Boris Johnson proves power is pointless without principles


Anyone who thinks America is badly governed right now can comfort themselves that at least we aren’t Britain. Because for all the insanity of Washington, nothing can beat the utter breakdown of politics in Westminster.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned yesterday after a terrible two-and-a-half years in office. He came to power in 2019 by winning a general election with an impressive 80-seat majority for one main reason. In 2016 the British public had voted to leave the European Union. After that the Brexit side then fell out with each other. And as a result the Prime Ministership slipped into the hands of Theresa May, who had been in favor of the EU.

For three torrid years the British political system nearly snapped. The public had voted to leave the EU but the Parliament (largely made up of Remainers) refused to do the will of the people.

Boris Johnson changed all that. May was ousted, Johnson won the Conservative party leadership, called an election and won it with the promise to “Get Brexit Done.” Which he did, taking Britain out of the EU in January 2020.

You might say that what happened next was bad luck. But hardly had Johnson managed his big leap than the Coronavirus hit. The world went into lockdown and Johnson himself not only got the virus but ended up in intensive care. There was a moment when it looked like he might not pull through. He recovered, but it took a long time, and he was shaken.

After meeting with President Joe Biden at the G7 summit in Cornwall UK, PM Boris Johnson said he wants the world's economy to be rebuilt in a "more feminine way."
After meeting with President Joe Biden at the G7 summit in Cornwall UK, PM Boris Johnson said he wants the world’s economy to be rebuilt in a “more feminine way.”
AP

To some extent Bojo never really got back his mojo. He began to flounder, looking for causes to tie himself to and losing touch with whatever political core he might once have possessed.

Johnson always hated comparisons with Donald Trump (usually based on nothing more than their hair). He was especially stung when Joe Biden made the link. Johnson believed he was different from traditional conservatives. Perhaps he was. And so — urged on by a small circle of advisors including his woke young girlfriend, then wife — he tried to do everything he could to show he wasn’t a conservative. He ignored the UK’s border crisis, pumped money into an unreformed welfare state and raised taxes. To the extent that he had any ideas at all they were all soggy and green.

Meeting with Biden at the G7 in Cornwall last year, Johnson tried to impress his American counterpart. This extended to him saying that he wanted all our economies to start “Building back greener, and building back fairer, and in a more gender-neutral and perhaps more feminine way.”

To which most conservatives said, “What does that even mean?” Nothing, for sure. But such waffle started to show in government policy. Sure Johnson was in power – something he had wanted since his university days at least ) but what did he intend to do with it?

Ukraine gave him an answer of a sort, but even there he wittered away. Just last week he could be found claiming that Putin wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine if he’d been a woman and that the invasion was a classic example of “Toxic masculinity.” Some of us who had known and admired him for years started to wonder if there´d been an invasion of the body-snatchers.

In his defense, Johnson did oversee one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world. He showed how Britain could be fleet-footed and smart outside of the sluggish EU.

But he never built on that promise. He never showed all of the things that a newly independent nation could actually achieve. Instead he wasted time. He allowed his young wife Carrie to splash money around on a fancy redesign of their official residence. There was a scandal over some rolls of golden wallpaper and who funded them. His wife became known as Carrie Antoinette.

Boris Johnson Volodymyr Zelensky
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if he were a woman.
via REUTERS

And then there were the parties. Britain’s lockdowns were even tougher than here. For months on end people were not allowed to meet anyone from outside their household. They weren’t allowed to leave the house more than once a day. People were not even allowed to visit loved ones as they lay dying.

Then last year it turned out that the people who made these insane rules had all the time been breaking them. It leaked out slowly that during the height of the pandemic people in Downing Street, including the Prime Minister and his wife, were having boozy get-togethers. Staff were sent out to bring back suitcases full of wine. The Prime Minister’s wife had Abba evenings where she invited friends over.

An official inquiry discovered that Downing Street staffers had splashed wine around the walls, got into scuffles, even thrown up. One such party happened the night before the funeral of the Queen’s husband. The idea that Number 10 was partying while the Queen mourned her husband of seven decades alone focused public’s anger.

A groping scandal last week involving an MP called Pincher was the final straw. Because Johnson had lied again about what he knew. Most of the government resigned, Johnson tried to appoint a new set of ministers and failed. On Thursday morning he finally realized he could no longer govern. The party will now have to appoint a new leader.

What are the lessons of this failed premiership?

Some will say Johnson was a victim of bad luck. But the fact is that the world is always like this. Everyone comes into office hoping to do one set of things and then faces events. Some people are thrown off course. Others get their agenda done anyway. Viruses, vaccines, Ukraine — all are important. But lose sight of what you came in to do in the first place and you will do nothing. Great leaders, like Margaret Thatcher, also had to deal with events. But such people also have a core set of beliefs and principles and work doggedly to achieve them despite the whirligig.

Absent such firm foundations and the winds of mishaps, fashion and events will blow you all over the place. That is the story of Boris Johnson’s leadership. He spent his life seeking power, only to find that having achieved it he didn’t really know what to do with it other than cling on. In the end he couldn’t even do that.

A lesson, for sure. And not just for politicians in Britain.



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