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Thoughts on the resignation of Boris Johnson today

I put these remarks into a comment thread below but thought I might as well bung them here, loud and proud:

I am saddened that Boris Johnson’s administration has ended this way, but not surprised. His personal failings, such as inability to run and manage a team, meant that he was unable/unwilling to push forward on a handful of areas where a government can make headway. As a result, the “Whitehall Blob” was able to stand in his way. He had no talent for strategy and process. It sounds deadly dull and management-speak, but it is important. Dominic Cummings is an overrated character, who seemed to alienate people unnecessarily. He was a technocrat, not an original thinker. Even so, he gave a certain sense of drive to Johnson. Once Cummings left in the lockdown kerfuffle, things began to unravel.

I read the conspiracy theory sort of charge that the media and much of the political class who wanted the UK to stay in the EU were determined to destroy him, so angry were they that the UK has had the cheek to leave the tender cares of the EU. There’s some truth to this, of course. He achieved an excellent 2019 General Election result, and was also fortunate to be up against an extreme Leftist and anti-semitic guttersnipe such as Jeremy Corbyn. And he also got a tailwind from cultural realignments of political loyalties, with voters in the Midlands and North, for example, turning against Labour decisively. But from then on the fizzle went out of Boris. Yes, he signed a treaty to take the UK out of the EU, but work needed to be done on the Northern Ireland border, and if necessary, we should have threatened to abandon the deal. The EU did not think we would do so, and the likes of Barnier in the EU and Macron in France have weaponised the Northern Ireland border issue shamelessly. Johnson never quite gave the impression he was prepared to push back hard enough. (The idea that the NI border is some insuperable obstacle for a meaningful deal is bunk.)

And then there was covid. Unlike some, I don’t give him a hard time for the first lockdown, but the cronyism about medical contracts, the “save the NHS” sentimentalism, the failure to stress that furloughs were very temporary, was a mistake. As was the failure to do a proper costed analysis of lockdowns, and be honest, quickly, with the public about the costs. That was a failure of leadership. There were results on the vaccines, but even then, and without following the anti-vaxxers on this, I thought too much stress was put on these, rather than a range of treatments, including so-called “early treatments”. (Johnson also, like far too many other leaders, gave China an easy ride on what caused this clusterfuck and its culpability for said.)

Then there was the whole “Green transition”, “build back better”, “Great Reset” nonsense, at a time when the likely spike in inflation/energy costs could have been predicted by anyone who had not forgotten monetary realities. The commitment to Net Zero, as our late Samizdata commenter Brian Micklethwait told me not long before he died, was a fatal mistake for Johnson, as it will be for several other political leaders around the world.

Then there were the tax hikes to pay for unreformed public services, such as the rise to National Insurance Contributions, the freezing of tax brackets, etc. There were no clear attempts to recalibrate our universities and reduce an obsession with sending every student with a pulse to university. And finally, there was no concerted attempt to use the freedoms we regained outside of the European Union and its customs union to slash tariffs, repeal EU legacy legislation, and put sunset clauses into any new laws. (I liked the Trump idea that for every new regulation hitting the statute book, two must be removed.)

There was a lot to do after the GE in 2019, and it would have taxed the skills of the most effective of Prime Ministers, such as a Peel, Thatcher or Gladstone. Boris is a colourful character, whom I have met a few times, and like personally. It was plain he was not in the mould of such political statesmen and women, however.

It is also worth noting that some of the dislike seems to be borne of a priggish dislike of someone who seems to have had a gilded life, and I find that rather unpleasant.

A final, added thought here is that the zero-sum world of politics, with its plots, nastiness and scrapping for the spoils of office, its use of tax and spend to push this or that cause, contrasts with the positive-sum world of free enterprise, where success comes from adding value, not predation. For a person to live with honour, business is far preferable to politics.

41 comments to Thoughts on the resignation of Boris Johnson today

  • AndrewZ

    If you live in Britain in a constituency with a Conservative MP, write to them and tell them, politely, what you want from the next Prime Minister. Extol the virtues of free trade, low taxes and deregulation. Remind them that the views and interests of the establishment “blob” are not those of the majority, and that most voters are not “woke” and don’t want it forced on them. Point out all the opportunities for a party that is willing to make a break with Blairite managerialism, green doom-mongering and the constant expansion of the state bureaucracy.

    Of course, it might not have any effect. But the best time to try is when Conservative MPs are already asking themselves what the future direction of the party should be, and are actively looking for any hints as to what would be most popular.

  • Snorri Godhi

    For a person to live with honour, business is far preferable to politics.

    Well… we can agree that making money from business is far more honorable than making money from politics (which many business people do).

    But it is very honorable indeed to go into politics with the intention of fighting the establishment, and avoid getting corrupted. As i understand Paul Marks did.

    PS: I do not consider Corbyn and “the Squad” to be enemies of the establishment. On the contrary, i consider them henchmen of the establishment — although loose cannons.

  • Dave Ward

    I liked the Trump idea that for every new regulation hitting the statute book, two must be removed

    Many years ago, my [Conservative] MP excitedly told me about just this idea, and how they were all set to introduce it. Whether it ever made any headway – even briefly – I don’t know.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I find nothing to disagree with here. “Yup, yup, double yup.”

    Maybe, his greatest flaw was the need to be liked. Hence, Covid policies and the whole Net Zero thing. The bizarre thing is that here we have a man who, like us, went through the Thatcher Revolution. How could those lessons, so painfully learnt, be so easily forgotten?

    I also wonder if his difficult relationship with the truth would have been quite so problematic if he’d been a typical cookie-cutter politician obediently carrying out the Establishment’s wishes.

    And the whole Cummings business. What on earth was going on there? Why did he sack him?

  • bobby b

    Should have just sacked his wife.

    (Of course, I might just be buying into some CW fable when I say that. But seems like a popular CW.)

  • Martin

    I always thought it foolish to underestimate Boris, at least when it came to obtaining jobs. Despite a myriad of scandals, he was editor of the Spectator, twice elected Mayor of London,was Foreign secretary, became PM, and then won the biggest Tory majority since Thatcher.

    But it was evident he was actually better at getting the jobs than his performance in such jobs. The Spectator seems to have prospered better after he went. He was a pretty mediocre mayor, the saving grace being that he was less intolerable than his predecessor and successor. At least after the electoral victory in 2019, he was more often than not shambolic as PM, especially considering his majority.

  • test

    The blob never accepted Brexit, and have been campaigning full time since they lost the vote to overturn it. That is why they went after Boris so hard. They hope that now he is gone they can take us back into the EU.

  • Roué le Jour

    My view is that Boris is in line for one of those quarter million tax free special envoy to the Maldives sinecures as long as he stays on message, which he has done in the face of serious opposition. His next job will tell you all you need to know.

  • AndrewZ

    “His next job will tell you all you need to know”

    Johnson’s posturing at the COP 26 climate conference last year did seem rather like an audition for a future role in the global green NGOcracy. Presumably, that would suit Princess Nut Nuts very well too.

  • Albion’s Blue Front Door

    There was a feeling, at his General Election success, that Johnson might just be a new Churchill, ready to lead the fight against our modern enemies of state interference and global dictatorship. He might even be a Conservative and not just another spouter of socialist tropes, and just the man to finally separate us from the claws of the EU. The feeling didn’t last long.

    Reportedly his admission that he wasn’t in charge but just taking orders, possibly linked to a complete inability to handle the illegal immigration flood and his persistent statements on protecting the NHS when the COVID business required the NHS to be protecting us instead of closing their doors to many who were ill with other conditions, all contributed to his fall from public esteem. Maybe no one can be another Churchill because Winnie was built up in modern legend, but the hope for Boris was dust long before the partying kerfuffle. Our only fear now is who follows him.

  • Stuart Noyes

    I’m fed up with the obsession for lowering taxes without any mention of lowering spending. Our public debt rises by 5k a second.

  • Stuart Noyes

    There are more liberals in the Conservative party the the Lib Dems.

  • decnine

    When Boris became Prime Minister and appointed Dominic Cummings I told my wife that I was happy. Dominic Cummings has a gift for annoying all the people who most need to be annoyed. I also said to her that the day Dominic leaves will be the day that we would know that Boris was another blowhard who only talks a good fight.

  • Paul Marks

    This morning GB News was totally ignoring Steve Baker standing for the leadership – someone else was announced as “the first to stand”, ignoring what Mr Baker said yesterday.

    You see Johnathan Pearce – PERHAPS are not allowed to have a Prime Minister who REJECTS international “Build Back Better” and the rest of the World Economic Forum agenda, even President Marcus in the Philippines had to come out with “Build Back Better” in his inauguration speech, and (rather more importantly) had to crawl before a visitor from the People’s Republic of China.

    For the People’s Republic of China is what this is all about – Klaus Schwab and co do NOT rule the world, they are just front people for the power that does. The People’s Republic of China – which has the MANUFACTURIING power, and (increasingly) the military power.

    The last Western leader who tried to oppose the People’s Republic of China was President Trump – and he was removed by election fraud on a massive (blatant) scale.

    The message was very blunt – “we, the international elite, can make Joseph Biden (a senile child abuser – who has taken bribes from the People’s Republic of China for years) President of the United States and leader-of-the-free-world”.

    The international “liberal” elite are just a bunch of clowns who dance to the tune of the People’s Republic of China dictatorship.

    And, please note Putin fans, who do you think really controls the economy of RUSSIA these days?

    Mr Putin was also part of the World Economic Forum leadership program – Dr Schwab was boasting about that as recently as 2017. And Mr Putin sold Russia out – he sold the economy out to China, and he imposed “lockdowns” and so on.

  • Philippe Hermkens

    As a foreigner, what I really don’t understand is that almost nobody says that Boris Johnson is and has always been a pathological liar. So the question is : can you have a pathological liar at the top of an organisation, and precisely a country ?

  • Paul Marks

    decine – who do you think was the main voice in government supporting LOCKDOWNS?

    Dominic Cummings was the main voice in government supporting LOCKDOWNS.

    Mr Cummings is not the man you think he is – on the contrary he is a Technocrat, like Saint-Simon, Francis Bacon and so many others, Mr Cummings believes that statism is fine – as long as “scientific” people (such as himself) are in charge. The People’s Republic of China loves such people – as do their puppet organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, United Nations, World Economic Forum, and the rest of them.

  • Paul Marks

    Phillippe – if you think that Mr Johnson has been removed because he is a liar (and, technically, what he actually does is throw up a mist of words, obscuring the issue, rather than lies) then I have a nice bridge to sell you.

    Mr Johnson may never really have really believed in INDEPENDENCE (I detest the meaningless word “Brexit”) – but he is associated with independence. That is why he has been removed.

    As for eating cake with people one had worked with all day anyway. I would have said “yes I did – the regulations are utterly absurd, and I did NOT write them” indeed I would have said “the regulations were written out BEFORE Covid – and Covid was just used as an excuse to impose them”.

    But that is one of the reasons I am just a local, rather than a national, politician.

    One does not tell the truth and prosper in modern Western politics.

    As for the move against INDEPENDENCE – we shall see if the plan to destroy what little independence we have succeeds.

    Things are NOT hopeless – it is still POSSIBLE that someone will emerge as Prime Minister who will really establish independence – from the European Union and from the People’s Republic of China.

  • Paul Marks

    Was Mr Johnson a social Conservative – no, but then he never claimed to be one.

    Was Mr Johnson an economic conservative – NO, and he DID claim to be one. Talking about free enterprise and so on.

    That was the real “lie” Phillippe – Mr Johnson pretending to be a supporter of free enterprise, of roll back the state, whilst really being nothing of the kind.

    But if that is the lie – the Economist magazine is guilty of that lie almost every week. “We are a Classical Liberal, free market, roll back the state publication – now here is out latest orgy of statism”.

    The Economist magazine even claims to oppose the Communist Party Dictatorship of the People’s Republic of China, whilst (at the same time) supporting the PRC having a stranglehold on Western economies, and supporting destroying what is left of Western manufacturing by endless government spending, regulations and taxes (in the name of Greeness and what not).

    The hypocrisy of the international “Liberal” elite is sickening. And Mr Johnson was, really, NOT opposed to that international elite.

  • can you have a pathological liar at the top of an organisation, and precisely a country ?

    It is pretty much a prerequisite for the job 😉

  • Philippe Hermkens

    To Paul Marks : Your answer is : he is a pathological liar, but he is my pathological liar because he has delivered Brexit. And he is so hated for doing so that even he was the more honest and trustworthy man on earth they would find something to replace him. OK Probabaly true. But was it so impossible to find a top politician Brexiter who wasn’t a liar ?

    To Perry de Havilland : Everybody is not a pathological liar or a liar and at the top of an organisation : for instance, Margareth Tatcher, Tony Benn, a Belgian/Flemish politician as Bart De Wever, my former teacher of Constitutional law and President of a Belgian political party : François Perin and so one .. But I agree now the worse go to the top Why ?

  • As many here know, I worked under Dominic Cummings at Vote Leave for Scotland. It was always made clear that both BoJo and Micheal Gove were the only serious beasts in the BRExit campaign, but Michael Gove’s backstabbing at the end led to Remoaner Treason May becoming PM instead of BoJo, so the BRExit we got was incomplete, weak and watery.

    He could have made things right after 2019, but instead with got WEF Covid, Lockdowns and Net Zero eco lunacy (aided and abetted by his mistress come wife).

    So yes, severely disappointed at BoJo, but given his track record of lies, evasion and weakness, probably not that surprising. I’m sad to see him go, but he wasn’t doing anyone any good as PM, so time to roll the dice and see if we get someone better.

    I’m not immediately inspired by any of them, to be honest.

    Another Remoaner like Jeremy Cnut or useless tool like Matt Hancock would be a disaster though.

  • A great point. For some reason I can’t fathom, successive Conservative governments have behaved as though everyone in the UK reads The Guardian, rather than a few folk in Crouch End and Hampstead.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Lord Ridley might be a good replacement for Boris, but i see from Wikipedia that he is no longer a member of the House of Lords. In many countries, not having a seat in Parliament would not prevent him from becoming PM, but the UK is behind the times in this.

  • bobby b

    Interesting article re: BJ in today’s New York Post:

    Lesson of Boris Johnson is power is pointless without principles

    Got you through Brexit, and then decided he wanted to be popular.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes bobby b – Mr Johnson turned out to be what I (WRONGLY) feared Donald Trump would be.

    I assumed in 2016 that Mr Trump would just be a closet New York “liberal”, a puppet of the leftists if elected President – I was WRONG, and I am happy to admit that I was WRONG.

    But that is what Alexander “Boris” Johnson turned out to be.

    In 2019 I voted for Mr Johnson to be leader of the Conservative Party – but then (along with Toby Young and many others) I was betrayed by “lockdown” and by the general direction of policy even BEFORE lockdown.

  • Peter MacFarlane

    What test said at 10:43 pm. That.

  • Peter MacFarlane

    And btw I knew Boris would be no good, quite soon after the 2019 GE, when he:

    1. Didn’t cancel HS2 when he could have done,

    2. Caved in to the bbc about making non-payment of the telly tax a civil affair rather than a criminal offence,
    3. Dumped his reforms of the Planning System at the very first whiff of grapeshot from the NIMBYs.

    Those three together tell you you’re dealing with man of no courage and no principles, who’ll just blow with the wind.

    And so it proved – plus the endless economy with the truth.

  • Paul Marks

    Phillippe Herkens to judge by your last comment, the “pathological liar” is YOURSELF Sir.

    You read my comment – and in your reply you pretended I said things I did not say, and do not believe.

    You are a scoundrel Sir.

  • Maybe you should challenge him to a duel, Paul?


  • Paul Marks

    Peter MacFarlane – I generally agree with what you have said, indeed I could add many other examples.

    But, as I have done before, I must correct the myth about Planning Law.

    Housing estates and other major developments are NOT stopped by Planning Law – by “NIMBYs” and so on. This is because if a local planning committee turns such things down – they are passed (by the Planning Inspectorate) anyway. This is a truth that people do not like – for example it is never in the local press in my home town (who love to pretend that the Planning Committee could block developments they can NOT block – if one explains that this can not be done, the press just do not report the statement).

    House prices are high for various reasons – family breakdown (lots of people living alone), mass migration and Credit Bubble monetary policy (“we will never go back to gold Paul” – perhaps NOT, but the present monetary and financial system will not last, it is a farce), but the idea that houses would be much less expensive if it were not for the Planning Laws – is a myth.

    By the way – that does NOT mean that the Planning Laws should be kept. They do not do the harm their enemies think they do – but they do not do the good that their friends think they do either.

    After more than 70 years “Planning” has become a profession – a lot of people have been involved in the process their whole working lives, and know nothing else. That may (may) be the reason that the system stays in place. But the salaries of these people, and the delays the rituals of the process require, add very little to the price of houses.

    Again – the reasons for the high price of houses are, family breakdown, mass migration and (above all) the Credit Bubble monetary and financial system.

  • Paul Marks

    John Galt.

    If I challenge him – he would get choice of weapons, and would most likely choose sword (which would be humiliating for me – as I have very bad coordination).

    However, if he challenges me – then I get to choose weapons. Most likely I would still be killed – but it would be far less humiliating to be shot dead by a flintlock pistol. Indeed I am quite content with such an idea.

    Still there is the legal problem – the various Acts against duels.

  • Maybe opt for poisoned sausages or hot air balloons and blunderbusses?

    Don’t worry all. Just teasing. 🙂

  • bobby b

    Paul Marks
    July 9, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    “Housing estates and other major developments are NOT stopped by Planning Law . . .”

    (With the proviso that the term “planning laws” might differ from your country to mine . . .)

    I have seen many meritorious developments of smaller, affordable housing stopped in their tracks by planning laws that serve as protectors of the desires of the locals. Just helped work on one such application that was turned down because the area planning laws called for minimum lot size of 1.0 acres, minimum structure square footage of 3000. Application was for lot sizes of .35 acres each (still a nice yard) and 2400 square feet min. Supporting infrastructure connections more than adequate to handle the dev-financed system (i.e., none of that “we can’t handle the extra sewage/traffic.”)

    I’ve seen this happen many times. Planning, in the right hands, is a useful tool. In the wrong hands, it is pure exclusion/protectionism.

  • Paul Marks

    John Galt – balloons and blunderbusses, as in “Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines”, yes I would love that. I have never been up in a balloon and (in my circumstances) death is not a problem.

    bobby b – yes Planning Laws do differ between countries.

    The key difference between what you are used to and British (at least English) law is the national Planning Inspectorate – as I explained, they tend to find for the developer.

    In Planning the key question is “if we do not pass this development will the inspectorate just pass it anyway – and hand us a legal bill?”

    The answer is normally – yes.

    It is much the same in local taxation – in the United States and United Kingdom.

    In both countries local councils set budgets – and there are budget committees and audit committees, and so on.

    However, in the United Kingdom if a local authority does not increase local tax by a certain percentage – it loses national government grant, and if a local authority increases local tax by MORE than this percentage – it also loses grant.

    That means what the percentage increase in local tax will be is de facto decided BEFORE the budget process.

    In the United States this would be considered undemocratic – but it is quite normal for many countries (not just the United Kingdom).

    It did not use to be like this in the United Kingdom – it has been a gradual process.

    It is also slowly seeping in into the United States.

    Notice “you can only have this money – if you agree not to cut taxes” which how some of the money from Washington D.C. now works.

    The idea of the “New Federalism” (i.e. FAKE Federalism – with tax rates really being set nationally) goes all the way back to the Nixon Administration (although it was just an idea back then). Indeed it goes all the back to the Weimar Republic after the 1st World War.

    Yes – you guessed it, the eventual idea is to do all this on a WORLD wide scale.

  • Paul Marks

    On the matter of Mr Johnson – well he may have betrayed us on independence (ask the Unionists in Northern Ireland) and other matters (taxation, government spending, “Woke” Frankfurt School Marxist control of the institutions…..), but the Economist magazine is gloating that he is gone – and that is not a good sign.

    By the way the new “Lexington” (correspondent for the United States) does not seem any better than the old one – who was utterly despicable.

    The new “Lexington” compares Liz Cheney (that establishmentarian on the January 6th Kangaroo Court) to Gary Cooper’s character in “High Noon”. Supposedly L. Cheney, who has never had an independent thought in her life, is “her own women” who stands for justice (not the injustice and tyranny that she and the rest of the establishment really stand for).

    In the same article the new “Lexington” manages to praise the Communists who “stood up to” the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.

    He is NOT praising those people who refuse to testify before the January 6th Kangaroo Court – he is saying that Liz Cheney is (somehow) like the Communists who “stood up to” America in the 1950s.

    I must stress that Lexington is NOT denying that they were Communists (which was what leftists used to, dishonestly, do) he openly admits they were Communists – but praises them anyway. In short he is praising genocidal swine who wanted to murder tens of millions of Americans and enslave the rest.

    Please note it is that is “Lexington” NOT ME who is saying that Liz Cheney is like the Hollywood Communists (who wished to murder tens of millions of Americans – and enslave the rest) – and he thinks it is praise.

  • bobby b

    “yes Planning Laws do differ between countries.”

    Thank you. Your Planning Inspectorate does explain the difference.

    Here, in the face of a local denial, the only choice is to try to sue based on either an explicit statutory violation in the process, or “discrimination.” If the local council explicitly turns you down because they “don’t want those people living here”, you stand a chance of winning your permission. Otherwise, local discretion prevails. My part in this was telling my friend “no, don’t bother hiring a lawyer and suing. No chance.”

  • Paul (and bobby b), in Scotland, a cosy relationship between the planners and a certain large builder is the reason why “houses with ears” – two-story houses trying hard to look like one-story houses from the outside – are so common in recent builds. As I know from helping my 10th-cousin-by-marriage’s planning application, a house can be much more architecturally literate and very much in line with the older local vernacular, yet have problems getting past what the company has accustomed the planners to grant, or that the planners have trained the company to build, or that both have interactively defined as the form that will be approved easily, and any other automatically gets questioned.

  • Philippe Hermkens

    From the scoundrel :

    You don’t know me but it’s the first time in my life that I am said to be a scoundrel and I am 68 years old

    Indeed Paul Marks you didn’t write what I write about your thoughts but your over-the-top reaction shows that is what you think. Why ? Because you are not going to admit that your leader for Brexit is a pathological liar. I don’t understand why. The merits or the faults for Brexit or indeed for a better word independance are not dependent of the Boris Johnson’s honesty.

    I don’t take it at all seriously. But threatening me with a duel or violence ? Are we not here in favour of free speech ?

    You are not serious. And Ayn Rand (John Galt) would be ashamed to see her John Galt character associated with your friend John Galt.
    Ayn Rand was writing in a tremendous confrontational way. But never in insulting the character of people ..

    And indeed the Economist is since 10 -15 years an awful media. Not writing for instance what is wrong and what is nice with Boris Johnson. Just propaganda.

    I indeed don’t understand how the new Lexington could go to such a low to support the communist vermin because they were communist during the Mc Carthy years

  • bobby b

    “You don’t know me but it’s the first time in my life that I am said to be a scoundrel and I am 68 years old”

    If it’s any consolation, here you get called scoundrel, or knave, or something at least . . . civilly uncivil. It’s like being slapped gently with a clean glove. Most places I see on the nets, I get called things like sc*ms*cking pr*ck” or “a**hole”. This place is polite even in its impoliteness.

  • Philippe Hermkens (July 10, 2022 at 8:46 am), I agree that there is little value in talk of duels between people who converse remotely, and there would be an issue of free speech if such duels could be held – albeit also a compensating degree of skin-in-the-game that is sadly lacking for cancel-culture mobs.

    However, while thus reflecting critically on Paul’s mode of expression, I can see why he might feel you did not engage with the issue and had instead swallowed, and were regurgitating, propaganda when you complained that “almost nobody says that Boris Johnson is and has always been a pathological liar’.

    In “Democracy in America”, de Toqueville remarks the presence of corruption in 1830s US politicians, but also its tendency not to harm liberty much because the individually-corrupt politicians were more apt to oppose each other for votes than to conspire with each against the voters.

    Theresa May attempted to reverse the Brexit result by the deep and dangerous lie of pretending she supported it while slowly and subtly selling out its reality, assisted by a considerable remoaner conspiracy. Boris, by contrast, withstood the bubble (sufficiently to move Brexit forward) until the pandemic came along, though sadly much less thereafter. Both luck and his desire to be prime minister had a lot to do with it.

    Devoting time to calling Boris a pathological liar, is a bit like spending time calling Trump pathologically boastful. It is about un-normalising them – claiming they differ in a marked and negative direction from the candidates thrown up by a deep state that does not mind immense boasts and deep-seated lies provided they stay on on-narrative.

    – Trump’s boasts typically possess a degree of basis that Biden’s have typically wholly lacked over decades. The Central Park skating rink did work, as did other things, whereas plagiarising a Kinnock speech, and so incidentally claiming he was the first of his family to go to University (true of Kinnock, false of Biden) is one of a decades-long record of things Biden simply never was or did but claimed – and was protected over. It’s not that the statement, “Trump is boastful” is false – but calling Trump pathologically boastful is a form of deceit – a form of suggesting that the political establishment that hates him is markedly less so, not markedly more so – and so can sound like endorsing a propaganda conspiracy in de Toqueville’s sense.

    – Likewise, it is not that the statement, “Boris tells lies” is false, but that the actual events of his downfall are simultaneously typical of his long-established personality traits and also suggestive of certain deep-state traits. Boris had some parties, birthday cakes and etc that were mostly, if briefly, reported by the SW1 bubble at the time, as if OK, and then then ‘rediscovered’ some eighteen months later as terrible violations (technical violations indeed they were) and Boris et al fined. These having been raised, an unreported meeting of Starmer that had chanced to be caught on camera was also raised. Very promptly after Boris resigned, the Starmer incident was ruled as not deserving a fine.

    This having damaged Boris’ standing in UK polls, and Boris’ failure to meet the hopes of those who backed him having deprived him of defenders, he was brought down by an incident that I describe here and compare with an incident in his biography of Churchill. My point was that there was in Churchill’s day and is in Boris’ day something of a double-standard about what you could say you did not know. I was raising the question whether one of Boris’ (several) errors was to have thought the double-standard was available to him after he had offended the SW1 bubble.

    There are things I know (e.g. it is beyond reasonable statistical doubt that the 2020 US election was stolen). There are things I would bet money on, but not my life savings (e.g. the popular vote was also stolen). And there are things I do not know, or not yet. It may be Boris genuinely forgot his former briefing about Pincher. It may be that Starmer’s beer and curry was genuinely just inside the line. It may be that Starmer’s role in the Saville affair was just coincidental. But I do know – and Boris should have realised – that understanding and acquittal in dodgy situations is available to the on-narrative, not to those who scheme to get elected by letting commoners’ votes outweigh those of the elite. I also know that whether a given politician’s lies or boastfulness get called ‘pathological’ or get covered for is a better guide to whether they are on-narrative or not than to whether their grossness is pathological or not. It’s a bit like being prosecuted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in the US – not a good guide to who is serving America instead of its enemies.

    Hopefully, Philippe, this clarifies for you why discussion of Boris here, though often very critical and disappointed in tone, has not spent that much time saying ‘pathological liar’.

  • The theme of ‘Boris Johnson Missed His Churchill Moment. The pandemic was Boris’s biggest test. He failed.‘ is well expressed by its title (h/t instapundit). The article compares Boris’ decision in March 2020 (to take Ferguson’s advice to prioritise saving British lives – as he wrongly claimed lockdowns would – over British liberties) with Churchill’s decision in May 1940 (not to listen to those who thought peace with Hitler would save British lives).

    In those fatal few weeks of March 2020, Johnson’s government was much slower to impose all-consuming measures than most other European countries. When Johnson finally announced the nationwide lockdown on March 23, a CNN analyst asked, “What took Boris Johnson so long?” The reason, the analyst concluded, was that Johnson is “not naturally comfortable with removing anyone’s personal liberties.” … Johnson was ultimately inspired to change course by Britain’s Fauci, Dr. Neil Ferguson, an Imperial College London researcher who worked for the government until he was forced to resign for breaking lockdowns himself to sleep with his married mistress. Ferguson, in a hugely influential study published in March 2020, recommended “social distancing of the entire population” for 18 months or more until a vaccine was developed.

    This was a solution pioneered by the People’s Republic of China, which at the time was unprecedented in Britain or any other Western nation. But Ferguson was itching to implement it, and he later marveled at how easy it had been to import Chinese policy: “[China is] a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could… If China had not done it, the year would have been very different.”

    My comment above, with its link to my earlier comment, says what I think about the petty details of his actual downfall. As we and the world look at these, the far more important background is missed. I agree that, fundamentally, Boris faced the same choice as Churchill – and chose the opposite. Churchill knew much about politics and war. Johnson did not know much about science – and (absurdly) imagined Neil Ferguson did. When it came to Brexit, Boris knew the ‘experts’ were wrong, but when it came to science, Boris appeared not to know Richard Feynman’s definition of what science is:

    Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts

    He knew that about Brexit, but not about science.