Five hours driving south. A lot of radio. A lot of thinking. Jings.
Appalling though Johnson is, his apologists are worse.
One of them actually compared the end of day parties / work events in Downing Street and Whitehall to teachers and nurses having a drink in the staffroom after a long shift. To which you’d have to say a) they weren’t and b) that to say such a thing reveals that you honestly believe that the general public is as selfish and morally bankrupt as you are. Which they aren’t as we stuck to the rules that the UK government wrote, denied they broke and then, when rumbled, claimed they didn’t understand.
But the line – repeated by the same leader of the branch office of the second most popular unionist party in Scotland weeks after he called for his boss to resign – that really bursts me is that he shouldn’t fall on his sword because it would destabilise the international situation. He even said that a Johnson resignation would be a win for Putin, using the suffering of the people of Ukraine to shield the man to whom he owes his position. What an appalling thing to do.
Firstly, let’s consider the proposition that the world can ill-afford to lose a leader that was once sacked from his own political party for lying and twice from newspapers for doing the same. That one probably answers itself. See you later, big man.
Secondly, the idea that the loss of any leader during a crisis would cause shockwaves around the world speaks to a political class still believing in an influence and importance that in truth has been in retreat for years and which a Brexit that Scotland rejected has mostly ended.
And thirdly, the idea that a global crisis should afford a leader immunity from accountability flies in the face of a history that Boris Johnson knows well and has written about.
As the Labour MP Chris Bryant noted today, the UK made their PM available to the ‘industry’ four times in the war in Afghanistan, twice during the peninsular war, and during Iraq, Korea, South Africa, Crimea – and during both world wars. Johnson should go, too. As a historian, he’s probably already secured a sizeable advancement on the book.
I’m old enough to remember the early days of the reconvened Holyrood Parliament. It got off to a tricky start with spiralling building budget costs and it’s early legislation came under criticism – and not all of it was undeserved.
Sometimes heroes don’t wear capes. In the infancy of the parliament, the Tory leader was a guy called David McLetchie. Despite myself, I kind of liked him. As well as a prominent political role, he was a partner in a law firm – something he registered as an interest.
One day, while doing his expenses, he appropriated a taxi fair that should have been ascribed to his legal commitments to Holyrood – and thus the taxpayer. It was almost certainly an honest mistake. But he resigned on a point of principle, even though he would probably have survived. He didn’t have to say it in as many words, but while the legal rights and wrongs can be argued over, in the end it’s about trust. And once that goes, liberal democracy is in peril.
Ian Blackford has been excellent these last few days. He’s called out the moral vacuum that is Westminster. But he and his party – and mine – must have nothing more to do with it. We need friends and neighbours, not rulers who subscribe to a political worldview that we have rejected since 1955.
Scotland needs to save itself. Scotland can no longer sacrifice itself, to help the UK save itself, from itself. Johnson should resign. And if we’re to be the progressive, liberal, egalitarian democracy we tell the world we are, then we too must remove ourselves from an unequal union that flies in the face of all the values we claim to hold dear.
We can’t boast, then cower. We can’t talk, then not walk. It isn’t remotely good enough to say that we’re a wee bit better. We need to be much better. Michelle Obama coined the line for her book: “when they go low we go high”.
It isn’t good enough for Scotland’s parliament to be not as bad as our neighbours.
If today isn’t an incentive to be the very best version of ourselves, then I don’t know what is.
Time to go high.
Time to be ourselves.
Let Scotland be Scotland.
I’ll meet you further on up the road.