In most walks of life competence is prized but in politics, certainly recently, electorates seem to prefer show and bluff and bluster. Trump and Johnson certainly both have plenty of that. Populist policies that don’t require us to think too much but to which our inner prejudices respond. Three of four word slogans which sell the policies to us – “Get Brexit Done”, “Make America Great Again” – help the selling of the President or the Prime Minister as a brand of choice. Job done, off to the pub.
But in a time of unprecedented crisis brought on by the pandemic bluff and bluster don’t work and we spot what we might have missed earlier – that our Government has no idea what it’s doing and even worse that it’s lying to us. The U-turn on lockdown was maybe the quickest of Johnson’s Strictly Come Twisting moves but it was far from the only one in this Year of Living Dangerously.
There is competence around – from Ireland to New Zealand and dozens of stops in between countries are managing things better than Britain and America. But the too little too late bias of Trump and Johnson, combined with denial and a disdain for experts , has been deadly. Thousands of people are dead and thousands of families bereaved due to sheer, culpable incompetence.
Back in 2014 Britain was tootling along quite happily under Cameron’s Coalition despite the political Right despising him and his chummy partnership with Nick Clegg. Then a golden opportunity to make mischief occurred – the European elections. And the standard bearer of the forces of right wing mischief, Nigel Farage, emerged from the swamp big time. UKIP mopped up many Tory voters, one or two Tory MPs and eventually slew the Old Etonian dragon – the rest, including the precipitate fall of Dave is history.
It may be happening again. It’s a different Old Etonian in Number 10 but the same smell of faux-libertarianism is in the air. The Tory Right, including the same “Usual Suspects” are jumping up and down again. And, right on cue, along comes Nigel Farage to cause mischief. Again. Shortly the coincidence of “Events” will be overwhelming – mismanagement of the pandemic at the same time as Britain struggles with the immediate impact of Brexit. In the New Year, even if a last-minute EU Deal is cobbled together the Faragists will be in the ascendency. If there’s a deal it will be a “sell out” – if there isn’t the chaos will be Johnson’s fault. His days are numbered. Donkeys led by donkeys.