There is mounting speculation that Boris Johnson is to face a vote of confidence from Conservative MPs. This is not because they have suddenly discovered some moral outrage about a corrupt serial liar and man who didn’t know he was at a party even though he was warned not to go to the party. Those same Conservative MPs, we’re looking at you Douglas Ross, were quite happy to continue to support the corrupt liar even when his inaction and self-interest led to the UK suffering both the highest per capita death toll in Europe during the pandemic and the greatest economic damage.
They supported Johnson and the rest of his sociopathic cronies even after they reneged on their pre-referendum promises that a vote to leave the EU did not mean a vote to leave the Single Market and Customs Union yet after the vote was in they pursued the hardest Brexit possible purely in the party political interests of the Conservative party, no matter what havoc it wrought on Britain’s trade with the EU, and as we have seen, in some sectors, notably the shellfish industry which is so important in Scotland, trade with Europe has fallen off a cliff.
They continued to support Johnson and his cronies even after a mountain of evidence came to light to prove that they unlawfully provided a so-called “VIP lane” giving preferential access to lucrative government contracts to the friends, family, and associates of senior figures in the government. In any other country, this would be called out for what it is – rank and rotten corruption.
They supported Johnson even after he and his government risked the fragile peace settlement in Northern Ireland, in the process trashing the reputation of the UK abroad and relegating the British Government to the ranks of untrustworthy bad faith bad actors who cannot be trusted to adhere to the terms of international treaty obligations which it had signed up to.
The UK is now a laughing stock abroad, a diminished and reduced joke, pathetically trading on nostalgia and fading memories of former power and influence while at home the government adopts increasingly authoritarian measures, cracking down on the right to protest and neutering any independent body such as the Electoral Commission, which might hold it to account. It is shamelessly seeking to by pass and undermine those alternative sources of democratic authority which exist in the UK, the devolved parliaments, despite not even possessing the pretence of any democratic mandate from the people of Scotland or Wales which legitimises it to do so.
All this has been just fine with Conservative MPs. They haven’t suddenly discovered a moral backbone, expecting the Conservatives to act morally is like expecting Sweeney Todd to offer a vegan pie. The only reason that the Tory back benches are now rumbling their disapproval and making anonymous briefings to the press that they might start to move against Johnson is because they are afraid for their own jobs, positions, and power. As always the only interest that motivates the Conservatives is self-interest.
Today one of the Brexit supporting new Conservative MPs from the so-called “red wall” seats in the north of England has left the Conservatives, citing the disgust of his constituents about the misdeeds of Johnson. Christian Wakeford the MP for Bury South has announced that he is joining the Labour party. This is a man who supports Brexit, who voted to cut Universal Credit, for the Nationality and Borders Bill which demonises migrants and asylum seekers and the Police and Crime Bill which places huge restrictions on the rights to peaceful protest in England and Wales. He is a man who signals with his Union flag face mask that he has fully signed up to the uber Anglo-British nationalism that remains the dominant force in British politics. Keir Starmer’s Labour party has welcomed him with open arms.
Those on the left have protested that such an individual is clearly no friend of the working class, the poor, and the marginalised. Others in Labour say that people like Wakeford are precisely what Labour needs if it is to have any chance of winning a majority at Westminster. And that right there is the nub of the problem with the Westminster system and why Scotland must seek independence. Scotland can never look to the Labour party to protect it from the Conservatives because the only way in which Labour can win a majority at Westminster is by transforming itself into a slightly more apologetic version of the Tories.
One Tory MP reportedly told the press that Johnson broke down in tears yesterday and certainly in some of his public appearances during the past day or so Johnson has looked red eyed and close to tears. But when you watch Johnson seemingly close to tears just remember that this is the man who thought it was OK to “let the bodies pile high” in order to save his career. A narcissistic sociopath like Johnson can only cry for himself. He’s not crying because of any genuine contrition or remorse, that would entail caring about the impact that his selfishness has had on other people. He is crying because he has been found out, because he realises that he cannot any longer escape the consequences of his actions.
Johnson is likely to go sooner or later. He may hang on until after the May local elections as there is currently no obvious successor to him within the Tories and he or she will not want to carry the can for the drubbing that the Conservatives are likely to receive because of the widespread public anger about Johnson.
But whoever does succeed him is going to be just as bad. Deposing Johnson will certainly not mean that the Conservative party has changed. It will merely mean that it seeks a more efficient means of imposing its hardline Brexit agenda, its destruction of any checks and balances on its power. Even with a new leader the Conservatives will still be in thrall to the Brexit hardliners and covid deniers on the back benches. There will still be platitudes but no meaningful action on climate change. There will still be the same aggressive Anglo-British nationalism, fetishising the royals and the armed forces and picking fights with Europe. There will still be the same attacks on any body or organisation that might hold the Conservatives to account.
Getting rid of Johnson won’t mean that the Conservatives have learned the error of their ways. As the economist Richard Murphy pointed out on Twitter, “He is being disposed of simply because he no longer meets the need of a party desperate for power in pursuit of the wanton destruction of all that is good.”
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