Johnson is no Machiavelli: his ruthless streak serves only himself

Ťhe Queen has recognised the achievements of doctors, nurses and ancillary staff by awarding the National Health Service the George Cross. Honours do not come much higher than that. And the government of Prime Minister Johnson and Chancellor Sunak? It has rewarded NHS workers with a 2% wage cut.

The figure of 2% is the real wage cut that results from the already miserly 1% pay award once the impact on it of an estimated 3% rise in prices is taken into account.

这, remember, is the prime minister whose life was saved by the staff of St Thomas’ hospital in London. 当时, Johnson was, not surprisingly, full of praise for the NHS, and the general public made the mistake for a time of thinking this very rightwing Conservative party had had, 原来如此, a change of heart in regard to the public and social services.

Alas, 不. The general public was conned, just as it has been over 布雷西. Somebody recently said to me that the trouble with Johnson is that he is machiavellian. But this is to do a disservice to Machiavelli. As readers of The Prince know, Machiavelli was not machiavellian in the sense that that word has become known. What he recommended to leaders as the means to achieve their aims was not subtlety, but ruthlessness.

Johnson himself is machiavellian in that sense: he has been ruthless in his rise to the top, starting with the false prospectus of what was promised in the referendum campaign – the rest being recent history. As the former Irish ambassador to the UK Bobby McDonagh reminds us in the current issue of the New European: “The decision by the British government to insist on a hard form of Brexit [曾是] neither required by the 2016 referendum nor explained to the British people at the time.”

But Johnson is not machiavellian in the second sense. Machiavelli believed ruthlessness should be directed towards the good of the state and the people. It becomes more obvious by the day that the hard Brexit that involved leaving the customs union and the single market is a disaster for many sectors of the economy, both industrial and service-based. Also for an entire younger generation that had become accustomed to being Europeans.

Among a welter of dangerous nonsense being perpetrated by our so called Brexit “negotiator”, 弗罗斯特勋爵, is his response to Elton John’s explanation of the serious barriers to our musicians’ chances of touring in Europe. According to Frost, if musicians are good enough, they can work in the EU. 对不起, Frost, but it doesn’t matter how good they are: with your “deal” you have made it virtually impossible for our world-class musicians to perform in the EU and earn the money that might make up for the loss of tax income resulting from your crass support for leaving it.

Sunak is struggling with the public finances, not least because of the impact of the Brexit he has championed – at least until now – which is lopping off up to 5% of the UK’s GDP, with serious deleterious effects on tax revenue.

现在, whereas Machiavelli was interested in the good of the state, Johnson is, manifestly, only interested in the good – if one can call it that – of himself. 因此, 去年, he is alleged to have gone absent without leave in order to work on a book that – according to his publisher, 作为 quoted in the Financial Times – would tell us whether Shakespeare is “all he’s cracked up to be”.

Whatever the truth of this story, it is widely accepted that there was a crucial delay in the imposition of lockdown early last year, thereby causing thousands of needless deaths. There was another deathly delay when Johnson, allegedly holding out hope of a photo opportunity with India’s Prime Minister Modi, delayed the further lockdown measures which he, 到底, had to introduce anyway. 同时, the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, entered the country and took hold.

Johnson’s latest disaster is the announcement that on 19 July caution will be thrown to the winds, and masks and social distancing abandoned. This is reckless, as the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says. And so do those estimable scientists Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to HMG, and Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel prizewinner and head of the Crick Institute.

Starmer is right about the way Johnson has been mishandling the biggest health crisis of our time. But I have to say that I think Starmer has been hopelessly wrong in the way he has recently approached this government on Brexit. The fact of the matter is that Starmer was right to be a Remainer, and right to call for a second referendum. Brexit is a complete disaster. It is an open goal for the opposition. Why doesn’t it start shooting?