The House of Commons has agreed to hold an inquiry into whether Boris Johnson misled the House over his denials of any wrongdoings during Covid lockdown. Johnson’s defence is that he genuinely thought he hadn’t broken any rules, and nor had anyone else in Downing Street. So essentially, the parliamentary inquiry will have to probe the Prime Minister’s mind, to see if there was intent with malice, or simply on the other hand, like what a Green Party leader once blamed her poor performance on as a ‘brain fade.’ Except we know the truth, and neither malice nor brain fades come into it—Johnson is nothing more nor less than an easy come, easy go serial liar whose life is littered with evidence for that assertion.
It seems that thanks to ‘purdah’ rules, all revelations now about ‘Partygate’ are to be kept under wraps until after the local elections on the 5th May. There’s another insult to our vaunted democracy. It seems the Metropolitan Police will hold off issuing any more fixed penalty notices until after the 5th May, and the ‘Partygate’ investigation final report of senior civil servant Sue Gray will have to wait for the police to finish their bit. This all smells of a cosy bureaucratic relationship in which the British ‘constitution’ is steeped, a constitution which will never put the establishment in harm’s way.
As a defence, the concept of ‘I thought at the time that I was doing the right thing’ begs some difficult questions. We all know how Tony Blair has repeatedly used this defence in relation to his faith in his righteous war on Iraq. At least Blair allows that God may be his judge, if not the people, or the deceased and injured victims of his self-belief. Now it is clear that the same self-belief propels Putin along a similar path of destruction. So how can society rein in this propensity for untrammelled self-belief in its leaders? And yet isn’t self-belief what we demand of our leaders? I think you’ll find evidence aplenty that people like leaders who are ’strong,’ who know what they want and are determined to get it. On the other hand we want them to listen to us, to show empathy and understanding, even if we know that they are almost by definition going to be totally detached from us because of their increasing proximity to elites, the wealthy and in many cases the inevitable corruption of power.
Checks and balances are supposed to save us from the worst effects of all this, but as we have seen in the US, where gerrymandering, from Congressional boundaries to Supreme Court appointments now seems the norm, and here in the UK where the Tories are intent on following the same pattern, checks and balances tend to be relatively obscure mechanisms which can be tampered with with impunity. The electorate may not be all that bothered whether Parliament is illegally prorogued if there’s a cost of living crisis to contend with. As is clear, the arcane niceties of our so-called constitution are all relative in the hands of the ‘strong’ leader, or in the case of Johnson, the ‘brilliant election winner’ who will be forgiven every sin so long as he cheers us up with his inanities. I suppose in his case the big question is what substance lies behind his masquerade of governing? Is there anything there?
In the words of the old joke, endlessly transmissible, should Johnson visit an old folks’ home and ask a resident ‘Do you know who I am’ she would reply ‘No, but why don’t you ask the nurse?’