Sunday, July 10, 2022

They Still Haven't Learned Them

Boris Johnson has finally exited, stage right. Max Boot writes:

Every stage of Boris Johnson’s political progression has been utterly ludicrous and farcical — and that extended to his downfall, or “clownfall,” as the Economist dubbed it. Suddenly, in the past few days, there was a mass exodus from the British government among cabinet ministers who professed themselves to be shocked by the prime minister’s duplicity. “A decent and responsible Government relies on honesty, integrity and mutual respect,” thundered Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis in his letter of resignation.

Well, yes. But it’s hardly news that Johnson possesses none of those qualities. Dishonesty wasn’t a bug in the BoJo operating system, it was the system itself. “People have known that Boris Johnson lies for 30 years,” says Rory Stewart, a former Conservative member of Parliament. “He’s probably the best liar we’ve ever had as a prime minister.”

Sounds remarkably like the former American president:

Johnson was very much like former president Donald Trump. The difference, of course, is that while Trump continues to exercise an inexplicable hold on his political party, Johnson’s grip has finally been broken. The questions are: How could Conservatives have ignored for so long what was so blindingly obvious? And how can Republicans still stay in denial?

Boot suggests that Johnson was successful because he was so entertaining:

The secret of his popularity was that he was terrifically entertaining. Like a certain orange-tinted former U.S. president, he did not present as a normal politician. He made a virtue of his lack of seriousness to make it seem as if he was just a regular bloke despite his posh background. He bumbled his way to the top.

But the joke wore thin when Johnson actually had to govern. He promised to miraculously make Britain stronger and wealthier by exiting the European Union; he’s achieved just the opposite. Johnson’s management of the covid pandemic was no more successful. A House of Commons committee found that Johnson “made a serious early error” by flirting with the crackpot theory that allowing people to be infected would lead to “herd immunity.” The result was “many thousands” of avoidable deaths.

Eventually, Johnson instituted a strict lockdown, but he failed to abide by it. The result was the “Partygate” scandal, as evidence emerged of Johnson and his aides illegally partying at 10 Downing Street. Johnson was finally felled by one scandal too many. His chief deputy whip, Chris Pincher (a name straight out of Dickens), had to resign after being caught groping men in a bar. Johnson professed shock, until it emerged that he had been informed of similar misbehavior in the past when he had brought Pincher into the Foreign Office.

Put simply, leadership is not entertainment:

The lessons of Johnson’s rise and fall are simple and old-fashioned: Don’t treat politics as a branch of the entertainment industry; it’s too serious for that. Knowledge and competence are important in leaders; their lack is not a virtue. And character counts above all: Someone who can’t be trusted to tell the truth can’t be trusted to govern. It’s staggering that it’s taken the Tories this long to accept those basic home truths.

And the Republicans still haven't learned them.

Image: Alan Milne Lees The Medium


Anonymous said...

People have always preferred reassuring lies to the truth, and there's never been a shortage of politicians willing to give them what they want. But trouble always follows when policy based on lies runs into reality.
- Saddam did not have WMD and neither he nor the Taliban had anything to do with 9/11
- Canada cannot maximize oil and gas production and meet its GHG reduction targets
- Covid did not disappear and we can't act as though it did.

Ultimately, policy based on lies hurts and kills people. If only we had professionals dedicated to identifying lies and publicizing when policymakers were lying.



Owen Gray said...

An educated public should be able to do that on their own, Cap. We're not as educated as we like to think.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Off topic, Owen, but you might find this of interest:

Owen Gray said...

Thanks, Mound. That's the first time I've encountered the word "anocracy."