Sunday, 19 June 2022

Boris Johnson's "Luck"

Luck is not handed down by the fates. It's something you make. Consider Boris Johnson, the politician who has had more scrapes than any other significant Westminster figure this century. His survival after multiple scandals aren't quirks of fate, but the result of careful calculation. Going back to 2019, his taking over after Theresa May was pretty much a foregone conclusion. And then observing the opposition he faced across the Commons, he understood the only route to winning a majority was uniting the bulk of the 2016 Leave vote behind him. Facing down remainers in the parliamentary Tory party, he was able to convince most MPs of the electoral viability of his approach while rudely thrusting internal obstacles aside and making sure he played to backbench prejudices. This was not luck, this was cunning. It was political judgement.

Once the majority was won, over the last couple of years Johnson has expanded the payroll in parliament, giving him a large cadre of MPs who owe their extra bits of income to his largesse. Again, he didn't win the no confidence vote because fortune smiled on him. It was self-preservation before the fact. The discontented, as we know, were handily outnumbered by true believers and those whose voted follow their wallets.

And Johnson has mostly enjoyed the protection and patronage of the right wing press. They occasionally publish critical stories because even here, they're not monoliths. The papers have their pro- and anti-Johnson hacks, editors, and opinion writers, and sometimes a scandal is too big to ignore on pain of losing readers and market share. But when it comes down to it they will always plump for the Tories over Labour, unless the latter is congenially right wing enough. If the editors aren't resolute, the owners are and they know their best interests are served by keeping their buffoonish Prime Minister in office. Hence they've proven the keenest to "move on" from PartyGate. Again, not luck. But assiduously cultivated friends in high places.

Take the case of the disappearing news story as a case in point. Early editions of the Sunday Times splashed with news that Johnson had lined up Carrie Symonds, now Johnson, for his chief of staff job at the foreign office back in 2018. Not only would this have netted her a cool £100k non-job, this was while they were in the throes of their affair. Quite literally, according to an unnamed MP who walked in and caught them in flagrante. Another clear breach of the ministerial code then, and one well known in Westminster circles since Lord Ashcroft made it public in his hatchet job on our Covid-defying ABBA party hostess. What's curious is how the story made the Times early print editions, but vanished from later printings. Deepening the plot, a rewrite that appeared on the Mail Online vanished almost as quickly as it was posted.

According to the rumour mill, the order to pull the story came from on high. Which is curious: it was already out there, guaranteed to circulate far and wide on social media. And in the Mail's case, the extract from Ashcroft's book that contains the original allegation is still available on their website. Incredible.

But again, what this episode reminds us is that Boris Johnson isn't lucky. He has some of the most powerful people in the country batting for him. Some might call this luck. Others might call it an entirely corrupt set up.

Image Credit

No comments: