The most ridiculous war in British history is possibly the War of Jenkins’ Ear. But the most needlessly damaging may be the Wars of Johnson’s Career.
In order to promote or salvage his own career, Johnson has dragged Britain into metaphorical but enormously damaging wars with:
- The European Union;
- UK business and economy;
- The British population; and now
- The saner members of his own party.
Johnson is happy to sacrifice anyone – his allies, his compatriots and even his own MPs – in order to further or salvage his own career.
The European Union
Although he had previously been a cautious Remainer, Johnson spotted the opportunity of the Brexit campaign as a vehicle that might propel him to the premiership. In order to decide which horse to back, Johnson wrote two articles: one setting out the case for Britain remaining within the EU; and the other making the case for leaving. He decided that the Leave article read more powerfully, and that was the one which was published. On that basis, Johnson decided to rebrand himself as ‘Mr Brexit.’ And of course the success of Brexit campaign ensured that Britain would indeed leave the European Union.
Possibly the biggest political decision of the last few decades was determined by what was best for Johnson’s career.
Business and Economy
According to the government’s own analysis, it was then inevitable that some economic damage would be caused – but a soft Brexit could mitigate the damage enormously, whereas a hard Brexit or a no-deal Brexit would cause large and permanent damage.
The government’s job in representing the interests of the UK population should have been to choose a form of Brexit which the least damage. But Johnson was one of those who successfully pushed for a hard Brexit, even against the advice of those in business who told him of the risks.
Johnson’s famous remark, “Fuck Business,” made while he was still Foreign secretary, made it transparently clear that he was concerned with his own career and maintaining the support of those who backed it rather than the health of UK business and the economy as a whole.
The UK’s lamentable economic performance since 2016 is not entirely down to Johnson – but he is the individual who must bear the greatest responsibility.
The British population
The most damaging of Johnson’s wars is the war that he has declared on the British population. With our prosperity already under threat because of the overall performance of the economy, Johnson’s government – though talking constantly of levelling up – has consistently implemented policies and budgets which benefit only a tiny fraction of the population. As far as Johnson is concerned the other 99% do not matter.
And even when it comes to saving lives, Johnson has consistently prioritised his popularity with his backers over the safety of the British population. His coronavirus strategy has consistently been to do as little as possible, as late as possible, and to unwind any protective measures as quickly as possible. As a result, the UK – despite being a developed country with a strong science base – has one of the world’s worst death tolls. According to the Office for National Statistics, the UK death toll from COVID now exceeds 170,000 people. (This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, larger than the number that the government admits to). This has not stopped Johnson, as part of his last-ditch efforts to save his career, promising to remove all remaining protections other than the vaccine from the British population.
Not content with attacking our health and our wealth, Johnson has also attacked our democratic freedoms, mounting a systematic attempt to unwind all scrutiny on his behaviour. If he gets his way, the courts will be unable to scrutinise the legality of actions of the executive, the people will be unable to mount even a peaceful protest, whistle-blowers will be unable to highlight criminal behaviour on the part of the government … and we have lost even our right to vote without formal identification papers.
His own party
Most recently, in the wake of the corruption scandals before Christmas and Partygate afterwards, many MPs in his own party have started to turn against Johnson. His clear perception that he is above the law and his shameless hypocrisy have caused a huge slide in the polls, and his party now sees him as an electoral liability.
But Johnson has decided not to go without a fight – and a very dirty fight, had that. The MP William Wragg has reported that many of those who have openly expressed their wish to see Johnson step down, and even those who are merely suspected by Johnson and his intimates of being insufficiently loyal, have been threatened by the whips with leaks of embarrassing stories to the press and with a curtailment of funding to their constituencies. As Wragg points out, this is blackmail. He has advised his colleagues to go to the police.
The theme running through these wars is that Johnson is happy to sacrifice anyone – his allies, his compatriots and even his own MPs – in order to further or salvage his own career. A dwindling band of hard-core supporters continue to support him, but his mask has slipped and the idea of Johnson as a disorganised and dishevelled but jovial and ultimately well-intentioned Prime Minister, which was never very plausible to those who looked closely, is now incredible to a growing proportion of the UK population.
Johnson can survive for longer by fighting harder and dirtier, but his reputation will be further tarnished in doing so. His days are numbered.
If you think you might like to help him go more quickly or just to keep informed, please do sign-up and join the 99% Organisation.