In a piece in the Guardian yesterday, Vernon Bogdanor reflected on how history may judge Johnson’s period in office, recalling Churchill’s remark that “history would be kind to him since he would be writing it”, and suggesting that
Johnson, an admirer of Churchill, may feel the same, and will no doubt seek to polish his record. He should be allowed to do so, free of the vindictiveness and self-righteousness which so often disfigures the liberal left. Loss of the premiership is punishment enough.
There are three problems with this.
The first is that however much you polish a turd, it is still a turd.
Second, it will never be a case of ‘allowing’ Johnson to polish his record. He’s never felt that he has needed anyone’s permission for anything. And so he is already hard at work. You only had to listen to his farewell speech this morning.
And last, why should loss of the premiership be punishment enough? Johnson is a conman – entitled, slippery with truth and facts, a rule breaker, and above all indulged: by his family, his friends, his party, the media, the public. As Bogdanor notes, the central weakness of his administration was Johnson’s belief that “rules are for others, not for him.”
The failure effectively to call him out has got us to where we are – we should not be precious about holding him to account.
The trouble with parties is that there is always a party organiser. A party simply doesn’t happen without an invitation. A gathering – if you stretch the truth a little – may just occur.
This is why Downing Street and its supporters have been so particular about their language? Their gatherings, they keep suggesting, were not premeditated.
Under the lockdown rules meeting more than the prescribed number was simply to risk a relatively light fine under a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) but to organise and host a party means a fine of a different magnitude.
So whether or not a gathering was actually a party is important. We, the public, may have little trouble in distinguishing the two but precision is critical when it comes to law.
The most recent revelations suggest that emails were sent inviting people to the ‘gathering’ where, in Conor Burns’s immortal words, the Prime Minister was “ambushed with a cake” . . . before he later changed the story and said there was no cake. And the emails came from where? And who brought the cake? Not all parties have cake but most birthday cakes end up at parties.
So is this why the Met has suddenly put the brakes on Sue Gray’s report? Because, as always, it’s all in the numbers. Like the difference between £200 and £10,000.
It’s taken almost two years for a Tory MP to quote Leo Amery at Boris Johnson – see my post from 20 March 2020 Cometh the hour . . . but at PMQs today, that is what David Davis did.
Whether Davis’ dramatic intervention this afternoon will have the same impact that Amery’s did in the Norway Debate is anyone’s guess. Johnson affected not to recognise the quote,
I must say to him, I don’t know what he is talking about. What can I tell him – I don’t know what quotation he is alluding to . . .
A little disingenuous you might think, given Johnson never tires of tiring us by channelling his inner Churchill. What is certain, though, is that the reference to Amery will have made the intervention all the more galling for Johnson. As the Daily Telegraph noted, it will have been “the ultimate insult”.
Many Tories already share Davis’ view that Johnson is no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation – for that is the message that Cromwell delivered to the Long Parliament and that Amery repeated to Chamberlain. The party opposite know it.
But wanting change and demanding change doesn’t mean it will happen, or perhaps not quite yet.
In his daily newsletter, Jonty’s Jottings, Jonty Bloom started his piece this morning with the French threat to Jersey and the Government’s decision to send in the Navy and ended it with a lovely line,
The UK has been reduced to the Millwall of Europe, “no one likes us, we don’t care” and firmly in the second division.
Second division certainly (and none of that “punching above our weight” nonsense) and undoubtedly we are neither trusted or liked but I’m not so sure about the “we don’t care” bit.
I think both the Prime Minister and his motley crew do care. They want to be liked and cannot understand why they aren’t. It’s a very English thing, sadly.