Tuesday, 7 April 2020
By accident rather than design I was in the United States in October/November1980 during the Carter/Reagan election campaign. Reagan was routinely ridiculed as inadequate and totally unsuited to the job, but to my astonishment beat Jimmy Carter, whom I had expected to win hands down. Reagan even won the popular vote, which is more than Donald Trump did.
However, what I found equally surprising was that, once Reagan was inaugurated president in the following January, maybe even earlier, the tone of the media changed and Mr Reagan was treated with great respect, even deference. He was now Mr President, Commander in Chief, and so on, and commanded the respect due to his office. If his inadequacy was not forgotten it didn't get much of an airing.
Something similar seems to be happening in the UK today with respect to Prime Minister Johnson.
In discussing the need in a democracy for voters to get accurate and reliable information on which to base their voting decisions the philosopher A C Grayling writes:
"...a political order with a careless and uninterested populace, unprincipled politicians, hijacking of the constitutional process by a small group of vigorous and tendentiously motivated activists and "advisers" ,driven by such extreme partisanship and individual polemical imperative that it freely and frequently deploys falsehood, is in danger of creating, sooner or later, a dysfunctional state."*
This comes at the beginning of Chapter Four and Grayling does not say to whom or where he is referring. Maybe later: there are another three chapters to go.
But if the cap fits?
It is right that at a personal level we should have every sympathy for Mr Johnson during his illness, and hope for his recovery.
But we should not forget how he achieved his current position.
Perhaps it is not surprising that he is receiving unctuous praise from his cabinet colleagues, even those who have previously declared him unfit for the job.
But as far as I can ascertain, no one in the media is mentioning that only a moth ago he was openly boasting of having shaken hands with people likely to have been exposed to the coronavirus. See:
https://www.newsweek.com/boris-johnson-says-shaken-hands-coronavirus-patients-1490214Johnson’s Eton housemaster, Martin Hammond, in 1982 school report
“I think he honestly believes" says the housemaster," it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”
Well, now he's learned the hard way that he isn't.
I know we shouldn't "kick a man when he's down" and that is possibly why the media are showing restraint.
But these things should not be airbrushed out of history
* A C Grayling, The Good State, Oneworld, 2020, p44