Our opinion then was that Johnson had lost the moral authority to lead the country. It is a view that has not changed and, if anything, has become stronger following the news that the Metropolitan Police is to issue fixed-penalty notices to Johnson, along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, for attending illegal gatherings. There is now absolutely no doubt about what took place.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner pointed out what we all know to be true about the Partygate scandal – Johnson “told the country all the rules were followed in Downing Street, but that was a lie. Widespread criminality took place at the heart of government.
In a functioning democracy, there have to be consequences for this kind of behaviour. If not, we are set on a path towards the increasing corruption of our democracy. It should be deeply alarming that it needs to be said at all, but the truth does matter and obeying the law does matter. In the UK, our leaders do not lie and mislead parliament with impunity – that’s what happens in countries run by tin-pot dictators.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak both to be fined over partygate gatherings
Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross, who has dropped his earlier call for Johnson to resign, said following news of the ends that forcing Johnson to quit now would “destabilize the UK government when we need to be united in the face of Russian aggression and the murdering innocent Ukrainians”.
This is nonsense. For while there is a terrible war raging in Ukraine, Johnson’s position as UK Prime Minister is far from central to the outcome. A brief constitutional wobble in Britain while we find an honest leader is hardly going to cause anything other than a minor ripple – particularly given the unanimous backing of Ukraine across the political spectrum.
Indeed, a new leader would be free of the stain on Johnson’s character and would be able to talk about the importance of the rule of law on the international stage in a way that would stand a chance of being taken seriously.
Domestically, the Conservatives under Johnson will no longer be able to describe themselves as the ‘party of law and order’ without inducing a chorus of derision. With what authority can Johnson and co claim to be tough on crime when they themselves are such unrepentant lawbreakers?
And the fact that the make-up of many councils may well be decided at next month’s elections, not on local issues, but the immorality of the UK’s leaders is just one example of how corrosive this scandal is likely to be.
Conservatives who think they must support Johnson for party political reasons – there are hardly any others – are deluding themselves.
But worse, they are legitimizing criminality and deceit in high office and, by doing so, putting the Union in mortal danger. With dishonesty tolerated at the heart of Westminster, it should not be a surprise if, when offered an alternative future in an independent Scotland, some voters decide to take the plunge out of despair at the state of British politics.
Johnson, Sunak and any other Cabinet ministers who broke the lockdown rules – while others lost lives and livelihoods, missed the funerals of loved ones, suffered severe loneliness and isolation, and yet still obeyed the law because they wanted to save lives by preventing the spread of a deadly disease – must resign.
The fact that they cannot see this, that they do not seem to understand this is their only honorable course of action, makes them appear grubby, foolishly arrogant and ruinously self-interested.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.