Boris Johnson’s premiership is fast coming to an end. At the time of writing, he is still there, but pretty soon he won’t be able to find enough people to fill the various ministries of state. However, one question not being covered by the establishment media and the commentariat is why, exactly, Johnson is being so stubborn. Blame, insofar as anyone is levelling it, is being placed on Johnson’s personality… the final act of Bojo the Clown. But Johnson’s apparent stubbornness may well be far more practical. And the reason the political class don’t want to say anything is because it speaks to the corruption at the very heart of modern, technocratic government.
Let’s go back to that wallpaper scandal. The one when rich Tory donors had to bail Johnson out after his not-entirely-grounded wife blew Johnson’s annual salary on new wallpaper in the Downing Street flat. What this told us is that, unsurprisingly, Johnson is skint. Unsurprisingly, because the man is paying maintenance on seven kids and a couple of ex-wives… and no doubt now that Johnson’s grip on power is slipping away, Carrie nut nuts will already be talking to the divorce lawyers. So that’s another two kids and an ex-wife for Johnson to maintain.
This isn’t the corruption, of course. It is merely the window through which anyone who wants to look can see it. Because, unlike previous Prime Ministers, Johnson has no “friends.” What usually happens in these circumstances is that the retiring Prime Minister goes off to work for a hedge fund or corporation which has benefited from government tax policy or procurement largesse. This is as much an incentive for the incoming Prime Minister – look after our interests and we’ll sort out your retirement – than it is a gift to the outgoing one. David Cameron disappears into a hedge fund, George Osborne is gifted the editor’s job at the evening standard, Blair goes off to make millions from his foundation… and all of them get a half-a-million-pound advance on memoirs that hardly anyone will bother reading.
Not only is Johnson not going to get these, but a large part of the ruling elite intends punishing him for his role in bringing Brexit about – the establishment media will circle like vultures waiting for Johnson to finally be brought before the bankruptcy court. After which they may allow him to keep his pension from Parliament if he’s lucky. And this, too, will be as much a signal to those who come after him – “do not ever engage in populist politics or we will do for you too.”
Be careful what you wish for
Boris Johnson is a fool, and his soon-to-be ex-wife is batshit crazy. The series of parties which they enjoyed when the rest of the UK population were locked up in our homes at pain of arrest, broke a fundamental trust between government and the governed. Politically, it was over for Johnson at that point. All else was a matter of time. But while this irreparable loss of trust might be the reason the people will rejoice in Johnson’s passing, this is not the reason his ministers resigned.
As I often explain, the key pair of questions to be asked of any event like this are: why this? and why now?
Why now? is interesting because it is impossible for anyone involved to say they did not know about the Downing Street parties, still less the fact that Johnson is a chancer and an inveterate liar. If these were the reasons for the resignations, then surely they would have happened the moment Parliament returned in the new year. Indeed, Sunak’s resignation letter makes clear that this is a question of policy not morality:
“Our country is facing immense challenges. We both want a low-tax, high-growth economy, and world class public services, but this can only be responsibly delivered if we are prepared to work hard, make sacrifices and take difficult decisions.
“I firmly believe the public are ready to hear that truth. Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one. In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.”
It is most likely that the Bank of England’s warning on the economy rather than a run of the mill sexual assault scandal was the trigger for the resignations. And this is why those cheering the loudest at Johnson’s passing today are likely to be the biggest whiners come the autumn. Why? because Johnson’s instincts are essentially populist whereas Sunak’s are rooted in the elite which he himself is a firm part of.
It is no accident that the moment it became clear that Johnson was going, the Bank of England put out a statement vowing to bring inflation down using interest rates. That is, aided by a Tory Party which has reverted to anti-populist type, they are going to crash the economy. Tens of thousands of businesses are going to be crushed and millions of workers laid off, as a currency recession compounds the unfolding depression resulting from broken supply chains and energy and commodity shortages. And crucially, like Thatcher before them, they will claim that “there is no alternative.”
As in 2008, the choice is whether to save the people or save the banks. Johnson’s populist instinct would have been at least to alleviate the economic tsunami which is about to overwhelm millions of ordinary people, even if this added to our short-term inflationary woes – the majority of which are due to international forces far beyond state or central bank control. With Johnson out of the way, the Tory Party is free to do what it does best – inflicting misery on ordinary people in order to prop up the ill-gotten gains of their friends in the City of London.
And don’t expect our pathetically limp opposition to come riding to the rescue. Keith Starmer is little more than a second-rate Neil Kinnock tribute act and will roll-over and refuse to oppose anything the Tories decide to do. And in the hands of Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves – she who helped lose the 2015 election, and pave the way for Brexit, by telling millions of benefits recipients that they needn’t bother voting Labour – Labour’s economic policy will be substantively no different than the policy pursued by an elitist Tory Party.
By all means cheer the passing of a Tory Prime Minister. But just remember that nothing good is coming in his wake.
As you made it to the end…
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