Has anyone seen the performance artiste whose stage name is Boris Johnson? He’s been missing in action again, except to complain to his friends – and amazingly he has some – that it’s impossible to make ends meet on a piffling £150,000 annual salary.
There have been reports that as the UK faces a second wave of the virus, Johnson buggered off for a weekend in Perugia where one of his rich Russian pals has a holiday castle. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica, sources at Perugia airport, and other local reports have all confirmed that the Conservative party’s abandoned sofa fire was in the city from Friday September 11 to Monday 14 in order to baptise his son at a castle owned by Yevgeny Lebevev, who entirely coincidentally was given a peerage by Johnson at the same time Don’t Call Me Baroness Davidson got hers. This was while the UK was facing a resurgence in cases of coronavirus and the Brexit talks were on the verge of breaking down completely as the UK Government openly talked about breaking international law.
This episode explains a lot about how Johnson thinks that it’s impossible to make ends meet when you’re only pulling in £150,000 a year. If you have friends who have castles in Italy as holiday houses then a cottage in Applecross just isn’t going to cut it. There’s the Tories there, the voice of the little guy standing up to the elites.
Transport Secretary Grant Three Names Shapps made a curious non-denial denial of the reports that his boss was seen in Perugia airport looking worse for wear as people in the UK were told that they can’t visit their mothers and their grandparents’ diamond wedding celebration has has to be cancelled. “Not that I’m aware of,” said Grant when asked. Which is politician speak for “Yeah the shiftless git probably was, but that’s a whole mess that’s way above my pay grade.”
Downing Street issued a stronger statement saying that the story was “completely untrue” and added that anyone who published the claims was repeating a falsehood. But when the press says that Downing Street issues a statement, what that means is that Dominic Cummings or one of his lackeys has been on the phone, and this is the guy who’d have us believe that the best way to test your eyesight is to drive to Barnard Castle on your wife’s birthday with the kid on the back seat.
So did the habitual liar Boris Johnson bugger off and abandon his responsibilities like he does with every pregnant girlfriend he’s ever had and then lie through his teeth about it when he got found out? Reader, you decide.
Going off for a holiday weekend is not in itself the crime of the century. However there is a very clear pattern of behaviour at the top levels of the British Government and the Conservative party. The rules that they seek to impose on the rest of us are rules that they themselves don’t obey. They preach accountability while placing themselves beyond the little people. So we have the Baroness demanding that the SNP government is held to account while she accepts a seat in the House of Lords and removes herself from the hassle of having to get people to vote for her so that she can ignore her constituency surgeries. We get Tories preaching about how Brexit returns power to the British Parliament while their government ignores parliament, gives ministers powers to act by fiat, and ignores the law.
Last week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon noted that she couldn’t recall the last time she’d spoken directly to Johnson. The Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford complained that the last time he’d had any direct communications with Johnson was in May. Both spoke of their growing frustrations that the UK Government implements decisions in England which have a direct effect on Scotland and Wales without keeping the devolved governments informed. Both complained that they had had no contacts from Johnson about the very real possiblity of a return to lockdown in England due to the recent surge in cases of covid-19. The Scottish First Minister demanded a COBRA meeting in order to tackle the rapidly growing outbreaks of infections. There hasn’t been one for four months.
We now hear that there will finally be a COBRA meeting tomorrow and that Johnson is due to speak to the first ministers of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland today. It is expected that additional restrictions are about to be put in place very soon. Today the First Minister gave another confident and assured performance as she explained to the nation the dangers we face. And this is when the BBC in Scotland wanted to stop broadcasting the First Minister’s daily public health briefings.
The British Government continues its slide into chaotic incoherence. There is growing public distrust in a Conservative Government whose messaging is mixed and confused and which is failing to deliver the basic essentials required to tackle the pandemic effectively. People in England where the Conservatives are in charge are struggling to get access to testing.
A map published by the Time newspaper over the weekend showed a stark contrast in testing between Scotland and Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. People in Scotland who need tests can get them quickly and promptly. People in England are struggling to get tests booked and when they do often find that they must travel a considerable distance. Meanwhile the test and trace app was launched in Scotland a couple of weeks ago and by 20 September it had been downloaded over 1 million times. The English and Welsh test and trace app is not due to be released until 24 September.
When this pandemic crisis first began, it was widely expected by British nationalist commentators and politicians that it represented the end of Scottish hopes for independence. People, they said, would see that Scotland needs the UK in order to face one of the greatest global crises since WW2. Instead the opposite has happened. People in Scotland have seen their own government and institutions rise to the challenge, and have come to regard the British state as a drag on Scottish performance. The UK doesn’t allow us to stand on its shoulders so that we can reach even higher, it holds onto our coat tails and holds us back.
We are now entering a new and dangerous phase of the pandemic. The virus is once again spreading, but now people are tired and don’t have the same willingness to trust in the British government that they did in Spring. People are concerned about their jobs and livelihoods as we face the likelihood that companies which struggled through the first wave will succumb in the second. And all the while we have the cliff edge of Brexit edging ever closer and a Conservative government that is hell bent on ripping up convention and the rule of law itself. There will be panic, there will be demands that we get out of this mess now. But realistically all we can do is to ride out the storm in the knowledge that when calm returns we will be stronger and better placed than ever to take back our independence. This second wave will end with a Scotland whose settled will is independence.
Support for Scottish independence is only going to grow, but as a nation we are paying a terrible price. As this virus works its dreadful course we can only hold on, continue to campaign digitally, and keep one another safe. The only consolation is that there is light at the end of this tunnel, the light of a better Scotland, an independent Scotland. Then we can take a permanent holiday from Boris Johnson and the British Conservatives.
Update 5.30pm : A couple of hours after this blog post was published, the authorities at Westminster Cathedral confirmed that Johnson was present at the Cathedral for the baptism of his son on 12 September. So he can’t have been in Perugia. Which only goes to show that if you have made a career out of telling lies and shirking your responsibilities you shouldn’t be surprised when no one believes your denial of a story which was very much in character for you.
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