Written by Emma Flint
Boris Johnson is back in the news once more, this time for yet another ignorant comment that blatantly disregards our safety and welfare as a nation. A comment that weighs heavily because he actually did what his careless comment suggested – he let the body count unnecessarily rise throughout this pandemic. Given his continued inability to think before he speaks, the news that 37% of the population believe him corrupt feels more than justified.
According to an Opinium survey published on 24th April, Johnson is losing the confidence and support of the public, as too is his government. However, speculation about his integrity has been called into question on numerous occasions before now, so what’s changed? Arguably, the latest stats are a reflection of popular opinion after a devastating first year of Covid-19.
Since the outbreak, the way in which Johnson has spoken first and acted later has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths, political blunders and unfair distribution of wealth. Unfortunately, these tactics are already synonymous with Tory governments, and thus come as no surprise to left-wing voters. Nevertheless, what makes Johnson’s behaviour so distressing is the latest debacle to grip No. 10 Downing Street.
Specifically, the way in which Johnson and his ex-Chief Advisor, Dominic Cummings, have engaged in a public tit-for-tat of point scoring. Back in May 2020, when Cummings was under severe public backlash over his interesting interpretation of acceptable travel during national lockdown, the PM rigidly supported Cummings actions. Even despite the public outcry that Cummings needed to resign, Johnson stood beside his colleague in a foolhardy show of solidarity. Consequently, the public followed in kind, refusing to follow the rules when those in power so publicly ignored them without repercussions.
Eventually, however, Cummings did resign. But not before the damage was done, and not until we were entering our third lockdown. A national measure that Johnson is said to have remarked on preferring to watch “bodies pile high in their thousands” rather than imposing more restrictions.
It’s a shocking and deeply concerning attitude for any PM to have, especially given the amount of people who have lost loved ones, lived in fear and been denied support during this pandemic. When this comment was made however, none of us were aware of what was going on behind the closed doors of No. 10. Many of us suspected that unrest was stirring, especially when Cummings very publicly exited the building, but nothing ever came to light.
So why are these details coming out now?
Last week, text messages between Johnson and Sir James Dyson were leaked, in which the pair discussed how Sir James and his employees wouldn’t be charged additional tax by coming to the UK to make ventilators. According to the messages, Johnson told Sir James that he would “fix it”. The implications here are that extra tax can be dismissed whenever senior officials deem it worthy, while the general public are often penalised and targeted by HMRC for being only a day late with their tax returns.
Instead of properly addressing the concerns these messages raised, No. 10 shifted the blame to Cummings, stating that they believed he was the one behind the leak. However, in a sensational turn of events, Cummings has since written a blog post that not only denies his involvement, but also highlights other questionable actions by the PM.
The first being that Johnson intended to pay for flat renovations using money secretly obtained from donors. This was swiftly followed by a second accusation in which Cummings demanded a parliamentary inquiry into the incompetence of Johnson’s government during the Covid crisis.
The way in which all of these stories point to deep seated corruption within the government, ensure that confidence in political leadership is severely lacking. That being said, it’s important to bear in mind that the Opinium data, while damning for the government, also demonstrates that 31% of the population still believe Johnson honest. Despite the issues and loss of life he’s caused, there’s a decent portion of the public who deem his behaviour acceptable.
This speaks to the larger problem of a lack of empathy, integrity and stability within British politics and its political figures. The way in which we watch politicians backtrack and reinvent their beliefs, creates an undercurrent of lies and deceit that leaves the general public the ones hardest hit. By witnessing public arguments between old colleagues, such as Johnny Mercer and Dominic Cummings, we see that the hypocritical nature of current politics makes it difficult for us to know who and what to trust in.
As the latest No. 10 debacle rages across the media, it’ll be interesting to see what else comes to light in the battle between Johnson and Cummings. Neither of them come across particularly well, however, it’s the tenacity of Cummings that has the nation gripped; his blog has demonstrated a lack of fear in airing the dirty laundry of the PM. Unfortunately, the result concern, which is the welfare of the public, seems to be least talked about casualty here.
Featured images courtesy of Flickr (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/). No changes have been made to these images.