Saturday 16 April 2022

Johnson's luck, or media manipulation?

 As a benchmark I like to speculate on what our media and MPs might be saying if any left-of-centre leader, say Jeremy Corbyn,  had committed even a fraction of the outrages that Prime Minister Johnson has so far survived.

In summary, his present misdemeanours are twofold.  He has 

!. broken, possibly  repeatedly, the  lockdown  laws he personally caused to be enacted, and earnestly urged us all follow for the sake of the NHS and our fellows, especially the more vulnerable among us , and

2.  repeatedly lied about it to parliament, claiming: 


     a) there were no parties;


    b) if there were "work gatherings" all guidance was followed all the time;


    c)  he was personally both surprised and outraged to discover that it hadn't always been;


    d)  if he went to a party he didn't realise it was a party and he was not there for long.

The last excuse sounds a bit like a burglar admitting he broke into the house,  but he didn't pinch much. 

To put some of this into context here are just two instances from my lifetime.

In 1953 a 20 year old mentally retarded* lad called Derek Bentley was hanged just for being there when his companion shot and killed somebody.  You can't get hanged any more, but you can be be fined or sent to prison under a rule called "joint enterprise" if you happen to be present when a  crime is committed.

Ten years later, in 1963 a Tory Cabinet Minister, John Profumo,was found to have used the services of a prostitute who also serviced an Russian who was allegedly a spy.  Profumo initially lied to parliament about it but then "did the decent thing." and resigned.     At the time the lying to parliament was regarded as a more serious matter than the use of the prostitute's favours.  I think Mr Profumo rehabilitated his personal reputation by spending the rest of his life doing useful charity work.

The time-scale of events following the revelations  about "partygate" are interesting.

First the Metropolitan Police said they wouldn't investigate the allegations of law breaking in Downing Street as they did not investigate historical crimes.  (Presumably we were expected to believe they only investigate crimes  at the planning stage.)

Instead a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, was to carry out an internal investigation.

M/s Gray's report was just about to be published what the Metropolitan Police changed their mind and decided to investigate the allegations after all.

This gave Mr Johnson the opportunity  to say, repeatedly, that he would answer any questions in full about the affair at a later date, but it wouldn't be appropriate to comment while a police  investigation was under way.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine then gave and still gives Mr Johnson the opportunity to tour Europe claiming to be "leading the West" in organising support for Ukraine.

It was revealed that  the Metropolitan Police investigation had found several people, inducing the Prime Minister, guilty of breaking the laws they had made, and fined them, but it just so happened that parliament was (and still is) in recess for the Easter Holidays.

Minister after minister is parading  around the news studios claiming that we couldn't possibly change prime minister in the middle of a war (despite the fact that that is something we often do, even in wars in which British soldiers are actively fighting,) and, in any case it was all two years ago.  (Let any other criminal try that one on Their Worships or His Lordship).

The Home Office has been considering sending asylum seekers to Rwanda  for some time, but has revealed the decision this week.  (Former advisor  Dominic Cummings had a technique based on the idea that if you throw a dead cat on to a dinner table you change the topic of conversation.)

If the Metropolitan Police finish their investigations then M/s Gray's report could be published, but, since the local elections are due on the 6th May, the doctrine of "purdah" means that no important political initiative, (which, curiously, incudes his report),  can be published while campaigning continues.

 To what extend these fortunate causes of delay are just coincidental  and which are the result of clever media manipulation remains for historian to discover.

 In the meantime the polls show that the electorate are giving Mr Johnson more slack than many of us think he deserves.


* That was the phrase used at the time.  We should now say "with learning difficulties."


  1. It just reinforces the phrase ,all politicians are alike.Then people just normalise lieing etc as opens up the running of the country to the wrong sort of person and brings the country into disripute.A slide to the bottom.IT MUST BE FOUGHT

  2. Agreed. The Tories like to claim that this is a trivial affair and in any case is now two years old: the PM has more serious issues to deal with. Even supposing Johnson could be influential in either controlling inflation or the progress of war in Ukraine (both of which I doubt) this is not true. Partygate and the lies about it undermine the integrity of our own political system, as you say.