Ttell us something we didn’t know. One of the comforts – or disappointments, depending on your taste – of Dominic Cummings’ 7,000-word blog, posted online shortly before the Prime Minister’s questions, is finding that everyone behaved exactly as you might expect.
So when we learned that Boris Johnson thought Matt Hancock was “totally desperate” in the early months of the pandemic, that the government was too slow to shut down, and that Johnson himself was useless chairing meetings, preferring to avoid all confrontation before leave. the room singing Rule, Britannia !, hardly produced a great commotion. As good as the detail is.
Still, some of it might have been a good final dig for Keir Starmer at PMQ, but instead the Labor leader decided to focus on the Delta variant. Or the Johnson variant, as some in the opposition have begun to call it. Has the prime minister now accepted that he was largely responsible for keeping the country locked up after June 21? It had been his decision to keep the border with India open three weeks after stopping all flights from Pakistan and Bangladesh at a time when both countries were showing similar infection rates.
Johnson did what he always does when pushed. He bragged and lied. He first accused Starmer of using a “hindsight” and tried to claim that the Labor leader had been confused between the Delta and the Kappa variant. As if the coronavirus were overturned by the Greek letter that gave it its name. The point had been that Boris had been desperate to keep travel between the UK and India open for as long as possible so that his official visit could continue. And as of April 23, when all flights were canceled, 20,000 passengers had flown to the UK.
“We have the strongest borders in the world,” Johnson boasted, without providing evidence to support this claim. Mainly because there were none. Starmer huffed and puffed, but there is no provision within the current PMQ format to ensure that the prime minister answers the question. Or even that it should be sincere.
And Boris doesn’t care that people know he’s lying, because even his own MPs seem happy that he is. A liar has to do, what a liar has to do. Conservatives knew what they were buying when they chose him as their leader and, as Cummings’ blog shows, he is not going to have a personality change. The irony is that the same MPs are outraged by the alleged violations of the faith of other parties and countries, but they are blind to the most obvious faults of their own man.
Hearing Johnson speak about freedom of the press in response to SNP’s Ian Blackford’s question about the BBC’s bullying of Nick Watt was slipping through the looking glass. After all, it had been Boris who had promised that he would see what he could do to scare a journalist who was investigating his friend, Darius Guppy. Johnson also chose not to answer Blackford’s question about why he had kept in his place a health secretary whom he had deemed desperate, and instead provided misleading information about the Australian trade deal that would leave UK farmers in a hurry. worse situation and would increase GDP by only 0.02%.
Shortly thereafter, Johnson and Starmer resumed their exchanges when the prime minister issued a statement on the G7 and NATO summits. To listen to Boris, you would have thought that he had brought peace to the free world, eliminated the coronavirus, and reduced carbon emissions to zero. It took the Labor leader to inject a dose of reality. It had been a good spa weekend, a bonding session, on the Cornish coast and little else.
The G7 had agreed on things that had already been agreed, and I had no idea where the other 10 billion doses of vaccines were coming from to protect the world. Worse still, Boris had alienated EU leaders by refusing to accept a Northern Ireland protocol that he himself had accepted. Perhaps they should have verified their track record of keeping promises before hoping for better. “He was a host, not a leader, a tour guide, not a statesman,” was Starmer’s damning conclusion. Even some conservatives seemed to nod at that.
But in a day of ironies, the greatest was left to last. Who should the government send to lead the debate on extending the lockdown restrictions for four more weeks than Hancock? The minister that even Boris thought was completely desperate. Still, even Door Matt couldn’t screw this up as Labor supported the government, although he seemed to think that the appearance of the Delta variant had been a total mystery that no one could have expected. Just give us four more weeks, Hancock said, and we’ll be back to normal. The data, not the dates, no longer appears to be government policy.
Even this, however, was not enough to placate the hardcore of the Covid Recovery Group. Mark Harper and Steve Brine asked for guarantees that the restrictions would not be upheld after July 19, something Matt was happy to give: although it was obviously silly. Steve Baker criticized the health secretary for raising unrealistic hopes by hinting that the shutdown could end in two weeks. Couldn’t it have been limited to four weeks to avoid even more disappointment?
But the two most prominent contributions came from Desmond Swayne and Charles “pint of milk” Walker. Swayne insisted that the emergency was over and that continued confinement was a repressive dystopian vision that went against the right to die of all Englishmen. Walker agreed, arguing that Sage members disclose their financial status or are prohibited from speaking to the media. Too much for an open democracy… Door Matt swallowed it, his face frozen behind a Union Jack mask, as he waited for the ordeal to end. On days like this, being completely desperate was more than enough.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism