Friday, 6 September 2019

Johnson, Johnson and principles

It struck me at the time that there was something strange about someone who resigned from Theresa May’s government because he was pro-EU and wanted a second referendum then joining an even more hard-line anti-EU government of which membership was restricted to those prepared to support a no-deal exit.  I put it down to blood being thicker than water.  One of the stories that I saw yesterday about the resignation of Johnson Minor suggested that before agreeing to serve he had asked for, and received, a specific assurance from Johnson Major that he was seriously seeking a deal.  And he believed it, presumably on the basis that an inveterate and habitual liar wouldn’t lie to his own brother.
There’s a pattern there, though.  When the leader of the Scottish Conservatives resigned, she also said that she had looked Johnson Major in the eye and demanded and received a similar assurance.  She also believed it, and again, presumably believed that ‘he wouldn’t lie to me’.  And there are members of the Cabinet who are known to be opponents of no-deal who seem to be loyally serving him.  I don’t know for certain, but it would be a shrewd guess that they had also sought, received, and believed similar assurances, because ‘he wouldn’t lie to us’.  All this tells us much more about those who have received and accepted those assurances than it tells us about Johnson Major.  For whatever reason, they have all been convinced that they are special; that a man whom they all know to be a devious, dishonest, and habitual liar would for some reason be honest with them even as he blatantly lies to everyone else.
I’m not sure that Johnson Major himself would see it as lying, mind.  This is a man who has gone through life saying whatever will advance his own ends at every juncture whether it bears a passing acquaintance with truth or not.  Fact and fiction are mixed and entwined in a way where he probably no longer knows the difference.  From time to time he’s been caught out, even sacked, but he always lands on his feet – his approach to the distinction between truth and untruth has served him well, so why would anyone expect that to change?  Those who thought they were in some sense special enough not to be lied to have only demonstrated their own gullibility and naivete.
So, at the least, Johnson Minor showed himself to be gullible and naïve, but it’s worse than that.  He has managed to get himself portrayed as having ultimately followed his principles rather than remaining loyal to his brother, but in what sense is someone who spends a day – never mind six weeks – agonising over the conflict between family loyalty and the interests of the country ‘principled’?  To have considered, even for a moment, that loyalty to his brother might be on, or close to, an equal footing with doing what he believes to be right for his constituents and the wider populace tells us all we need to know about his ‘principles’.  Minor manages to look good in comparison to Major only because we are comparing within a very narrow part of the spectrum.

1 comment:

Ivor Nadir said...

Another way of putting it: faced with a choice between family loyalty and the national interest, he chose neither.