Jo was right about Boris

It is self-evident we have a calamitous Prime Minister; we spelt out the warning ourselves.  Johnson presides over a cabinet of mediocre yes-men not selected for ability, but for their Brexit purity and for their low risk in upstaging Johnson with an unexpected whiff of competency.  The Tory conference is a time to take stock. Even amongst Conservative members there are signs of queasiness: in a recent ConservativeHome sounding of party members, only Gavin Williamson outflanks Johnson for dissatisfaction.

Less than 10 months ago Jo Swinson clearly upbraided Johnson for having ‘dragged the office of Prime Minister through the mud’. Johnson has not only continued to besmirch his office but, by disregarding the rule of law, has shredded the UK’s standing around the world.  The UK can no longer criticise breaches of international law without inviting an inevitable riposte.

‘Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister’ Jo continued, ‘not just because he doesn’t care, not just because he lies but because also he is complicit in stoking division and fear and in our communities.  Johnson has no shame when it comes to the language he uses about race’.  She was spot on; for manifold reasons Johnson is unfit for his role. Shame seems a sentiment unknown to Johnson, moreover he is indolent, unable to master his brief, expecting the general public to know what is asked of them better than he does himself.

The more closely people have worked with Johnson, the more likely they are to deride him as untrustworthy and lightweight. Johnson’s past is littered with careless mendacity. Against anyone other than Corbyn, out of his depth, and also with a past rendering him unfit to be PM, Johnson could not have prevailed so easily last December. Had Starmer been Labour leader a year ago, it is even doubtful Johnson would have become Tory leader.

The backdrop throughout has been Brexit: in dealing with CoVid as on other issues, the knee-jerk response has been to rebuff EU initiatives, GB exceptionalism has reigned. The government has been neither ready to learn from nor cooperate with EU countries, resulting in a mismanagement of response to CoVid and an excess of deaths putting the UK amongst the worst in Europe.  A government for which planning is synonymous with political strategy, is particularly ill suited to respond to a life threatening viral contagion. Johnson’s hopelessly contradictory exhortations are easily mocked. The dissatisfaction is inevitable: small wonder many speculate that Johnson cannot last a full term.

Despite its problems, there is more likelihood of finding a solution for CoVid than for resolving Brexit.  Bad governance and Brexit go hand in hand: Brexiters, ever more extreme, advocate revolutionary change but no plan. After 5 years of campaigning, Brexiters still fail to be able to define their project.  Their Brexit is fundamentally undeliverable: it is the fruit of a fanciful representation of Britain’s place in the world. Johnson’s confused contradictory utterances become a metaphor for Brexit.

Conservatives had better brace themselves.  As Jo concluded last year: ‘A majority government led by Boris Johnson would lead us all poorer, more divided and standing alone in the world.’  Who would argue with this today? The ineptitude of Johnson and his government is only the start, much worse is sure to come.

* Martin Bennett first campaigned in Cheltenham in 1974, was the Bermondsey Party press officer from 1981-3 but is presently resident in Luxembourg. He is Deputy Chair of Liberal Democrats Luxembourg.

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  • Good article, Martin. I watched the Johnson ‘Conference speech’ this morning and was profoundly unimpressed (as it appears were a number of his own backbenchers).

    If I’d dozed off and let my imagination run the speech could a General Melchett address to the troops on the eve of the Somme…… but I don’t think the troops would have been impressed. I gather one has to fork out over £ 42,000 per year to get an Etonian accent like that….. and Cummings/BoJo have knicked the ‘Build Back Better’ slogan from Joe Biden.

    And where’s Dido Harding when we don’t need her ?

  • Barry Lofty 6th Oct '20 - 4:22pm

    I could not have put it better Martin, give or take a few expletives, and very brave of David Raw to watch Johnson’s conference speech I think my blood pressure has had a bit of a reprieve by missing it!!

  • “Cummings/BoJo have knicked the ‘Build Back Better’ slogan from Joe Biden”

    Or from our own Layla Moran. How brazen. He will be offering free broadband next.

  • richard underhill 6th Oct '20 - 8:09pm

    mediocre yes-men? some of them are mediocre women, which will become obvious .
    This country deserves better.
    If you want to oppose the Boris-line it helps if you have been Prime Minister, then the Speaker will call you.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Oct '20 - 8:45pm

    “an Etonian accent” but how do the born and bred locals of Eton speak? Probably more like Ricky Gervais than Johnson & co. It’s like when people talk of “Oxford English”, which should really be called “Oxford University English”, because it’s a reference to the varsity speech, not that of the locals.

  • Disappointed that no LibDem’s have stepped up to take on Boris’s offer of an arm-wrestling contest. Why no adulation for his comments on wind power (though he left himself open to wind jokes), which reminds me of a novel I read about scientists lavished with govn money to make the latest wind tech who made it up as they went along until all the dosh disappeared… not impressed myself, the big sell on greenness is getting everyone to have their own power station via solar, wind, earth, etc (and, of course, having smart meters that run backwards so they get the full credit for the power they generate)… so far Boris is doing wonders for big business but not very much for his natural voters, creative capitalist, so to speak, and the LibDems are clueless about how to step in, other than having layers of welfare/UBI that will bankrupt the country or ruin the currency by excessive money printing. Yikes, no one worth voting for!

  • In the meantime we as a party are literally on our knees, that is what we should be worried about. I hope there are no elections next year because if there are……..

  • David Garlick 7th Oct '20 - 4:34pm

    @Frank West. Wind power has been not been supported by this Government. Boris claims to make the UK the wind Capital of the World would be fine if he had put any detail on it but as it stands is not trustworthy. I wouldn’t trust anything the man says let alone anything about Climate Change which is still a fraud/deception/nonsense for many Conservatives.

  • It would be nice to think that outsmarting the dimmest and most unscrupulous Government in living memory could be a useful response but it doesn’t work like that. In an age of authoritarians on the rise, learning from Eastern Europe past and present may be more relevant. There are currently some signs that Putin-admiring leaders can be defeated with radical resistance but as ever the people pulling the strings behind useful idiots are the ultimate challenge.

  • David Evans 8th Oct '20 - 10:43am

    The problem with articles that say “Look how bad the other lot are, and what a huge hole they will be in soon,” is that they just rail against the winners and do not address the important question “Why are we still the losers?”

    Twice in the last 10 years, our party has had the opportunity to change Britain for the better, and twice it has failed miserably and in many ways our failure has made things worse. A Cameron minority government with our support to control Rees Mogg and the ERG fantasists, became a Cameron majority dependent on the ERG after 2015, a May government controlled by the ERG but without a majority until Jo let the genie out of the bottle and now we have the Johnson government fiasco. Similarly, a fringe Tory obsession went to being a national Referendum and then Brexit. All in all, our unwillingness to face up to our problems and instead to wallow in self comforting articles like this just lets things get worse.

    It is clear Jo was right about Boris in many ways, but Jo and so many Lib Dems were totally wrong in believing that just because they knew this and it was important to them personally, that they could win through easily. Sadly, there are still far too many who believe that passing nice, well-meaning motions in conference, coupled with a few young liberal, left wing slogans will somehow make us relevant to the British population.

    Putting it bluntly, far too many of us are too easily impressed by the strength of our own logic, that we underestimate the strengths of our opponents and even worse we ignore own failings totally. Hence when it comes to the next time, we make the same mistakes again and again, because to do otherwise would mean having to accept our own culpability. Indeed so many of our senior figures seek to bury their mistakes rather than acknowledge them and help themselves (and even more importantly the rest of the party and our new members) to learn from them.

    As Martin rightly says “The Tory conference is a time to take stock. Even amongst Conservative members there are signs of queasiness,” but we know what the Tories do with failure. They change. The elephant in our room is “When will the Lib Dems really take stock of themselves and change?”, because there still aren’t many signs of queasiness in the membership even after 10 years of catastrophic decline.

  • richard underhill 8th Oct '20 - 5:05pm

    Mike Pence has said that the US Supreme Court can be expanded after November 3. He did not say whether a constitutional amendment would be needed. He is pro-life, Biden is a practising Catholic, Harris is pro-choice and will probably get her way.

  • richard underhill 8th Oct '20 - 5:10pm

    Two years ago the Democrats had a tactic of selecting pro-choice women, some of whom made gains against Republicans and may be vulnerable this time.
    Biden-Harris is winning on fundraising which may help them.

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