Monday, 7 September 2020

Consequences are for others

An election slogan used by the Democrats in the 1960 Presidential Election between Nixon and Kennedy is probably one of the most striking I’ve ever seen. Using a picture of Nixon looking even more devious than usual, it simply asked “Would YOU buy a used car from this man?”. It turned out that quite a few would; although Kennedy won a large majority in the electoral college, he only defeated Nixon very narrowly in the popular vote – less than 0.2%. It also turned out that Nixon was even more devious and dishonest than those devising the slogan had ever imagined, although that only became obvious after he won at his second attempt in 1968.
Today’s news that the PM is proposing legislation which will unilaterally over-ride the Withdrawal Agreement which they signed just a few short months ago must inevitably make the EU27 ask themselves whether they’d even buy a new car from this man. They’ve been incredibly patient with him – many people would not even bother to negotiate with someone whose word simply cannot be trusted. It’s not as if they weren’t warned – even before signing up to controls over the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, Johnson repeatedly asserted that his government would implement no such controls, yet the EU were still willing to sign a formal international treaty on the basis that the PM of a previously reputable country like the UK would not simply renege on it. No-one can argue that the character defects of a man who has a demonstrably distant relationship with fact and truth haven’t been entirely obvious for many years.
However, if there’s one thing that Johnson’s personal life experiences have taught him it is that dishonesty pays. He may have been sacked twice for lying and dismissed as Foreign Secretary for not being any good at the job, but somehow he’s always bounced back; not only have there been no long term consequences for him as a result of his actions, he’s actually gained from them. From his perspective, consequences are for other people. I don’t know whether Nixon had a similar mindset when he authorised unlawful activities, but he was eventually forced out. But although the current government was elected on a minority of the popular vote, a distorted and undemocratic voting system has given Johnson a safe majority. Safe, that is, until enough people in his own party develop enough of a spine to put a stop to the dishonesty. It’s not looking imminent. In the meantime, Johnson is right about one thing – consequences are, indeed, for other people. And that means most of us.

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