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Editor's Column: In the name of God

Boris Johnson pictured on his trip to India. Credit: Alamy

Editor's Column: In the name of God

Just as ex-Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell famously advised his boss, Tony Blair, that “we don’t do God,” you would of course expect someone of Boris Johnson’s tin-eared propensity to actually take, head-on, God Almighty himself.

And so, when religious leaders across the UK condemned the Prime Minister for what can only be described as his ungodly – even to us atheists – approach to dealing with vulnerable people fleeing atrocities and seeking asylum in a country with a long and proud history of offering sanctuary like ours, it was pure Boris to then point the finger at the holy men, throw in a dead cat, and accuse them of not talking about Putin enough.

Boris Johnson’s plan to forcibly deport asylum seekers, who arrive on our shores by way of a death-defying crossing of the Channel in unseaworthy vessels and without the proper papers, to east Africa is utterly grotesque. A new nadir even for this shameful leader and his obsequious home secretary. 

And it is entirely understandable when the proposal has already met with consternation from human rights organisations all over the world, including the UN, that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, whose job description demands he give agency to the displaced and the desperate, should add his powerful voice to the protests.

He is a follower of Jesus, someone who has the sanctity of life running through his core. So, when he said that the government intention to send asylum seekers to Rwanda doesn’t stand “the judgement of God” in his Easter address, perhaps that should have given the PM a moment of reflection – a time to search his soul for charity. Instead, Johnson took up arms against the saintly.

There is something fundamentally broken about a parliamentary system where the Prime Minister misleads the House of Commons, says he will resign if he is proven to have done so, and then tries to block a vote on whether there should be a parliamentary investigation into whether he told MPs that lie or not. 

In a private meeting of his MPs, hastily arranged to save his skin over so-called ‘partygate,’ he instead put up religious leaders for sacrifice to deflect from his own sins. And notwithstanding the fact that Welby had actually called the invasion of Ukraine “an act of great evil,” Johnson’s parliamentarians lapped up his all-too-common distortion of the truth with their usual evangelical enthusiasm.

Imagine being a Tory MP so in thrall to a man like Johnson that you would laugh, whoop, and bang on a table in delight as he castigated the Church for doing what the Church should be doing, in pointing out man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man?

Imagine being a minister of great state rendered so toadying, that despite the fact that your own parents sought asylum in the UK as they fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and you should perhaps be examining your own conscience in these matters, you are prepared to engage in linguistic gymnastics that are so convoluted – that even you can’t follow your own argument – to justify the inexcusable and thus you act as a human shield for a leader who no longer deserves it. 

Imagine being a civil servant now so servile to a bad government that the only objection to such a barbaric solution to a refugee problem is based on whether it offers value for money, and yet you can’t even provide the evidence of that?

And imagine how far we have really fallen down the rabbit hole when a Prime Minister can say that he didn’t knowingly break the laws that he is responsible for making; can be found guilty and pay the fine for doing so and still feign innocence; can say he was “furious” and accept the resignation of a senior member of his staff for simply laughing on camera in a mere rehearsal about the very idea that parties might have been held and yet he knew he was at them; that can be pictured breaking the rules and still deny that he was there?

And be a Prime Minister that can still stand by the make believe that you said nothing wrong in parliament when you repeatedly said that no parties had taken place, no rules had been broken, and you had not been there? Johnson either did lie to parliament or he did not understand his own laws. Either way, that makes him unfit to lead.

Johnson has undermined all pillars of our establishment. He tried to defy the highest court of law in our land, he has smeared the press, has paid disregard for the Queen and he now operates Westminster like his personal fiefdom. 

There is something fundamentally broken about a parliamentary system where the Prime Minister misleads the House of Commons, says he will resign if he is proven to have done so, and then tries to block a vote on whether there should be a parliamentary investigation into whether he told MPs that lie or not. 

But even as MPs got to take that vote, Johnson was 5,000 miles away in India in a country, let us not forget, that has done a lot less to criticise the invasion of Ukraine than the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Johnson, of course, says none of it matters. That the people aren’t interested. That he will fight the next general election as leader. 

But make no mistake, his days are numbered. His party acolytes are rebelling and polling already shows that 78 per cent of voters believe Johnson lied about the parties held in Downing Street during lockdown – and that includes 61 per cent of people who voted Tory in 2019.
Putin, ‘partygate’, puerility.

Johnson has undermined all pillars of our establishment. He tried to defy the highest court of law in our land, he has smeared the press, has paid disregard for the Queen and he now operates Westminster like his personal fiefdom. 

Deflection, dishonesty, and disregard for any semblance of integrity, these have become the hallmarks of this government. He occupies a world where everybody else’s behaviour has consequences, apart from his own, and he can’t even contain a smile as a mealy-mouthed apology slips reluctantly from his lips. 

The removal of a party leader rarely happens in one clean cut. Johnson’s authority has been drip, drip, dripping away, from the moment he took over at No 10. The vote to refer him to the privileges committee is just another stage on the journey to his final reckoning. There are still the outstanding police investigations, the possibility of more fines, the Sue Gray report, and the local elections to come. 

He locked the country down during a pandemic. People died without their loved ones by their side. He was at parties. And he subsequently lied. He has denigrated our politics, made a fool of his colleagues and a mockery of us all. This is no longer about if Boris will survive, it is about when it will finally end. 
 

Read the most recent article written by Mandy Rhodes - Editor's Column: A Return to the Dark Ages

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