So, what’s been happening whilst I’ve been indisposed for the past couple of months?
I mean, blimey, where do I start?
In World War 1, so legend has it, peace temporarily broke out on Christmas Day when British and German troops laid down their weapons and played football in No Man’s Land. When I say “legend”, I mean that it featured in the video of Paul Wacky-Thumbs-Aloft McCartney’s 1983 #1 anodyne smasheroo Pipes of Peace.
I can’t help but think that this is why PM Alexander “Boris” Johnson is so desperate for this Christmas to be “considerably better than last year” – he’s hoping someone will toss him a football so he can show off his skills. He must have some, right?
Oof. Maybe not.
Still, the irony in Johnson’s bonce connecting with that chap’s actual Johnson can’t have been lost on him. I’m sure there’s nobody who likes to be reminded more that their surname is slang for ‘penis’ than our glorious leader. Perhaps that’s why he insists on being called Boris instead of his birthname, Alexander. I mean, if my name was a euphemism for genitals, male or female, then I’d probably change my name too. Family pride would probably prevent me from changing the offending word, so I think I’d probably concur and change my first name, just like Johnson has. (Okay, Boris is one of his many middle names, but you get the giste. Although, that might explain why he was so reluctant to release the results of the enquiry into Russian interference with our electoral procedures…)
Even then, though, having drawn attention away from my surname, I would probably stop short of ensuring my hair always resembles a bush of pubes finally set free from a particularly tight pair of Y-fronts when in
Lucky for me, then, that my actual birth name, Jeremiah Bellend-Spunkbubble, has no such connotations, so the problem has never, um, arisen for me.
Until very recently, it seemed that no matter how he and his bunch of thick-as-yeast- extract cronies behaved, nothing could stick. But now it seems, finally the general public is starting to realise what those of us who lived in London under his tenure as Mayor have known for ages: the man is a charlatan, a habitual liar, used to getting his own way, incompetent. A man who doesn’t like to be pinned down on detail, or to be held accountable for things he has said or done. A man who cannot admit when he has made a mistake or done wrong. A man who is, as Eddie Mair famously called him in this interview, “a nasty piece of work”:
There isn’t even any satisfaction in saying “I told you so” now, you know. You’ll be aware that the Germans have a word, schadenfreude, which means “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune”. That definitely applies here.
Whilst I was on hiatus, things finally seemed to be changing. First, there was the Owen Paterson affair and, more specifically what the Tories attempted to do in the wake of his being found to be in breach of Parliamentary rules by the independent and cross-party Parliamentary Commissoner for Standards.
Without wishing to bore you with detail, Paterson – as well as what really should be a full-time job as an MP – was holding down two additional jobs, one with healthcare company Randox, who paid him £8,333 a month for a monthly commitment of 16 hours as a consultant, and one with Lynn’s Country Foods Ltd, who paid him £12,000 for 24 hours work per year for performing a similar role.
Paterson was found to have breached paid advocacy rules for making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency and four approaches to the Department for International Development in relation to Randox and seven approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Lynn’s Country Foods. The Commissioner said Paterson had “repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the house into disrepute” and that “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests”.
A motion to carry out the recommendations of the Committee and suspend Paterson was due to be voted on by Parliament. Had suspension been approved, a recall petition would have been triggered in his constituency, which would have led to a by-election. An amendment to the motion to delay consideration of Paterson’s suspension was put forward by Conservative backbencher Andrea Leadsom; it also proposed to set up a new committee to investigate the disciplinary process for MPs.
This would, in effect, have allowed new rules to be implemented which would have seen Paterson escape punishment. And for once it seemed that the country, along with all of the Opposition, were up in arms about this, leading to a spectacular U-turn, where Beano character Walter Softy made-flesh Jacob Rees Mogg stood up in Parliament, announced that they would not be pursuing the amendment as they were horrified that their actions had been perceived in the way they were, which was never their intention, nosiree, cross my heart and hope to learn some empathy.
Paterson resigned, whilst still protesting his innocence and stating that he would not do anything differently were he to have his time again, meaning that there was a by-election in his safe Tory constituency of North Shropshire
I say “safe”: apart from when the constituency was abolished between 1885 and 1983, it had never been anything other than a Conservative seat. At the last election, Paterson had a majority of 23,000.
And on Thursday, they lost it, to the Liberal Democrats, with a swing of 34%, with a majority of 5925. This Brexit-voting constituency, eternally blue, is now yellow, having voted in a candidate from an explicitly Remain party. (I shan’t mention Brexit again. Not yet anyway. It’s going so well, what is there to say?)
But it would be foolish to think it was just Paterson’s actions which led his constituents to reject his party so utterly, for there’s been the small matter of the illicit Christmas parties.
I don’t intend to go in to all the oh-so-many allegations made, or lies told in defence about all of these. I don’t need to, because the BBC’s Ros Atkins – yes, that BBC, who apparently refuse to report on any wrong-doing by the government, and are biased one way or the other, depending on which side of the fence you’re on – has done it for me:
There’s a lot to unpack from that.
Firstly, the seemingly innocuous wearing of party hats, Christmas jumpers, Secret Santas, tinsel and catering: contrary to claims that “no party took place”, all of these things show that not only did parties happen, but they were planned in advance.
Secondly, the photograph of Johnson hosting what is claimed to be an online quiz: not only does this prove that the PM was mixing with people not in his bubble (unless he lives with the guy with the tinsel wrapped round him), it also shows that he knew a party was taking place. Furthermore, that he knew this was in breach of the restrictions: why else would the CCTV camera have been covered with what appears to be a binbag, other than to ensure that events weren’t captured?
Thirdly, the laughable excuses the Metropolitan Police have given for refusing to investigate this. So far, two ridiculous reasons have been proffered: that they do not investigate Covid breaches retrospectively, coupled with them saying they would not look for evidence as they have no evidence.
Last time I checked, Minority Report was still just a film.
There must be lifers up and down the country’s prisons currently banging their tin cups on the bars of their cells, complaining about how unfair it is that, when it came to their crimes and misdemeanours, the police most definitely looked for evidence when they were trying to get them locked up. And also they arrested them after the offence had taken place, not before.
And in any event, they have now said they will investigate the party that Tory candidate for London Mayor and the former chair of the police and crime committee (now resigned) Shaun Bailey, which very much negates both of their reasons for refusing to investigate the ones that Johnson allegedly had knowledge of, or even attended.
This seems to be the Met’s policy:
You may think all this focus on last year’s Christmas parties is all a bit trite, cheap and irrelevant, and to be honest, I think you’d maybe have a point.
For whilst we’re all preoccupied with potentially illegal gatherings last year, our own civil liberties are being gradually stripped from under our noses. Already our democratic right to protest has gone. At the same time, refugees – not migrants, refugees – are being turned away on the basis that their attempts to reach our shores whilst fraught with danger (which they are) are illegal (which they aren’t). And I can’t help but think that the herd immunity policy which has been implemented over Covid – not that they call it that, but that’s what it is – and the refusal to go into lockdown again are specifically designed to make our beloved NHS, surely the pride of our country, finally buckle and collapse so that it can be sold off to the highest bidder, or, more likely, to some mate of a prominent MP who owns a pub and is a jolly good egg.
Right now, entitled uber-moron Dominic Raaaaaaaaab is reviewing the Human Rights Act and trying to introduce legislation which would allow the Government to overturn any judicial decision they disagree with. And that, my friends, is scary.
See, I’ve mentioned before the dead cat theory, where we are distracted from something unpopular by the metaphorical throwing of a dead cat onto the table, making every one talk about the dead cat and the person who threw it there rather than whatever it is they were trying to distract us from. It used to be called “burying bad news” and you may recall that one of former PM Tony Blair’s advisers got in a lot of bother when they suggested that 9/11 would be “a good day to bury bad news”.
I don’t think this is a dead cat tossing situation though, or if it is then it has spectacularly backfired, to the point where bookies are offering odds on who will replace Johnson. Current favourites are Liz Truss, Priti Patel and Matt Hancock. Gawd help us, is that the best they have to offer??
Much as I loathe Johnson, there is a tiny part of me that almost hopes he stays on. Not just because of who is likely to replace him (will they go for the idiot, the evil one, or the philandering incompetent next?) but also because I want his fall from grace to become even more spectacular.
There you go: schadenfreude.