Boris Johnson is finding that the challenges of power are rather greater than just dealing with, as Harold Macmillan famously put it, “Events, dear boy, events”. But you do have to deal with the events. Johnson hasn’t. Much of both the backbencher and the public unease about his eccentric and dangerous premiership is not about his personality or character but about his floundering incompetence. There is blood on his hands.
In peacetime for the actions, or inaction, of one man to kill so many citizens is unprecedented. But that will be Johnson’s gruesome legacy – and it isn’t over yet. International comparisons are clear – not one country in Europe has had as many deaths as Britain and every day we are still adding substantially to that grisly count. There is absolutely no case for the relaxation of the rules Johnson will announce today. He’s playing politics – no surprise there then.
From the start the venality of Dominic Cummings has been behind the deeply flawed response to the Virus. But that doesn’t let Johnson off the hook. The buck doesn’t stop in the Number 10 cellar where Cummings has his cauldron and mixes his potions. It stops on the Prime Minister’s desk and in the cabinet room.
The Prime Minister cannot be believed and that does more than undermine trust in him as a leader. It means that the public will make their own minds up about what to do. Never in modern times have rules needed to be followed more than now. And yet we have liars in charge who respond to challenges not with facts but with obfuscation and untruths. When that happens people stop listening.
Across the Atlantic there is a deranged fool in the Oval Office. Boris Johnson isn’t deranged but his actions and assertions are as equally foolish and untrustworthy as Trump’s. If your indolence, lack of judgement and culpable errors kill people in their thousands it’s a good idea to change your approach. And apologise. And get better people in the loop. Johnson has done none of these things. For months nobody has believed a word Matt Hancock has said but he’s still “in charge” blathering inanities.
At its core, and from the start, the problem has been that managing the Virus has been seen by Boris Johnson as a political not a management and operational task. It’s the master political manipulator Cummings who has been pulling the strings not the top Civil Servants and scientists. There are people in Britain perfectly as capable as dealing with the emergency as well, for example, as they have in New Zealand. Our one island may be bigger than the Kiwis two but if we had followed the same rules as they did we would have far fewer bereaved families around us.