Suffocating democracy in a tupperware tub

Boris Johnson has appeared before MPs in the chamber of the House of Commons to give an account of himself after being found by the police to have on more than one occasion to have broken a law that he himself went on the telly every night to remind everyone of the importance of abiding by. Yet throughout all this it seems that it never occurred to this entitled and narcissistic buffoon that the law which his own government devised and which it went to enormous lengths to inform the public of the vital importance of upholding should also apply to him and his cronies.

After he was found out he has done nothing but to lie repeatedly about it, to Parliament, to MPs, to the cabinet, to his own party, to the press, and to the public. And yet he is still here, still the Prime Minister, still bloviating, still gaslighting, still distracting, still lying. But you’re not allowed to call the lying Johnson a liar in the chamber of the House of Commons even when he is blatantly lying. Because the only thing worse in the Westminster Parliament than lying is calling out a liar for his intelligence insulting lies. The Speaker objected to SNP’s Richard Thomson for calling Boris ‘Pinocchio’. Which is rather like objecting to Rolf Harris being referred to as a bit handsy.

Johnson can still count on the support of the morality free zone that is the Conservative party, whose representatives continue to debase themselves, and more importantly to debase public standards, by excusing and minimising his behaviour, effectively telling Johnson that he has got away with not being held accountable again, and is unlikely to be held accountable in the future. All they are doing is to enable and empower him, some of them claim that they have accepted his – let’s call it an apology – and want to move on because they believe that Johnson has learned his lesson, but the only lesson that they have taught him is that if he continues to lie, to gaslight, and to distract, they will let him get away with any transgression, no matter how offensive or repugnant.

Meanwhile apologists for Johnson try to make out that that Nicola Sturgeon forgetting a face mask for a few seconds before quickly rectifying her mistake, and later admitting her error and apologising for it is the same as Johnson having numerous parties during the worst of the pandemic and then lying about it repeatedly and trying to insist against all evidence to the contrary that he didn’t know that he was breaking the law even though we now know that he instigated at least one of the parties. Additionally he has been seen to have appeared in public places on several occasions without a mask, including on a visit to a hospital. But aye, sure, totally the same. Just like a doctor who momentarily starts to write out the wrong dose of a drug on a prescription before correcting the error before any harm is done is exactly the same as Harold Shipman.

Hands up anyone who is surprised by that Johnson remains in office after all this. Anyone? … Nope. Nobody. The most surprising thing about this entire sorry episode is that so many people, supposedly serious and intelligent political operators, are prepared to trash their reputations and rapidly diminishing credibility in order to defend this shambling binfire of a serial liar whose only constant is an entitled contempt for any rule or law that he finds to be a personal inconvenience.

Mind you. You’d be hard pressed to describe Andrew Bowie, whose sole political distinction is that he is a holder of the boy scouts badge for smugness, as a serious and intelligent political operator. On Monday, when wearing masks in Scotland in indoor public places and on public transport ceased to be a legal obligation, Andrew Smowgie tweeted that he was very pleased that from today people in Scotland will be trusted to make their own decisions, and in the process became an inadvertent advocate for Scottish independence.

Yesterday Johnson shuffled into the House of Commons and performed the apologies that he knew were expected of him. He repeated his lie that he didn’t know he was breaking the law that he was going on telly most evenings to tell the public not to break. Johnson doesn’t believe that the laws that the public have to obey should apply to him.

However Johnson’s performative contrition was simply a sham for public consumption, he later addressed back bench Conservative MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Committee, so called because the Conservatives think that Downton Abbey is the best model for the governance of modern Britain, and it appears that he immediately returned to his yah boo sucks bombast. According to veteran Conservative MP Sir Roger Gayle, having run through his I’m so, so, sorry” routine in parliament, apparently Johnson gave a “pantomime performance” to the members of the 1922 Committee from which Gayle thought it was fair to conclude that Johnson “doesn’t take it seriously”. Gayle said that he left the meeting after a few minutes because he found the mood “unacceptable.”

Had Gayle stayed, he’d have heard Johnson lay into the Archbishop of England for daring to point out that the government’s cruel, immoral, and despicable plan to send asylum seekers on a one way trip to an impoverished dictatorship with an appalling human rights record was not exactly what Jesus had in mind when he preached about loving thy neighbour, and slandered the prelate by falsely asserting that he had not criticised Putin in such strong terms. Challenged on his remarks Johnson has refused to apologise. Because Johnson is the real victim here.

On Thursday the Commons will debate a Labour motion calling for Johnson to be referred to the Parliamentary Standards Committee for his law-breaking and his repeated and numerous lies. Regardless of their private views, Tory MPs are being whipped to vote against a Privileges Committee inquiry into Johnson. If there was ever a freedom of conscience issue it’s this one. And this is how Parliamentary democracy in the UK dies, suffocated in the Tupperware box containing the cake that Johnson was allegedly ambushed by.

Thanks to their majority of almost 80, Johnson will comfortably win the vote in the Commons tomorrow. He won’t be in attendance himself, having jetted off on a trip to India to play act at being an international statesman. Douglas Ross won’t be there either, he’ll be staying at home and maybe visiting B&Q to buy some MDF from which to construct himself an artificial backbone. And when the Tories do win that vote, they will merely have succeeded in proving that their party is morally and intellectually bankrupt, and the institutions of the British state are unfit for purpose and incapable of holding power to account.

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