In Johnson’s pecking order of influences on decision-making “Will it be popular” is on its own at the top.

“Be clear: we could have saved many lives by effecting a more complete shut-down of the economy while sealing ourselves off from the world but we chose (arguably rightly) not to do that.” Matthew Parris in “The Times” today.

Arguably rightly”? Well that’s an argument I’d like to see. But I won’t, of course, because it’s nonsense. This is not 20/20 hindsight. At the time some other countries were doing just that. Locking down more comprehensively and much earlier. And Britain? Off to Cheltenham races in our tens of thousands.

Arguably rightly ?

The insouciance of Boris Johnson shaking hands and arguing in favour of “taking it on the chin” killed people. Not a few – but in droves. Including nearly him we were told. The mad men and women of the Barmy Right were denying the extent of the threat. And Johnson listened to the Hannans and the Hartley-Brewers and delayed.

What we witnessed was a clash between populism and science. In Johnson’s pecking order of influences on decision-making “Will it be popular” is on its own at the top. “Doing the unpopular thing” is nowhere in his list of options. And if it has to be done he’ll let the experts take the rap. Then there’s the blame culture. If it all goes wrong Macavity wasn’t there.

Cummings in his committee appearance told us nothing we didn’t know or strongly suspect. There was a “If they die, they die” attitude seen at its most venal in the Care Home saga. Was that “arguably right”? I don’t think so. It was mostly the little people and the old who died. Boris was one of the very few of the not yet geriatric rich and famous who suffered. Odd that.

Populism is extraordinarily effective because people believe what they want to believe. It’s like drink or comfort food. We know it’s dodgy but we still do it. That’s why so much snake oil has been sold over the years and why malignant ideologues often survive in power as long as they do. Stalin and Franco died in office, and quietly in bed. And Boris Johnson is still in office. Another Teflon man.

One thought on “In Johnson’s pecking order of influences on decision-making “Will it be popular” is on its own at the top.

  1. One of the simplest defining descriptions of populism is thus: “A political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups”. (Oxford Languages)
    There is no one more part of the political establishment than Boris Johnson. It oozes from his every orifice.
    In Johnson’s world gaining power is far more important than keeping hold of it. He gained it by borrowing the populist playbook supplied by Dominic Cummings. That support is now gone.
    Populism historically does not have a long shelf life once power is achieved, unless supported by military means. If you give the masses continual satisfaction sooner or later it will need to end. The bills have to be paid or rather the debt mountain reduced.
    That is the point when ‘ordinary people’ who supported him will cry the Emperor wears no clothes. Johnson doesn’t do governing he’s a campaigner. ( Cameron called it “the hard shit”) What we are currently witnessing now is the slow melt-down of government. The day of his demise should be created a national holiday.


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