In his Smirk to the Union address on the bunting channel last night, the performance artiste with the stage name Boris Johnson warned that the threat from the coronavirus was not over, and that “complacency could be our undoing.” That would be the complacency with which a certain Conservative government reacted in the early spring when the UK had advance warning of the pandemic and the British Government did nothing. It would be the complacency of a British government which just a few short weeks ago was urging people to get back on crowded trains and buses and back into the office in order to shore up the share price of Pret a Manger, despite England and Wales not having a track and trace app and the testing regime in those countries was in a state of collapse. Or perhaps he meant the complacency of a Prime Minister who was told in August by his chief medical adviser Chris Whitty that the UK had reached the limit of what could safely remain open and that to open schools without risk of a resurgence of the virus he may need to close the pubs.
But no. He meant none of that. This is a Prime Minister who has utterly and dismally failed to keep the public safe. But far from displaying even the barest smidgeon of contrition, the slightest glimmer of contrition, any awareness at all that he even grasps the concept of humility, or the faintest hint of remorse for the lethal catastrophe that his and his government’s incompetence, greed, arrogance, self-entitlement, and sloth have inflicted on us all, instead he smirked and chose to blame the public for failing him. It’s our fault, not his. Never his. It’s our fault for not obeying the rules that he fails to explain. It’s our fault for imagining that we can behave like Dominic Cummings. It’s our fault for expecting him to have at least the basic ability to do the job that he’s so single mindedly pursued for years – back-stabbing, lying, deceiving, and trampling over the bodies of all those who got in his way as he tried to get it.
“We are a freedom loving people,” said Johnson. He means that he’s free from accepting responsibility. He means that fellow smirker Dominic Cummings is free from any integrity. He means that smugness personified Michael Gove is free from the truth. He means freedom for people like them to break the rules that they impose on the rest of us. No state can possibly call itself freedom loving when it wallows in nostalgia for a war that was won 75 years ago because it was the last time, the only time, that the UK was actually the good guys – and even then it was only because it was up against your actual Nazis. Nowhere can call itself freedom loving while the rich get richer and the landed aristocracy get an exemption from the rules that prevent the rest of us from seeing our mothers and grandmothers so that the fnaugh fnaughers and the rich can shoot up wildlife. You can only have fifteen people present at your wedding or your granny’s funeral, but if you give everyone a shotgun and release a flock of pheasants you can have as many in attendance as you like.
It was a speech which sought to turn up the dial on the gaslight past breaking point as it turned the screws on ordinary people. “There is nothing more frustrating for the vast majority, the law-abiding majority that do comply than the sight of a few brazenly defying the rules,” said the shambling shaven shag carpet of a man who is the British Prime Minister, uttered with as straight a face as is possible when your mouth is permanently twisted into the rictus smirk of a walking moral vacuum.
And then he added, “As for that minority who continue to flaunt the rules, we will enforce those rules, with more police and the army if necessary.” Is that what you told Dominic Cummings then before you rewrote the rules so that they no longer included him? Is that what you told your dad when he defied the lockdown to go on holiday abroad?
Leading by example isn’t exactly your strong suit, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. You’ve barely managed to turn up for work. So it’s a bit rich of him to demand discipline and resolve from the rest of us. Those are two things that he’s never come within spaffing distance of. He’s been working tirelessly, his apologists like Tory MP Lucy Allan say, on behalf of us all, they say, when he’s spent all summer pissing off on one holiday after another while he complains that he can’t make ends meet on £150,000 a year. When he’s had to be shamed and shouted at to show up at a Cobra meeting. When he says one thing one week and the opposite the next. Get back to work, he said. Get back to the pubs, he said. Get back on the crowded buses and trains. And now he tells us that the resurgence of the virus is our fault. This lying sasquatch dressed in a charity shop suit is good for one thing only, and that’s pursuing his own interests. He has no compunction at all about lying, cheating, and deceiving in order to fulfil them.
And now he’s threatening to bring in the army to keep order in Tesco as the panic buying hordes seek out the last roll of toilet paper. Is this the world beating they promised us, the punching above our weight turns out to be a fist fight in a supermarket aisle over a tin of tomatoes. Scotland deserves so much better than this.
You may disagree with the Scottish Government about certain things, even about many things, but the yawning chasm between Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson in terms of leadership and communication, clarity and compassion, has never been more evident. You can see it from space. In tackling this health crisis public trust is vital. Johnson has squandered it, trashed it, traduced it. Nicola Sturgeon has done her utmost to reach out across political divides in order to nuture it.
Meanwhile the clock is ticking on his no deal Brexit just as furlough payments come to an end. This is what happens when a privileged performance artiste is elected as Prime Minister, a narcissistic sociopath whose sole motivating force is his entitlement, in a state without proper checks and balances on the limits of his power. You get lies, you get deflection, you get a willingness to trash conventions and break the laws. You get promises that are broken and a devolution settlement that is undermined. You get a prime minister who blames everyone else for his own failures. And you get a public which hears his tired old excuse shifting and thought, “We’ve heard your bullshit too many times now and we’re not buying your schtick anymore.” We deserve better. We can do better. We are better.
The dial has just shifted a few more notches on Scotland’s independenceometer.
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