Boris Johnson’s desperation to hold on to power while exercising it in only silly and pointless ways is becoming increasingly blatant with every passing day.
The latest development is a demand by Johnson’s standards advisor, Lord Geidt, for the prime minister to explain why his fine for breaching Covid-19 laws by attending a party does not break the Ministerial Code duty to comply with the law.
Johnson’s only response is the legally illiterate claim that “paying a fixed penalty notice is not a criminal conviction”. Maybe not – but it is a criminal sanction. People don’t get fined if they haven’t broken a law – and the Code’s conventions demand that ministers breaking the law must resign.
In his annual report on ministers’ interests, Geidt said the Partygate fine meant “a legitimate question has arisen as to whether those facts alone might have constituted a breach of the overarching duty within the ministerial code of complying with the law”.
Even if Johnson thought there was no breach, Geidt stated that he “should respond accordingly, setting out his case in public.”
Do you think he will?
This is just the latest evidence that, as a recent Guardian editorial claimed, the UK is “not being governed seriously in very serious times”.
Anxiety that the UK is rudderless while Johnson desperately tries to bail himself out of trouble that he caused won’t be dispelled by current government policy, the writer claims – because it has been formulated purely to distract us from the prime minister’s illegal antics:
There can be no other purpose for the proposal to restore trade in imperial units. The tiny number of people who will be thrilled by the restoration of a right to exclude metric measurements from displays of goods will be hugely outnumbered by the people, including many Conservatives, who can smell the decay in such gimmickry.
Reports of a plan to lift the prohibition on expanding grammar schools belongs in a similar category, although it sounds weightier. This is a zombie policy that staggers on in the Tory imagination as a solution to problems of social mobility, despite ample evidence that selective education has the opposite effect. If Mr Johnson thinks his levelling up agenda will be enlivened by reviving discredited schools policy, he will be disappointed.
The same unoriginal impulse is being brought to ignite a proposed bonfire of EU regulation – the function of the “Brexit freedoms bill” announced in the Queen’s speech. Sunset clauses will be retroactively scattered across the body of retained European law, so that they expire regardless of whether a suitable replacement has been conceived. It is a wildly irresponsible idea, conceived in the delusional realm of Europhobic imaginations where every British economic problem has its origin in Brussels directives. In reality, it means legislating for deliberate uncertainty, as if the goal is deterring investment.
The writer goes on to make this bold statement: “the harder the prime minister scrapes the bottom of the policy barrel, the more desperate he looks.
“But the task of political survival is now consuming all of the energy that should be applied to running the country… Conservative MPs.. can have Mr Johnson as their leader, or they can have a functional government; not both.”
Sadly, even this is not true.
There is no evidence to suggest that a Tory government will function any more adequately without Boris Johnson than with him; considering the alternatives, they all have to go.
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