Britain is bristling at the betrayal of Boris Johnson and his enforcer-in-chief - Editor’s Comment
In his letter, Martin Hammond writes: “Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies. It is a question of priorities, which most of his colleagues have no difficulty in sorting out. Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed captain of the School for next half).”
Of course there will be those who snort: ‘but that was then and this is now; we all have to do a little growing up along the way’ but Mr Hammond goes on to add a concluding remark that appears to render the Prime Minister’s youthful exuberance frozen in time within him if the spectacle of the last few days amid the Dominic Cummings crisis are anything to go by. He adds: “I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one which should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”
I would like you to hold that last line close. Ruminate upon it. Write it down. I will return to it momentarily but first, given time will fade our memories, I want to just walk you around a reminder, for the record, of the context. The Dominic Cummings lockdown flouting chapter in the premiership of Mr Johnson can be summarised, fairly, thus:
> Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister engineers orders to the British public which we all must follow on the orders of the Prime Minister, or we’d be responsible for imperilling the NHS and people would unnecessarily die;
> In a letter signed by the Prime Minister, delivered to almost every household in the country at a cost of £6m we were told unequivocally: ...we are giving you one simple instruction - you must stay at home;
> The stay at home message extended to not being able to see loved ones, partners, or children living in other households, nor could we visit dying relatives - regardless of their circumstances - who had to be left alone to die. All funerals have been held with limited mourners and many with no-one present at all. Law enforcement would be, we were told - and, as happens, was - used should anyone be found to be in breach of those orders;
> Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister, the architect and enforcer of so much sacrifice on the part of the British people, at the very time we had all committed to obeying that direct order to STAY AT HOME is found to have disregarded that self-same order by driving 260 miles north and, separately, got in the car and drove to a local beauty spot because he was worried about his being able to actually see where he was going. He was worried his sight was failing him, so he went for a drive with his wife and child in the car … to see if he could see.
Quite remarkably, Mr Cummings decides that despite him having no Ministerial powers or responsibilities that he wants to address the nation via a televised broadcast, and so does. Most tuned in expectant of an apology at the very least. Perhaps a resignation and a humble yet dignified departure from public life.
We got nothing of the sort. We got a refusal to apologise. A patronisingly flimsy schoolboyesque cock-and-bull cover story and not one scintilla of contrition nor humility.
In fact, what we saw, to go back to Mr Johnson’s old college master, appeared to be the musings of a man who: “honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one which should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.”
And this is the crux of that which compelled me to put pen to paper: what happens when more and more people ignore the so-called network of obligation which binds everyone else?
Moreover; what happens when the leader of a country and his first lieutenant do as much, specifically when charged with leading the people who entrusted them to power through the worst public health emergency to ever hit this island nation, one that has pushed the death toll past 47,000 - the worst in Europe.
Allow me to give you three examples of what happens: the Bishops of Ripon, Worcester and Newcastle. Three more caring, compassionate, considered people you will struggle to find - death threats. “Stay out of politics or we will kill you,” read one. “Stay out of politics or it will be the death of you,” read another.
That is what happens, folks. It is by no means the sum total of what happens when people ignore their obligations to doing the right thing, but it is unmistakably the first fraying of the fabric of society. I am sorry to tell you that unless the rot is stopped, unless someone demonstrates to us all that no animal is more equal than others, worse, much worse, will follow.
There have been some brave enough to call for the rot to be cut out - 27 out of 365 Conservative MPs at the time of writing, to be precise, with seven being from Yorkshire. Quitting publicly, junior government minister Douglas Ross said in his resignation letter: “I have constituents who didn’t get to say goodbye to loved ones; families who could not mourn together; people who did not visit sick relatives because they followed the guidance of this government. I cannot in good faith tell them that they were all wrong and one senior advisor to the government was right.”
Are we to conclude that 338 of Mr Ross’ colleagues can, in good faith, tell their constituents their sacrifice was wrong?
Returning to the aforementioned Bishops, whilst it is not for me to put words in their mouths, it is fair to assume that all were dismayed at the inability of Messrs Johnson and Cummings to accept that by not doing as they would be done by, not only had they exhibited the most abhorrent hypocrisy but, more importantly, they had shown an arrogant disregard for the safety of those most vulnerable to coronavirus.
Astonishingly, Mr Johnson PRAISED his enforcer-in-chief, saying to the nation that Mr Cummings had ‘done what any good father would do and was just following his instincts.’
Nonsense. Good parents right around the country have been defying their instincts to put their own family first in order to protect other people’s families for weeks. We have all been wrestling with our instincts to put our own families first but accepted that by behaving selflessly and responsibly we’d be saving other people’s lives. We were acting in the national interest. Can the same be said for Mr Cummings? If you follow the Prime Minister and his Chief Adviser’s explanation through to the end, the only conclusion is that the two men believe Mr Cummings loves his family more than we all love ours, and that the sacrifices we have all so painstakingly made - in the national interest - are entirely of our own stupid making.
The nation is bristling at the worst kind of betrayal. Our generals told us to march in one direction whilst they went in another. Once again, we are reminded of Boris Johnson’s College Master’s words in his letter to the now Prime Minister’s father: “Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of responsibility (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed captain of the School for next half).”
Mr Johnson; it is not too late to show that you are worthy of captaining the school for next half.
Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.
And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.
Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.
If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.
Sincerely. Thank you.