Monday, 21 June 2021

Undelivered promises are cost-free


Members of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet are apparently getting increasingly restless about his penchant for making costly announcements about things that they are going to do without telling them first, let alone consulting with them. According to this story in the Sunday Times (paywall), the Chancellor, in particular, is now starting to ask where the money is going to come from, and the Guardian reports, more generally, that Cabinet meetings have become a formality with no debate and that ministers are feeling sidelined.

However, like Thatcher’s vegetables, Ministers are failing to understand what is expected of them. World kings don’t need to consult with anyone, they have the absolute right to do as they wish; mere courtiers simply need to fall into line and do as they are told. They may not like the monstrous and narcissistic ego ignoring their views, but they helped to put him there, and under the UK’s semi-democracy, he could replace them at any time, if only it didn’t require him to take a decision first.

And that unwillingness to take decisions brings us to another thing that Ministers, to say nothing of the media, are not understanding. The nature of boosterism has nothing to do with taking decisions or actually spending money at all. It’s just about PR and making announcements. Announcing grand schemes and lots of spending earns headlines, often positive, as the words of Johnson are faithfully reported by a sycophantic media as though they contained some meaning. But for Johnson, the headline itself is the payoff. People adding up the cost of his announcements are missing the point: pledges which he has no intention of delivering cost nothing. There is no plan for social care, there will not be a tunnel between Great Britain and Ireland – let alone a giant roundabout under the Isle of Man – and there probably won’t be a new boat either. Just like there will be no ‘Boris Island’ in the Thames Estuary, or garden bridge in the centre of London. Levelling up is a slogan, not a plan, and neither health nor education will receive as much funding as they need to catch up after the pandemic. And his rejection of further austerity doesn’t mean that he isn’t planning cuts to public spending, merely that he’s going to call it something else.

The ratio of cost to truthfulness in any promise made by Johnson is 1:1 –  which means that zero truthfulness translates into zero cost. The real question is why anybody else – let alone the Ministers working most closely with him – takes anything he says at face value. He just wants us all to remember the headlines and forget the substance. Sadly, years of making up stories as a reporter give him reasonable cause to believe that many will do just that.

1 comment:

dafis said...

You are spot on in your assessment of Boris' promised vanity projects in that not one of them likely to come to anything. However he will contrive, along with selected Ministers, to spend significant 10's maybe 100's of millions on all sorts of reviews, consultancy fees and other "procedurals" before announcing that the planned nonsense will not go ahead. Most of those funds will be wasted in payments to businesses favoured by the Government i.e donors to the Party, or even siblings or friends of Ministers. Such is modern Britain easing itself deeper into a deep pool of corruption while diverting public money into private purses.