“I had a unique touch. Absolutely unique. They came to me. They came to me and told me they were grateful. Champagne that we had that evening. The lot.
No, it wasn’t Prime Minister Johnson talking about the now notorious birthday party that broke his own lockdown rules that we in the rest of the country were observing. Meet Stanley, the character whose birthday it is in Harold Pinter’s macabre comedy Birthday’s party.
On his next night, Stanley has a rough time. In my opinion, Johnson should have had a bad time for a series of well-publicized episodes, even if, like Stanley, the Prime Minister affected to be surprised by his own birthday party. Let them eat cake…
Let’s face it: what the Conservative Party is tangling up on now is how to handle the realization that the leader they didn’t trust, but who gave them a landslide election victory, has been discovered as an amoral villain by a largely law-respecting electorate, not to mention the rest of the world, in whose eyes he is a laughing stock.
Our so-called leader has tarnished the reputation of this once widely admired nation. I know I’m far from alone in finding the daily spectacle of this grotesque government’s antics sickening – yes, sickening.
Winning this last election was not quite the Johnsonian triumph it was claimed to be. Frankly – and I know this will offend many Labor voters, who saw a lot of things in the Corbyn program that they liked – it was very largely an anti-Corbyn election.
Indeed, one of the great ironies of recent politics is that the victorious, low-tax Johnsonian Tories have increased public spending, not least because of Covid, to levels only Corbyn dreamed of. But such spending falls far short of solving the fundamental economic problems facing society. Not to overemphasize this, the leader who “made Brexit” was, in that very act, hoisted with his own firecracker.
This was exemplified last week in these two major announcements: first on the so-called ‘upgrade’ program by Michael Gove; and, on the other hand, by the Chancellor, with her package to reduce energy expenditure.
There was a slight problem with the upgrade program. It’s called money. There are no new funds, just a re-labeling of previous announcements – announcements whose content falls far short of compensating for a decade of austerity.
The blow to this economy from, wait for it, “getting Brexit done” is huge. The Office for Budget Responsibility estimate of a 4% annual reduction in our national income and output as a result of Brexit has not, to my knowledge, been seriously questioned. This number is a macro number that is the sum of the myriad blows to our productivity – the monumental increase in the waste of bureaucratic extra documentation; Brexiters’ inability to “take back control”; trucks line up on the road to Dover. Recent studies indicate that manufacturing output has been hit hard by the barriers created by Brexit self-injury – barriers that are particularly damaging to the small and medium-sized businesses that the Tories affect to favour.
But then, it is no longer the Conservative party: it is the English national party.
After years of relative economic decline compared to our European neighbours, we joined what was then the European Economic Community in 1973 for good economic reasons. Our average growth rate has increased. With Brexit, this blind country has indeed voted to return to a path of relative economic decline.
For example: why is Sunak so desperate that he must go ahead with imposing a national insurance tax on already struggling households? Why is he so severely inhibited in the degree of relief he can offer a nation hit by such a dramatic spike in gasoline prices? Why is Gove’s budget for the upgrade so pitifully limited? The answer is that the Brexit that these charlatans sold to a gullible public cut tens of billions of pounds from potential tax revenue from the Treasury.
Now a former Tory leader who would put Johnson, and indeed the rest of this cabinet, in the shadows was Harold Macmillan. He liked to quote the poet Hilaire Belloc: “Always keep watch / For fear of finding worse.”
I shouldn’t compare Johnson to a nurse. But the modern conservative party is now in the hands of extremists. In the interest of common decency, Johnson must leave. But, alas, it has smeared the party so badly that there is no guarantee, in terms of politics, that it will not be followed by “something worse”.
O tempora, o morals!