It's time for those who championed Boris Johnson to admit they were wrong and apologise
Boris Johnson's immorality and selfishness have long been obvious. Those who backed him must now hold up their hands.
It is difficult to find anyone, with the exception of those who are literally paid to do it, who is still willing to say a good word about Boris Johnson.
Revelations about this behaviour in Downing Street and his transparently dishonest response to the allegations, has crystallised the public perception of the prime minister as a chaotic and self-interested liar.
That it would end this way is not surprising. A serial cheat who was sacked twice for lying, Johnson’s worst qualities have long been visible to anyone who took the trouble to look at them.
There was a good example of this on the BBC’s new Sunday Morning show this weekend.
Speaking to Sophie Raworth, Piers Morgan led a seemingly impassioned attack on Johnson saying that he “should go” because he had “completely shattered” public trust.
And yet just two years ago Morgan said that he had backed Johnson in the 2019 general election and suggested that he would be a “great leader”.
“Boris Johnson has got something about him,” he told LBC.
“He's a very charismatic guy. I’ve known him a long time. I like him personally. He’s got his flaws but most great leaders have flaws.”
Of course Morgan is free to change his mind. However, as a senior journalist who has known Johnson well for a long time, recent events can hardly have come as a surprise to him.
Of course Morgan wasn’t exactly a lone voice championing Johnson in the media and he has at least been critical of him in the past as well.
However, over the course of the last decade there have been countless commentators who have praised Johnson’s political skills and endorsed him for Prime Minister, despite knowing that he was unsuitable for the job.
In their own endorsement for Johnson prior to the 2019 general election, the Daily Mail dismissed those warning against electing him as “ludicrous.”
“The opposition will try to paint Boris as untrustworthy, unserious and buffoonish. This is a ludicrous caricature,” the editorial read.
“He has grown immeasurably in stature these last few weeks in office and has the potential to be a great Prime Minister.”
Of course the Mail were wrong to dismiss warnings about Johnson, but at least they were straightforward in their support for him.
Far worse were those who endorsed him, despite clearly being aware that he was unsuitable for the job.
In their own half-hearted endorsement of Johnson, prior to his election as Conservative leader, The Times first listed his many poor qualities, before saying they would back him anyway.
“Mr Johnson’s weaknesses are well known and have been repeatedly raised during the campaign,” their editorial read.
“There are legitimate questions about this honesty, loyalty and personal relationships. Although he was a successful mayor of London, where he managed to gather a strong team of deputies around him, he was not a good foreign secretary, where his lack of attention to detail and tendency to speak carelessly was problematic. Lack of discipline could be a real problem as prime minister. There is also a legitimate question as to whether the man who did more than anyone to divide Britain could ever be the person to unite the country.”
They go on to say the country should back him anyway because he is a “broadly centre-right prime minister” with “the charisma to take on Mr Farage and Mr Corbyn.”
Some of those who previously publicly backed Johnson may now justify their decision on the view that they believed that Jeremy Corbyn would have been worse. In a democratic system people often have to choose what they perceive as the “lesser evil”.
However, while such choices are sometimes necessary, it is the dishonesty of those who sold him as a great leader, when it was completely obvious that he was anything but, that rankles.
Johnson has only been in Downing Street for a couple of years and yet his tenure has already been disastrous.
Tens of thousands of people have died unnecessarily due to his failed and sluggish response to the coronavirus. His repeatedly late decisions to lock down the country led to the UK having one of the highest death tolls in the world.
And all the while, both he and his staff spent the entire period disregarding the very restrictions they belatedly imposed on the rest of us.
It’s not just his handling of Covid that has been disastrous. His ideological commitment to the hardest possible form of Brexit continues to damage the UK economy and its standing in the world.
It’s time for Johnson’s backers to hold up their hands
While there was much commentary in this weekend’s papers about a Downing Street “reset” it has long been clear that the real problem with Boris Johnson’s administration is Boris Johnson.
No amount of shakeups of his top team or announcements of “red meat” policies, will ever hide the moral chasm at the heart of his government and that moral chasm emanates largely from him.
Of course that’s not to say that all of the UK’s problems would be solved by his departure. Johnson’s rise to power was secured with the backing of the Conservative Party and the facilitation of his supporters in the press.
Johnson’s successor, whoever it is, will likely continue with his most damaging policies and will do so with the full-throated support of many of those who have belatedly turned on him.
His replacement may also make it more likely that his party will win the next general election, meaning those policies will remain in place for many more years to come.
Of course once Johnson does go, some of those who previously championed Johnson will quickly move on to attempting to convince us all of the merits of his potential replacements.
But before they do, it will be worth us all remembering just quite how disastrously wrong they previously got it.
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