Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Bye-bye Johnson?

The skids are now firmly under Prime Minister Johnson and his days in office are numbered. He may bluster his way out of his immediate predicament (I'd put the odds at about 50:50) but his chances of surviving in office through to the end of the year, never mind the parliament,  must be less than 10%.

The surprising, and sad, thing is that he has survived so long.  He was elected leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore appointed Prime Minister, In July 2019, so now, (at the end of January 2022), has held the office for a full 30 months.  For most of that time he and his party have had a firm lead in the opinion polls, and it has only begun to crack in the last three month or so.  How has he lasted so long?

The answer exposes the inadequacy of the British political system and culture.

It is not that we haven't had  numerous and credible warnings that he and his style of leadership (or lack of one) make him totally unsuited for high office in the first place. 

Among other things this was made abundantly clear by the resignations of not one but five of the most senior civil servants in his first few months.  All were permanent secretaries, each the epitome of probity and responsibility, people of high intelligence and ability who had risen to the top in what was once regarded as the most efficient government operation in the world.

Each resignation was a powerful signal that the current operation was not a serious or suitable way to run a country. 

They were:

Sir Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, resigned February, 2020

Sir Mark Sidwell, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service (the grandest panjandrum of them all), resigned June 2020.

Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office, announced his intention to resign, also in June 2020

Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, resigned July 2020

Jonathon Slater, Permanent Secretary to the Department of Education, resigned August, 2020

These are not lightweights, or chancers or opportunists, but among the best qualified and most experienced administrators in the world.

A summary of the errors and failing of the Conservative Governments since 2010 is  given in an earlier post.

 Perhaps the real question is not "Why has Mr Johnson lasted so long as Prime Minister?" but  "Why was he chosen for the office in the first place?"  

 An excellent article by Aditya Chakraborrty explores this.

The selection of a Conservative leader is in two stages.  First the sitting MPs (at the time those elected under David Cameron's leadership in 2015) narrow the contenders among their numbers  down to two "front runners."  These MPs are the ones who, fully aware of Johnson's  "on-off relationship with the truth," his profligacy with public money on silly projects as Mayor of London, his inadequacy as foreign secretary, put him on the ballot paper, solely  becasue he had the "spark" of an election winner.  

They should have known better.

The largely elderly, and comfortable, Tory party membership, with perhaps less excuse, gave him their confidence.

The UK's political problem is greater than Mr Johnson, and will not be solved  whoever from the Tory ranks replaces him..

Our Labour Party, we Liberal Democrats, the Greens and many other parties agonise over our philosophies  and beliefs, and what it is we actually want to do in government.  

The Tories suffer no such agonies, they just want to be the government, and will say and do  and say whatever it takes to win.

In the competition for winning, the public and media place personality over competence and beliefs.  Hence the colourful "chancer" takes precedence over the stolid plodders.

 Let us hope that, out of the disaster  of the present government comes a realisation that  for serious politics we need serious politicians.




3 comments:

  1. Why was he chosen for the office in the first place?

    Oh, that's easy — because the rest of British politics went mad for four years trying to overturn the result of a democratic vote and / or put a terrorist-sympathising communist in Number 10.

    All were permanent secretaries, each the epitome of probity and responsibility, people of high intelligence and ability who had risen to the top in what was once regarded as the most efficient government operation in the world.

    Sounds like you think things would be better if we just stopped having elections and let the civil servants get on with running the country, without having to bother about the ignorant opinions of the general public.

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    1. The "Democratic vote" was a narrow plurality by a minority after a flawed campaign fuelled by lies in which some of the people most affected were not allowed to vote. No, this is not "sour grapes" but a) a fact and b) proved almost daily by subsequent events. And Mr Corbyn may have sympathised with terrorists (so do I, though I do not condone their methods) and he is a socialist, not a communist. You know enough to know the difference so don't "do a Johnson."

      No, I don't believe that the country should be run by civil servants. They are there and they know they are there to help politicians implement their policies in the way most beneficial to the country.

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  2. The "Democratic vote" was a narrow plurality by a minority after a flawed campaign fuelled by lies in which some of the people most affected were not allowed to vote

    Well, that's a silly argument. Lots of votes affect people who aren't able to vote in them. Children, for example, who are affected by the result of the votes their parents participate in. And due to the interconnected nature of the world I am affected by the result of elections in the United States of America, but that doesn't mean that I would feel so entitled as to claim that I, as a non-citizen of the USA, should have a vote.

    And Mr Corbyn may have sympathised with terrorists (so do I, though I do not condone their methods)

    I'm sure you wouldn't lay wreaths for dead terrorists, though, or refuse five times to condemn the IRA's murders:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02z3x45

    and he is a socialist, not a communist

    Though in that case is it not curious that he is not on record ever praising any socialist leader, but he is on record many times as giving effusive praise to many Communist dictators, such as Chavez and Castro?

    Do you not think that means we're entitled to wonder whether, if he got into power, he would have governed as a socialist — or whether he would have implemented policies closer to those enacted by those he so clearly admired, policies that would certainly have been as disastrous for the UK as they have been for Venezuela?

    I guess we should just thank the Lord we never had to find out.

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