Boris Johnson’s sense of entitlement
Boris Johnson plainly feels that he is entitled to say and do anything, and his political leadership is deeply flawed as a consequence: he brooks no opposition from within his party; the ruthless competitiveness which propelled him to power is incompatible with having a moral compass; and his ceaseless search for popularity is a poor basis for setting policy. Andrew Adonis described him as The Prime Etonian, devoid of political principles and bent upon “naked self-advancement”.
With his Brexit slogan, “Take Back Control”, and his 2019 election slogan, “Get Brexit Done”, he sounded like someone who can make things happen and he was popular for that reason. His parliamentary majority of 80 seats now enables him to overcome a lot of opposition – but he shouldn’t have unlimited power.
He recently attempted to rescue the career of an old friend, Owen Paterson, by trying to change the rules by which MPs’ behaviour is held to account. This has backfired badly: with Anger as Tory MP avoids suspension in rule shake-up. Ex-Prime Minister Sir John Major called the “Government handling of Paterson case shameful”, and delivered a stinging rebuke:
“It seems to me, as a lifelong Conservative, that much of what they are doing is un-Conservative in its behaviour.”
“This government has done a number of things that have concerned me deeply: they have broken the law, the prorogation of Parliament. They have broken treaties, I have in mind the Northern Ireland Protocol. They have broken their word on many occasions.”
The Guardian was even more critical: The Paterson fiasco confirms the threat Boris Johnson poses to British democracy; the article lists several ways in which the government is trying to weaken the limits to its power, enabling it to become more authoritarian and to reward its friends with lucrative contracts and peerages. The Economist endorsed that criticism, pointing out that Boris Johnson treats checks and balances with contempt: “He seems to think rules are for losers”.
His latest misjudgement has dented his popularity, with a report that Boris Johnson’s poll ratings slump to record low after Owen Paterson affair. This (overdue) sign of public disapproval could be his undoing. The Conservative party wants its leader to be popular, so it will remove him if he becomes an electoral liability – before the voters get the opportunity to decide that decency and democracy are more important than catchy slogans.