Opinion: Boris Johnson’s biggest disappearing trick

Given Johnson’s lack of poetry, which hero cults Winston Churchill and is allegedly writing a biography of William Shakespeare, you’d be forgiven for assuming that moment meant nothing out of the ordinary.
But his final admission of defeat not only marked the start of a Conservative leadership race that now dominates every facet of British public discourse. It largely erased the sexual misconduct scandal that forced Johnson into that erection in a hurry. lectern in the first place.
The drop that broke the camel’s back invited 60 deputies quitting their jobs and asking Johnson to step down was his appalling reaction the previous week to the resignation of MP Chris Pincher and the list of failures that had preceded it.
Clamp resigned from his role as Deputy Chief Whip, a vital administrative and pastoral role in the Conservative Party, amid accusations of sexual misconduct spanning more than a decade. Johnson initially denied any knowledge of them, but he appeared later that he had been briefed on Pincher’s alleged history before giving him the job.
Senior officials said he responded with a lack of concern, to joke “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.” (An official spokesperson refuse comment on that.)
Johnson didn’t mention any of this in his farewell. Pincher’s story had so taken Westminster by storm in the days leading up to it that it drowned out everything else. Even Johnson’s admission to parliament that he met a former KGB colonel with no officials present as Foreign Secretary in 2018, in itself a potentially sacking offense (fellow Tory MP Priti Patel was forced to resign as international development secretary for a similar offense in 2017), took a back seat.

Johnson’s reluctance to retread such unflattering ground was understandable, but what was far more striking was the ease with which the public, the MPs who had resigned in fury and the candidates vying to replace him as leader, also dropped the story.

Some of the immediate distractions were relatively superficial, but in a country where every utility feels brokeneach confirmation of a deficiency of our legislators draws fire.
A video clip of new Education Minister Andrea Jenkyns giving the middle finger to crowds waiting outside Number 10 last week sparked a storm of excited outrage that was only intensified by the sullen and poorly worded letter of so-called apology that followed. Meanwhile according According to the Times Education Commission, schools across Britain are “currently failing on every measure”. Johnson’s farewell vote of faith in Jenkyns to fix them was absurd and insulting enough to divert our attention from his own disastrous management.
As the Tory leadership race got underway, the diversions grew more serious and took a bigger hold on the news. MP Nadhim Zahawi, whom Johnson appointed Chancellor when Rishi Sunak resigned in protest at Pincher’s story – and nevertheless added his voice in the choir demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation only 48 hours later – quickly threw his hat in the ring. He had barely done it before questions about tax have surfaced, along with the revelation that they are currently the subject of an unresolved investigation by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Zahawi protested that he was “dirty”, but the story proved deadly for his candidacy.
The remaining leadership hopefuls have their own problems. The main issues of concern to the country – a cost of living crisis, massive queues for NHS treatment, a backlog of criminal cases suffocating the justice system, and of course Brexit – are difficult to tackle head-on, given that they have been members of the ruling party for a decade.
The frustrations of the British public are amplified almost every hour by the red herrings of some candidates, including favorite answers when asked how they plan to return the country to prosperity, they included promises of sweeping tax cuts and forays into the culture wars too insane to be overlooked.
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MK Kemi Badenoch, one of the more right-wing aspirants, has declared herself a leading figure in a “war on revival” with a zeal almost convincing enough to make us forget no one asked for it. His ban on gender neutral toilets during his leadership launch fueled more news than his speech, which relied heavily on quashing “social justice concerns” and defending “free speech.” Her rejection (and the resulting online backlash) was quickly followed by a jibe from rival Penny Mordaunt that Westminster is “be tiedon trans issues – which generated even more headlines.
Elsewhere resurfaces pictures of a young Sunak, currently the favorite to win the race, showed it in 2001 laughing and retracting his own suggestion that he might have “working class friends”. The clip had social media rolling in ways its opponents could only have dreamed of, prompting retweet after retweeting alongside complaints that a man so completely out of touch could never hope to understand the financial struggles of the British public. (Sunak told BBC Radio on Thursday“I don’t judge people by their bank accounts, I judge them by their character.”)

The result of each of these memorable embarrassments is always more noise from all corners – and a self-promotional frenzy of retaliation that pushes Chris Pincher and his alleged misdeeds further into the shadows.

This, truly, ends the ignominy of the past fortnight in British politics. Pincher’s story has gone through a long and insidious cultural problem of sexual misconduct at Westminster, which Johnson appears to have chaired during his tenure with little personal discomfort.
In April this year, in response to news that 56 MPs (about one in 11 of those in office) were under investigation for sexual misconduct, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas asked Boris Johnson whether such behavior was grounds for dismissal. Johnson replied, “Of course it is.”
By then, Johnson had already appointed Chris Pincher to the whip’s office, the place where staff would theoretically go to report the kinds of abuse Pincher allegedly committed. This choice illustrates the failures of a politician who has always processed rules as an inconvenience at best, and pointless at worst. The national mess Johnson left in his wake and the clamor to fill the power vacuum caused by his own failure to govern with integrity have overshadowed what should be a damning legacy of complicity and neglect.

The solution to the problems facing Westminster and those facing the general public is the same. We need a leader who does not need to be held accountable.

Judging by the run so far, our chances don’t look good.

About Alma Ackerman

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