Monday 2 December 2019

The Lying Lies of Boris Johnson

How do you know when Boris Johnson is lying? When he opens his mouth. Lies come as easily to Boris Johnson as breathing does to the rest of us, but his disgusting reaction to the terrorist murders of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt marks a new low even for him. To suspend campaigning in London as a sign of respect while appearing on Andrew Marr to blame Labour for the early release of Usman Khan was grotesque. It was probably the most graceless performance a leading politician has ever given on his show. And then, despite pleadings of Dave Merritt against using Jack's death to ramp what he dubbed an agenda of hate, Johnson and the newspaper editorial offices under Tory control did exactly that.

Writing in the Mail On Sunday, Johnson combined lies and shamelessness with some of the most disgusting opportunism ever seen in British politics. Under the headline, 'Give me a majority and I'll keep you safe from terror', Johnson argues he did make moves to keep violent criminals and terrorists in jail for longer, but was prevented from doing so. He said "... due to the broken hung Parliament that was preoccupied with blocking Brexit, we could do no more." A demonstrable untruth. Johnson then goes on to attack Labour who want to "give more powers to human rights lawyers" with the net result it "would make us less safe."

Johnson is carrying on almost as if the Tories haven't been in power for nearly a decade, and that the gutting of the criminal justice system, rehabilitation, community policing and provision of youth services is an imaginary happenstance. In fact, this is precisely why Johnson has gone and trampled all over the victims' family wishes. He knows a hard line plays well with a base with more than a psychotic tinge about them. Their self-identification as graduates from the school of hard knocks for whom a good hiding is the best solution for all crimes at all times would presumedly lap it up. And he'd much rather have his opponents gasping at his tough-on-terror brutalism than talking about how the Tories have failed and failed miserably on counter-terrorism and security. All so the rich can enjoy more tax breaks.

The lesson from the last general election was how May also tried to capitalise on two terror attacks, one of which was the weekend before polling day, but was derailed precisely because of the Tory record on funding and cuts. By going harder Johnson hopes to drown out the critique though, it has to be said, without much success. Not even Andrew Marr, who at his most savage is like getting worried by candy floss, could sit idly by as Johnson kept repeating the lies and the bluster.

Are there risks in what Johnson is trying to do? Certainly. Lies were always going to feature in their campaign. But Johnson's carry on is no episodic dead cat to move the conversation in a direction he thinks advantageous to the Tories, it is the central characteristic of the party's strategy. Part of it is thanks to their having a programme that won't make life better for anyone, and so all they have in the tank is scaremongering and falsehoods. But mainly Johnson's lying is about muddying the political waters for everyone. We know he lies profusely free from constraint and consequence. And if that's the case, why not other politicians? The LibDems are almost as bad, though their lying is rooted in structural desperation. No, by lying his head off Johnson is deliberately cultivating the default cynicism that politics is awful, and cannot be trusted ever to make anything better. And this is especially corrosive, he thinks, of projects that do promise a break with the normal, offers hope, and holds out the possibility of positive change. If masses of people feel as if things can't ever get better, they're not going to vote for it. And so while Johnson spins his webs of deceit, so Labour's programme appears fanciful if not undeliverable. I mean, how stupid do you have to be to take a politician at their word?

This is why Johnson lies. They're more than foibles, rather it's a deliberate attempt to suppress Labour's support and keep things as they are. But the strategy isn't magic, and it's in our power to show it can be beaten.

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Blissex said...

«No, by lying his head off Johnson is deliberately cultivating the default cynicism that politics is awful, and cannot be trusted ever to make anything better. And this is especially corrosive, he thinks, of projects that do promise a break with the normal, offers hope,»

That surely is a side effect, even if welcome by his side.
The lies that Johnson is making up are irrelevant electorally, at least to his prospective voters:

* Someone said of Trump that his voters take him seriously but not literally, while "wonks" take him literally but not seriously.
* Tony Blair in his 1996 "Sierra man" speech said similarly “You see, people judge us on their instincts about what they believe our instincts to be”.

So real voters, who are mostly low-information, rely on their instincts, not what candidates say in detail, as to whether politicians are on their side.
In the case of Johnson his voters would feel betrayed if it turned out that he is not going to push up property prices and push down wages while acting like a cad. That he is an act is well understood, the important thing is whether he is aligned to the interests of his voters, and I think that Johnson won't let them down.

Similarly most voters don't care about the details of the Labour programme or the anti-semitism, trot, too old to be PM, smears, they know that he is a vaguely progressive, compassionate sort of vicar, and given choices to make on the hop, his instincts will be to protect renters, workers,. the worse off and regardless not cause too much trouble.

BTW despite his being part of the New Labour project, and claiming that he had been thoroughly corrupted by the London establishment, Gordon Brown still kept to the last similar instincts, here is some criticism of him during the 2010 campaign:

"The problem with Gordon," a senior minister said to me recently, "is that he doesn't understand why anyone would ever want to build a conservatory." [...] Although Mr Brown talks a lot about aspiration, he means it in the sense that people at the bottom of the pile should be able to get to the middle, rather than that those in the middle should aspire to get a little bit further towards the top. His preoccupations with child poverty, Africa and banning plastic bags are all very worthy - but they leave the conservatory-building classes thinking: what about us?

The Government's obsession with stopping the middle classes "rigging" the school admissions system - rather than actually improving the results - exacerbates the sense that Mr Brown is frowning at parents who want to do the best for their children. His talk of "opportunity for all" somehow conveys a vague sense of disapproval of ballet lessons and Carluccio's and Charlie and Lola. The Budget, with its tax rises for wine drinkers and 4x4 drivers, confirmed the feeling of these hard-working families that they were under attack.

Southern property owners and finance spivs know that whatever else he says Johnson is on the side of their wallets, unlike Gordon Brown or Jeremy Corbyn.

Robert said...

Further proof that Johnson is a total turd. Yet it looks like he could win an overall majority. Too many people want to vote for a nasty party