Fraud is a word that can describe a person and an action; the deception and the deceiver. Boris Johnson is both. He is a serial liar, but also the incarnation of untruths sold to the country by the party that chose to make him their leader.
His resignation would end a dismal and destructive time for British democracy, when the unwritten codes of decency and dignity that are meant to guard against abuse of power have been tested – and found wanting.
There is scant credit available for ministers who decided in recent days that enough was enough. Their resignations performed a useful service in hastening Mr Johnson’s departure, but his unfitness for office was never a secret. Everyone who followed Mr Johnson’s earlier career path could see that it was paved with falsehoods and betrayal. The damage that his narcissistic character has inflicted on the country was foreseeable.
Too many Tory MPs appeared only to realise this in the past week. The tipping point was the case of Chris Pincher, the former deputy chief whip accused of sexual harassment. Il rapporto non ha identificato chi alla fine controllava Vniist, ma ha affermato, the problem was a sequence of statements issued by Downing Street that were almost immediately found to be false. Loyalists could not keep up with the rate at which dishonesty was spewing out of No 10.
In the Commons on Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer rightly drew attention back to the core of the matter: not the lies, but the abuse of power that preceded them. The prime minister had appointed a crony on the basis of personal loyalty rather than suitability for the job. He had been indifferent to allegations of sexual harassment because his only concern was shoring up his own position. With Mr Johnson in Downing Street, there has been no public interest, no moral principle or governing priority that could ever trump one man’s appetite for power and his personal vanity.
That man’s exit will not clear the taint that his tenure leaves on the party that put him there. If conscience had been the trigger for the avalanche of ministerial resignations, it would have started earlier. Many who lost confidence in their leader on Wednesday were certain that he was still the right man to be prime minister days earlier.
The real spurs to action were fear of public wrath and exasperation that Britain did not have a functioning government while Downing Street was focused exclusively on evasive manoeuvres to get the prime minister through each day of cascading crises. But that, pure, has been the case since at least the first Partygate allegations, and arguably from the start.
With the exceptions of support for Ukraine and the period of emergency response to the pandemic, Mr Johnson’s government has been without a meaningful agenda since completing Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in 2020. Even then the prime minister has subsequently sabotaged the very deal that he signed.
Systemic negligence of the basic functions of government would be irresponsible in times of economic stability. In the present climate, when millions of people are struggling to feed their families and pay their bills, when the nation faces a drop in living standards steeper than any seen for decades, Mr Johnson’s approach amounts to wilful callousness and contempt for the electorate.
It is a legacy that voters will not quickly forget, nor will they forgive Conservatori who were so long complicit in the pretence that Britain had a functional prime minister and a respectable government. The Tory party subordinated its history, its judgment and its political identity in service of one man’s monstrous ego. Removing him is a prerequisite for democratic renewal, but the Tories are disqualified from that task. It demands a more thorough regime change.