.
Not a single one displays the traits of character, morality and intellect that ought to be essential job requirements for a career in government. Against that background, I can’t for the life of me see how Johnson deserves to be ousted and, say, Biden, Scholz and Macron don’t.
Getting back to our green and pleasant land, nor do I see a Tory leader promising to be any better than Johnson. As for Labour politicians, not a single one is within a million miles of being able to run anything bigger than a local communist cell… sorry, I mean a union branch.
That Johnson doesn’t seem to know the difference between truth and falsehood, wielding either or both as the situation demands, is obvious. That he is obsessed with power for its own sake can’t be gainsaid either, and neither can the palpable contempt he feels for his own regulations.
These are the first and usually last points brought up by his critics, frothing at the mouth on Sky News this morning. Alastair Campbell, Svengali to Tony Blair, was especially foamy.
He was on the air for about five minutes, during which time he managed to scream “liar, cheat, charlatan, criminal” half a dozen times. Johnson, he shouted with that stern self-righteous expression of his, is “the worst prime minister we’ve ever had”.
I’d say Johnson is better, or rather marginally less awful, than any post-Thatcher PM, emphatically including Campbell’s former charge. No PM in British history wreaked as much constitutional sabotage as Blair did, with Campbell providing the inspiration and the spin.
Then Michael Heseltine came on and croaked many words along the same lines, adding a few inanities of his own. The greatest crime Johnson committed, said that Remainer-in-Chief, was pushing Brexit through.
Really? And there I was, thinking that, by doing so, Johnson merely acted on the will of the British people, expressed in the biggest number of votes ever cast for anything.
We are all committed democrats, aren’t we? Especially those who, like Heseltine, devoted their whole lives to democratic politics? It sounds suspiciously as if those chaps like democracy only when it yields the result they want.
Johnson did push Brexit through, even though the political establishment fought tooth and nail to ignore the greatest vote in British history. By doing so, he rode roughshod over saboteurs of British sovereignty and therefore constitution, those who were willing to turn Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth into Liz Windsor, citizen of the EU.
Johnson also unrolled the Covid vaccination programme faster and more effectively than any other European leader. I know that many people regard the relevant science as dubious, but they weren’t in a position to make life or death decisions, as Johnson was. Agree or disagree, but he did well in showing due respect for a pandemic that killed 4.5 million worldwide.
He also put Britain in the vanguard of the civilised countries trying to stop Russian fascism in its tracks. People say that Johnson came out as a champion of the Ukraine’s independence for selfish reasons, to divert public attention from domestic problems. That very well may be, but it’s not as if Messrs Biden, Macron, Scholz and Draghi had no domestic problems they’d wish to divert public attention from.
All the crimes Johnson is charged with in the court of his political opponents are trivial. At worst, they fall into the category of misdemeanours for which a gentle rap on the knuckles would be sufficient punishment.
He flouted his own regulations by having a garden shindig at Number 10 – naughty. But he who is without sin, and all that. Did you follow every Covid regulation without fail? Did anyone you know? I didn’t, and I don’t expect a politician to be any more law-abiding, or for that matter moral, than I am.
Then he didn’t immediately sack that walking aptronym, Deputy Whip Pincher, when it came to light that the chap tended to, well, pinch other men when in his cups. When confronted, Johnson told a transparent lie about not having heard any of the previous accusations of Pincher’s tactile tendencies.
Bring out that ruler, time for another rap on the knuckles. Of course, it’s not nice for politicians to lie. But show me one who says he never does, and I’ll show you a liar. A modern politician who doesn’t lie violates the sacred, if unspoken, oath of his profession.
Every few years they are supposed to go before the public, having first spent millions on trying to gauge the public’s wishes. Then, focus group reports in front of their eyes, they systematically promise to fulfil every one of those wishes, knowing in advance they have neither the means nor indeed the intention of doing so.
They thus prostitute the essence of their profession, while sticking by its overwhelmingly dominant techniques. Compared to that, what’s a little lie about another politician’s wandering hands? Kindergarten stuff, really.
Lest you may think I’m arguing that Johnson is fit to be prime minister, I am not. Of course, he isn’t. Johnson isn’t a bad politician, he is just a typical one.
Actually, he is wittier, better educated and better spoken than most. Someone like Biden or Trump can’t even speak English properly, while Johnson effortlessly swaps Gallic puns with Manny Macron. He can even whip out a Greek quotation when pressed.
All those qualities make him an ideal companion at a dinner party, provided he can keep his hands off the behinds of other men’s wives. Alas, such accomplishments are irrelevant to his profession, and some will even argue they are injurious to it.
Few great statesmen from Washington to de Gaulle to Thatcher were widely celebrated for their effortless charm. They brought to bear on their mission other qualities, those demonstrably lacking in Johnson.
One such is having principles. Johnson doesn’t seem to believe in anything but Johnson. He is certainly not a Tory in anything other than his dress sense and speech.
He is an opportunist who will do or say anything that’ll keep him in power a while longer. Looking at his record on the economy, there is no denying his tenure has been plagued by bad luck, in the shape of Covid and Putin (my French friends maliciously pronounce the word virus as vie-russe, thereby merging the two plagues together).
Yet it’s as clear that Johnson’s policies have made the situation much worse. Having sensed that going against the woke grain would be detrimental to his political career, he has committed the country to every knavish trick of modernity.
Trillions are in the process of being wasted on the diktats of the green ideology, with Johnson making frankly idiotic and unrealistic commitments, such as having no fossil-engine cars by 2030. Abandoning such anti-scientific neo-Luddite programmes would go a long way towards easing the country’s economic plight.
Johnson’s commitment to promiscuous social spending financed by the highest taxation for decades is rapidly turning what could have been a mild downturn into a looming catastrophe. High public spending is a principal driver of high inflation, which economic maxim Johnson is helpfully vindicating.
Interestingly, his critics don’t take Johnson to account on such suicidal economic irresponsibility because he is practising exactly what they themselves preach. Nor is he criticised for his commitment to every woke diktat, from multi-culti to numerically virtuous representation of women in government and corporations to homomarriage to the transsex perversions.
This gets me back to the question in the headline above. Who should take Johnson’s place, provided the place becomes vacant thanks to the combined efforts of our ‘liberal’ media and his political competitors? Who would have done better in his place, or can be confidently expected to do better if finding himself at Number 10?
Sunak? Javid? Gove? Raab? Mordaunt, she of the thunder thighs fame? Or – and I hope you’ve already had your lunch – Starmer? Sturgeon perhaps? Possibly Blair, should he make a comeback, as is widely mooted?
You begin to see my point. The problem is with the horse, not the jockey. Unless we rethink all modern political assumptions, we’ll be forever stuck with self-serving nonentities, of whom Johnson is far from the worst.