Monday 9 May 2022

Gambling everything on a lack of principles


Given his alleged familiarity with Ancient Greece, it’s likely that Boris Johnson is at least aware of Aesop’s injunction to “be careful what you wish for” (although given his recent self-comparison with King Lear at the time the latter was going mad, it’s by no means certain that he understands the context or significance). It’s a suggestion which he and those others in his party currently revelling in the thought that Keir Starmer might also be fined for lockdown breaches should probably bear in mind.

We don’t yet know the outcome of the new police enquiry; whilst some of the reporting yesterday suggests that the version of events we’ve previously been given might not be an exact match with the verité, they may still conclude that no offences worthy of a fine have been committed, and that is probably the likeliest outcome. The Tories will not be unhappy with that as a result – they’ve slung a lot of mud, some of which has stuck, and they’ve managed to give the impression that it isn’t only the Tories who have broken rules. It’s not particularly edifying as a political process, but it meets the only remaining objective of the current PM and government – clinging to power at all costs.

But what if… Just suppose for a moment that the police do find a breach and issue one or more fines to those present – what are the consequences of that, and have the Tories thought them through? The first and most obvious consequence is that the Durham Police Force will find it difficult to justify opening a retrospective investigation and issuing retrospective fines in one case, having refused to do so in another. Dominic Cummings and his amazing eye test could easily become a live issue once again.

The second consequence would be that the spotlight gets shone on Starmer – will he do as he said that Johnson should do, and resign, or will he attempt to argue that any breach was inadvertent and that things are different for him because, unlike Johnson, he wasn’t the one making the rules? The Tories are betting heavily on the latter. Their aim is to portray Starmer and Labour as being no better than themselves, and therefore ease the pressure on Johnson. However, if Starmer were to resign it would have completely the opposite effect. There would then be a clear contrast between a man caught out once who does the principled thing and resigns and a serial offender who carries on regardless. The pressure would move back to Johnson. There’s little chance he would resign even then – this is not a man who has ever felt any shame or embarrassment. But it might well lead to further unease amongst those of his troops who are sent out to defend the indefensible, once again. It would also, of course, give Labour a chance to replace a man who hasn’t exactly sparkled in the role to date. All that clamour for a reinvestigation would end up being a classic piece of self foot-shooting.

In short, the Tories are gambling heavily on their assumption that Starmer is no more principled than Johnson. I wish I could say that it looked like a really bad bet.


Anonymous said...

Johnson is there for a purpose; to sort the situation with Northern Ireland (ie. set the direction towards Dublin), to agree to another Scottish referendum (and then spend another few years scaring the population into eventually voting no), to leave Wales in the hands of Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru (using the perilous state of the NHS and education as perfect examples of Labour in action).

Come the next election I predict another massive Tory win, irrespective of the new leader.

John Dixon said...

"Johnson is there for a purpose" I'm not entirely convinced that the idea that there is some sort of thought-through purpose is exactly evident - or that even he knows it.

dafis said...

John, I suspect that there was some sort of thought through purpose but given the nature of Boris and some of the unexpected, unplanned-for events, primarily Covid and Ukraine, the whole venture has spun out of control.

My view is that Boris was (s)elected to push Brexit through. There may have been a wish for Brexit to be delivered in some semblance of order but that was torpedoed by the lack of detailed planning and other failures among the UK's political and big business leadership who, to use your phrases, expected everything to fall into place by virtue of superior Anglo Brit exceptionalism. No one to my knowledge did the hard yards. They all sat around bleating about the inability of others to see reason. Some of the "others" were unreasonable but part of planning is to anticipate such postures and be prepared to present coherent cases for compromise and the outline methodologies for making such deals work. No one had a clue how to make anything work. I have never seen such a collective bunch of incompetents in all my life and I've seen some. Some of these dimwits earn 7 figure salaries yet couldn't organise the proverbial.