TORY Party managers must love it when Dominic Cummings pops up with his revelations about daily life in the Boris Johnson fun factory. “Boris thinks Matt Hancock is a horse’s arse.” (Wild cheering). “Boris wanted to let the bodies pile up” (Hurrahs and high fives). “He didn’t understand basic science.” (Air-punching and manly hugs).
Ever since Mr Cummings began revealing his former master’s somewhat idiosyncratic approach to governing in a pandemic, the Tories’s numbers have climbed inexorably.
This week’s revelations by Cummings, aired in an interview with BBC political editor Laura Kuennsberg, would have seen off most other politicians. Among them was a WhatsApp message from the Prime Minister in which he stated he was reluctant to tighten Covid restrictions last autumn because he thought people dying from the virus were “essentially all over 80”. He also said “I no longer buy all the NHS overwhelmed stuff” and that he wanted to let Covid “wash through the country”.
Cummings must now be wondering what it will take to land a proper blow on the Prime Minister. So far he’s exposed Boris Johnson as a liar who is willing to send hundreds of thousands of UK citizens to a painful and lingering death rather than damage the economy.
We’ll leave aside, for now, the basic fact of economics: that you actually need live people buying stuff in order to maintain it. Perhaps we’ll discover that Johnson or other members of his Cabinet have shares in a large undertaker’s business. After all, they seem to have shares in just about every other sector of the UK economy and are never shy about using their positions to advance them.
Short of proposing that we start withholding food from people in the hope they’ll develop herd immunity to the effects of starvation, it seems that nothing Johnson does affects his popularity with the English voters.
Indeed, you get the impression that even if the Prime Minister did ever propose mass starvation or rationing water that he’d find a way of spinning it positively to the world’s most gullible and understanding electorate. “We just want to give everyone a Spartan diet to equip them for war if the Russians or Chinese ever invaded us” (For he’s a jolly good fellow). Even the Tories the party pushes forward to defend the Prime Minister on these occasions seem bored by it. Iain Duncan Smith couldn’t even affect to be alarmed by it all. When interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire yesterday morning, Iain Duncan Smith gave the impression of someone who was checking the time of his next appointment. He couldn’t have cared less.
When pressed to defend Johnson’s Kill-All-Codgers approach he said it was simply a matter of context, barely managing to stifle yawns. It wasn’t that the interviewer was failing to do her job properly, just that defending your chaotic boss is no big deal when you know that most of the electorate couldn’t care less either.
Nor, it seems, can the Labour Party. Sir Keir Starmer, their multi-millionaire leader, is reportedly more enthusiastic about hunting down the party’s last few remaining Socialists. You can catch him most weeks in the House of Commons wearily dragging himself to his feet to affect outrage at the latest Tory iniquity in the manner of someone anxious to be back checking his mobile phone for news of his horse in the 2.30.
The Labour leader seems merely to be playing for extra time and penalties in the expectation that he’ll eventually assume office when the English electorate simply want a change. All he has to do is keep his head down; maintain the pretence of opposition; and refrain from scaring the tabloids with any radical talk protecting the workers or combating economic inequality. He just needs to be oven-ready for Middle England when his big moment arrives.
BORIS Johnson has actually discovered the Golden Thread of politics. He has successfully achieved a sort of political herd immunity in England to the effects of Toryism. That which they would have found to be toxic and unacceptable some years ago is now considered to be normal.
The lethal strain of Toryism as practised by Johnson (and Dominic Cummings) has now gone right through England and even begun to double back. And England, it seems, rather likes it.
As the coronavirus pandemic began to exert its authority on the UK, some of us believed that once its long-term economic effects began to kick in that people would finally be moved to demand government by a party sympathetic to the needs of the majority. Now, I’m not so sure.
Johnson’s attitude of buckling up and letting the pandemic do its worse is no more than the distillation of Conservative values. The bodies they’re happy to see piling up will be disproportionately from the bottom economic rungs of society.
All studies of the social consequences of Covid consistently show that economically deprived neighbourhoods are bearing the brunt of the pandemic: more people from these places will die than those in more affluent communities. More of them will be thrown out of work and more of their children will be adversely affected by the long interruptions to their education. So why should the Tories care too much?
The greater majority of Covid’s victims are people who wouldn’t likely be Tory voters anyway. The only difference between the current Tory administration and previous ones lies in transparency. Other Tory governments attempted to cover their work with pledges and pained looks. On becoming prime minister, Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May sounded as though she’d been taking prescribed radical pills. Margaret Thatcher even recited St Francis of Assisi, for heaven’s sake.
This one has merely dropped the pretence. It has calculated correctly that an electorate which swallowed the stuff about a weekly £350 million Brexit dividend for the NHS and thinks Nigel Farage is a towering statesman would hardly flinch at peak Toryism.
I’m still hopeful that in those Red Wall constituencies of northern England when the full effects of Covid become palpable and tangible that they will finally sicken of the Tories. But for this to happen the UK Labour Party would have to be offering alternative solutions and visions. Yet, currently it’s under the control of a man who wants to build partnerships with big business and who thinks that by being patriotic and supportive of the armed forces we’ll get there in the end. Dominic Cummings also said that Boris Johnson was somewhat relaxed about the possibility of giving Covid to the Queen. I expect the Prime Minister to crack a joke about “Less Majesty” at PMQs tomorrow.