By Sam Lake
It seems clear to most of us that Boris Johnson is a liar. He lied about ‘Partygate’, he lied about Brexit, and he lied about the affair that got him sacked from his position as Tory vice-chairman in 2004.
It seems further true that Boris Johnson is a coward. A coward who will throw any and all under the bus to save his political career. A coward willing to accept Allegra Stratton’s resignation because of a joke she made over a lockdown party. But a coward more than happy to continue himself because “nobody told” him that his illegal parties were illegal.
Boris Johnson is has almost certainly toyed with the law. It is clear as day (unless you work for the Metropolitan Police) that Boris broke his own lockdown laws, only he knows how many times.
But none of this is new. He was a repugnant and self-serving buffoon when the British Public elected him into power in 2019. Johnson was sacked from The Times in 1988 for fabricating a quote from the historian Colin Lucas, his godfather – a flagrant breach of journalistic integrity. Writing in The Spectator in 1995 he described the children of single mothers as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”. Besides the utter stupidity of the statement, it appears particularly ironic now given that Johnson is married to the mother of only two of his seven children.
Then there are the infamous burka comments, in which Johnson claimed that Muslim women who wore the garment resembled “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. And most recently, in a characteristic bout of populist point-scoring, Johnson saw fit to compare the Ukrainians’ fight for freedom to the heroic effort of the British public to liberate themselves from the European Union, with all of its according oppressive human rights protections and economic freedoms.
So why did the British people elect him? Aside from the fact that he was up against the equally inept Jeremy Corbyn, the simple answer seems to be that the British public simply didn’t care that he possesses neither competence nor morality. Soundbites and slogans are Johnson’s game, and since Brexit they have both been driving British politics. But even Johnson’s peculiarly persistent popularity has its limits.
A criminal investigation into the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (take a moment to process that) looks like it may have finally swung public opinion in favour of Sir Keir Starmer, who spent five years serving his country as Director of Public Prosecutions and fought for sweeping changes in the way that allegations of historic sexual abuse are handled. He is a man infinitely more decent and morally sound than his rival on the opposite bench.
At present that might not be enough. But though it may look like Johnson’s career has been saved once again, this time by the war in Ukraine, you can rest assured that should he be found to have broken the law by the Met he will be removed as leader of the Conservative Party. If the police conclude that he is not a criminal, with the investigation concluded the apparent justification for the non-publication of the Sue Gray report will evaporate. Though it is impossible to predict exactly what that report will say, it is likely to pile further pressure onto the PM that could quite possibly make his position untenable. That said, it’s probably his best chance of survival.
Should he survive, though, the Tories face the prospect of pitting a leader hated by large swathes of the electorate against an opposition whose popularity is growing all the time. Starmer as statesman is a stark contrast to the bumbling mess that cast a lonely figure at the recent NATO summit. You can never predict which way an election will swing – especially when it’s two years away – but Starmer will make this a contest between personalities. It is incredibly difficult to see how Johnson can win a fight framed in those terms.
In short, Johnson’s chances are slim. Partygate looks to have finally turned even some of his most ardent supporters against him. The Prime Minister will lose the Conservatives seats, whether that be to Labour in the north or the Lib-Dems in the south. The Tories’ best hopes of preventing that outcome lie in removing Johnson as leader. Crucially, whether he’s removed by his own party or by the British people, it is hard to see how Boris bamboozles his way out of this one.
Image: Hello I’m Nic via Unsplash