THE IDEA that a Conservative Government mired in allegations of corruption and sleaze could be led by Boris Johnson is a shock.
The Prime Minister’s moral standing and personal qualities are matters of public record and speak for themselves.
Nobody could’ve imagined a serial liar, deceiver, hypocrite, blowhard, intellectually vacuous, greedy, self-obsessed, needy, selfish, idle, cowardly, superficial, arrogant twat like Boris Johnson would lead a government possessed of the self-same qualities as its leader.
Nothing, you might’ve hopefully thought, be as corrupt or useless as Boris Johnson. So – the theory goes – at least his government’s machinery might be greater than the knob operating it.
But you’d be wrong.
At every turn, ministers not only live down to expectations of them both individually and collectively but also find new and unplumbed depths of barrel bottoms to scrape.
The tack Government ministers take facing revelations that the government bunged hundreds of millions of pounds and gave preferential treatment to their chums and chumettes, speaks volumes about their arrogant disregard for standards in public life and the law.
Take Liz Truss – please take Liz Truss – she appeared on the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday. Mr Marr is not the most taxing of interrogators for members of the current government. However, he is a good journalist and can smell blood in the water.
Ms Truss responded to questions about how the Prime Minister – who famously said he couldn’t make ends meet on the Foreign Secretary’s salary – paid for the redevelopment of the flat above 10 Downing Street.
She started off by saying that the Prime Minister paid for the refurbishment from his own pocket.
Pressed further, she said the PM followed all proper procedures and made all appropriate declarations.
Those weasel words opened the door for Andrew Marr to ask the killer question.
Had a benefactor or donor put the money in Boris Johnson’s pocket for him to pay for the refurb of Number 10’s flat?
After half-heartedly repeating her answer to the previous question, Ms Truss changed tack.
She wasn’t up to date with everything about the PM’s flat and its funding. She was busy negotiating international trade deals that were a jolly sight more deserving of her attention.
So there! Ner-ner-dee-ner-ner.
All of which begs several questions and raises an important point.
Let’s deal with the critical point first.
Ms Truss thinks that allegations of corruption and shady deals at the heart of government are less important than insulting the head of the Australian Trade delegation, which she did the preceding week.
As if Liz Truss has any direct input into trade negotiations, other than as a rubber stamp for civil servants’ work and to take the credit for completing trade deals on slightly worse terms than we previously had.
Now for the other questions that her answers raise.
Suppose the PM’s funding of refurbishing Number 10 is beneath Liz Truss’ Olympian gaze. How could she possibly comment upon it all?
How could Liz Truss know for herself that all steps had been completed to comply with the letter and spirit of the rules?
If she knew the answer to that question, why did she not say where the money came from?
Because, and here’s the kicker, on Monday, the PM said, ‘all declarations would be made in due course’.
Liz Truss used the past tense – the declarations HAD been made.
Boris Johnson used the future tense – the declarations WOULD be made in the future.
The cherry on the top of all of this is the perception the PM has something to hide.
Badger is a cynical old so-and-so. He can’t help wondering whether this is yet another dead cat dropped on the table to distract the public from other – more important – issues.
Badger will be clear on this point: he has no doubt that Conservative ministers did favours for their friends and party donors to allow them access to public money or more favourable treatment than others over the last year.
It’s not as if that is new. Governments throughout Parliamentary history have been seats of graft, corruption, nepotism, and mutual backscratching for financial reward.
From goodness knows how many possibilities, Badger alights upon the name of Ernest Marples. Mr Marples was Minister of Transport for five years between 1959 and 1964.
In that period, the road network expanded. The rail network was shredded. He was an 80% shareholder in a civil engineering company that greatly benefited from the new roads’ construction.
He transferred his company shares to his wife to avoid any suggestion he directly benefited from the increase in their value.
The other one had bells on.
He ended up as Lord Marples – and a fugitive in Monaco from charges relating to tax fraud.
Ah! The good old days!
On top of governments’ failure to follow the rules it made and being found out for it, greater access to information means that the cavalier disregard of ministers and their officials for the law is now more publicised than ever.
The thing about a government made up of ministers and advisers who behave like rats is that they act like rats. They’ll rat on each other. They’ll rat and then re-rat (as Churchill admitted he did), and they’ll cannibalise each other.
Boris Johnson said, allegedly, he would rather have bodies pile high in the street than order a third lockdown.
The desperate denials of his Cabinet colleagues that the PM said such a thing was a prominent feature of responses to The Daily Mail’s story.
But consider this, readers, it’s inconceivable that the Mail would have published its account of the PM’s words unless it was nailed on accurate and could back it up.
The rats are turning on each other.
After dissecting why Labour can’t make a dent in the Conservative poll lead (‘the vaccine bounce’ and upswing in mood as lockdown eases), Andrew Rawnsley wrote in The Observer: “This context will change and become more menacing for the government when vaccine euphoria wears off, business and job support schemes are unwound.
“When the Prime Minister is a man with a lifelong contempt for the norms of decent behaviour and a career history of behaving as if he can get away with anything, the government is going to reflect his amoral character.
“I cannot tell you how the Johnson government will end or when, but it will surely not be a happily ever after. Sleaze may not catch up with the Tories tomorrow or next week or next month or even next year, but there will be a day of reckoning.”
And the stinking pile of bodily and spiritual corruption in those circumstances will be – metaphorically speaking – ministers and their careers.
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