Sunday, September 26

‘Sleaze’ Doesn’t Get It: Boris Johnson Is Completely Careless With Everyone But Himself | Aditya Chakrabortty

WWhile writing his latest novel, F Scott Fitzgerald reminded himself of a fundamental truth by capitalizing it: ACTION IS CHARACTER. And through the actions of Boris Johnson, what has been exposed in recent weeks is his character in office.

None of the usual talking points do the screen before us justice. Not “sleaze,” that quaint ’90s term with its delightful memories of David Mellor in a Chelsea uniform. It’s not cod psychology about Dominic Cummings, yet the press is excited for the return of his favorite panto villain, along with his notably quoted friends. And certainly not to mention the lack of “direct cut” on the part of commentators too focused on the general election to see that this is directly about the morality of the man who runs this country.

How else to see a leader squandering public money in a room to hold White House-style press conferences, a vain project he scrapped last week? The cost of that room, by the way, was £ 2.6 million, enough to buy an entire house even in London’s most oligarchic postcodes or, if we’re being boring, to hire over 100 newly qualified nurses. How do you describe the actions of a prime minister who, amid a deadly pandemic, conspires with advisers and public officials on how to raise £ 200,000 to redecorate his temporary home in Downing Street? This is not a fever dream about soft furniture; it is about who advanced money to our prime minister, and what they expected in return, which is why it is now being investigated by the Electoral Commission. From Jennifer Arcuri to a £ 15,000 winter break At Mustique, every decision smacks of conscious recklessness and the assurance that the bill will always be paid by someone else.

Whether or not Johnson yelled about letting “the bodies pile up by the thousands,” his actions helped ensure that outcome. He’s the one who skipped five Cobra meetings a year ago, gave the go-ahead to the Cheltenham festival and Atletico Madrid playing Liverpool last March, spent £ 849 million of taxpayer money on the “stunt” eat out to help “and laughed scientific advice to assure the British public that it was their God-given right to eat Christmas pudding together. And here we are, with over 120,000 excess deaths in England and Wales.

This January, as Covid swept the country once again, I spoke with a nurse who had spent decades working in intensive care. He told me how his ICU ward had suddenly tripled in size, with row after row of patients lying silently, unable to breathe without ventilators. Even half of them would not make it out alive. Others would be sick for the rest of their lives.

“This is the Christmas we are seeing here and it should never [have] It happened, ”she said, after weeks of slaving for unimaginable hours, comforting tearful nurses at the limit of their restraints, phoning shocked family members to tell them the worst. “The world of intensive care was screaming, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t let people mix. ‘

Fitzgerald, a chronicler of the first Golden Age, would have seen Johnson for what he is. His novels are peppered with his type: men and women so wrapped up in money and privilege that they can’t see the debris strewn behind them. See your copy of The Great Gatsby and near the end of that 1925 novel You will find a one-sentence portrait of our 2021 Prime Minister and his ensemble. “They were careless people … they trashed things and creatures and then they retreated to their money or their great carelessness, or whatever it was that held them together, and they let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

From Bullingdon to Brexit, that has always been Johnson’s style. For years before entering number 10, he tried to convince us that what he did was not who he was. He wore a clown’s nose, all the better to distract himself from his taunting at “bumboys” and “piccaninnies.” He told fantastic stories, hoping we wouldn’t mind the casual spreading of lies. He wore crisp fleeces and abandoned hats, half joking that the £ 275,000 a year paid by the Telegraph was “chicken food.”

When Vote Leave came along, the role of insurgent chieftain was taken over by this Old Etonian Oxford graduate who is too fancy for John Lewis. Brexit gave him the cover he needed to break the rules and undermine democracy, prorogue parliament and harass the remaining judges, journalists and MPs. It could all pose as a great cause.

Only now the fireworks are over, what’s left is to haggle over the fine print of trade deals and the vast emptiness of Johnson’s ambition: his lust for power without the remotest idea of ​​what to use it for. The pieties about “leveling up” are not enough: this is a project without definition or program of policies. Your only measure of success will be if you help Johnson win the next election.

People like Johnson have always existed, as Fitzgerald reminds us. The most troubling question is how he became prime minister. Part of the answer lies in sociologist Aeron Davis’ masterful study of the new power elites, Reckless opportunists. Based on 20 years of interviews with people at the top of Westminster, the city, and the media, Davis’s book argues that the new generation of leaders is “precarious, uprooted and increasingly selfish.”

They make it to the top early, with a run around the scoring headlines or a few million pounds, and then they stumble through the revolving door. They have no ideology or shame, and their main legacy is to undermine the very institution they head. It’s so true in George “nine jobs”Osborne and David“ Greensill ”Cameron as it is from Johnson.

What makes this so dangerous is that the UK has cricket metaphors where a written constitution should be. Confront British democracy, with its reliance on good manners and fair play, against an overwhelming majority won by an overwhelming prime minister who expels permanent secretary after permanent secretary and the fight is not fair. Put it in the context of a global pandemic, which requires decisions to be made without the usual scrutiny, and it doesn’t stand a chance.

Instead, he gets the VIP lane to provide expensive personal protective equipment that turns out to be unusable, text messages from the number 10 to moguls who offer favorable tax treatment for fans, and a former prime minister who messages his colleagues on behalf. from your new employer. The same group that claimed to hate the state is now seriously trying to get rid of it. Sloppy people, as Fitzgerald described them, although I could add a rating. They care a lot, but not for you and me.

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