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This isn’t a side-show. This is life and death.

Posted on May 26, 2021

Wait, wait, wait. Just hang on a minute. Have I got this right?

This is the same chap, is it? The bloke who was the driving force behind Brexit? The one who directed Boris Johnson’s huge election victory in 2019? The fella who became a national joke by driving his car with his kid in the back to check that his eyesight was OK? The lad who had a little flounce out of Downing Street, lumping a cardboard box for dramatic effect, when the axe fell? This is the same guy, right?

Because as I type, he appears to be telling MPs that he never done nothing and it was that boy over there and besides he wasn’t even in the room when it happened. No, he ain’t friends with him and even if he was, the big boy never listens and, besides, he’s much cleverer than everybody and that’s the real reason no one likes him.

And so we have it. An unelected fixer with an inflated view of the power of his own intellect – have a squint, if you can bear it, at his meandering, opaque blog – enjoying yet another day in the sun. Centre stage again for a man who purports to enjoy dark corners and shadows. The functionary becomes the story; the reliable adviser upstages his masters. Publishers everywhere queue up to get him signed on. 

If only it could be a joke. But it isn’t. People died in their tens of thousands because those elected to do the difficult stuff – not just the photos wearing hard hats or spaffing out some clever (and highly rehearsed) Latin witticism – couldn’t manage to conduct themselves any better than a group of daft Year 10s  caught red-handed behind the bike shed. It beggars belief that when crisis struck, this bunch of floundering egotists couldn’t bring themselves to put personal animosity aside and act as some sort of coherent collective. That one of the most culpable culprits is clearly relishing every moment in the latest limelight makes it all so much worse.

Let’s be clear. It would have been impossible to address such an unprecedented situation without some mistakes being made. We might even take some comfort in a democratic process that still allows the degree of public scrutiny that we are currently witnessing. Nonetheless, there are a few rotten, stubborn truths that can’t be lost, no matter what concessions we care to make. Hovering over this dreadful episode is one notion, lonely and forgotten by those who should be its greatest advocates – the taking of responsibility.

Again, even as I type, the naughty, roguish maverick is aghast that he was given so much responsibility; that the Prime Minister could assume so much authority; that government posts were handed to people so obviously ill-equipped to fulfil them; that authoritative voices were ignored. I suspect you’ll be ahead of me here, but it was precisely this impatience with, and contempt for, the checks and balances of the democratic process that made the scruffy prince such a favourite at court.  Brushing aside thoughtful reservations, unwillingness to accommodate differing opinions – remember the purge of those dullard remainers? – is the very hallmark of the single-minded politburo that currently masquerades as a Cabinet. And it was the job of the precocious whizz-kid to normalise such thinking.

So, there might be some passing merriment as villains call each other out. We could enjoy a chuckle or two as they position themselves to both stab and avoid being knifed themselves. But it’s no laughing matter. From the people who gave dodgy contracts to clueless mates, who doled out confusing and misleading communications, who failed to follow their own rules,  we have been left with  127,739 grieving families and a legacy of illness and delayed treatment that will linger long after these political pygmies have left the stage.

But it wasn’t my fault. It was that other boy over there. Not me. I never done nothing. How clever I am. That’s why no one likes me.

No, mate. That’s not why at all.

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