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Opinion: The debate is over – Johnson must go

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The man who as a child dreamed of becoming world king is now facing political regicide. Boris Johnson is revealing his very worst side, and indeed what many (but too few) always knew existed behind the thin veil of bonhomie and good humour. Johnson is, and always has been, fatally flawed in his singular focus on his personal ambition, and his absolute eschewing of duty and responsibility, which in the context of Britain’s uncodified arena of political conduct, is especially egregious. He must go, and since he is not to jump, he must be pushed.  

Johnson’s primary responsibility is himself. He has been an exceptional strategist in the development of his career. The issue is, in prioritising himself, he neglects almost everyone else. Only in the rare cases where there is some alignment between his personal ambition and the public interest, such as the London Olympics, is this an acceptable modus operandi of politics. It was never going to be sustainable in 10 Downing Street.  

Even before “partygate”, he showed himself to be a rogue political operator. Sacked from the Times for making up a quote, sacked by Michael Howard for lying about an affair. He supported Brexit, which is likely he didn’t really believe in, lied to win a referendum he knew would be damaging to Britain’s parliamentary democracy, and then tried to force a roughshod deal through parliament by attempting an illegal prorogation. More recently, his attempts to override the Northern Ireland protocol have been met with astonishment and his despair in equal measure.  

But he has saved the worst of his carefree relationship with the truth until now: misleading parliament. A cake in the cabinet room is not a resignation-worthy offence. But lying to Parliament is. The Metropolitan police are now investigating 12 parties that occurred in Downing Street, at least four of which Johnson attended. His attempts to profess ignorance in the House of Commons were clearly a lie (8th December, 13th November, December 1st). This is not to mention his performance in Parliament last Monday. His accusation that Sir Keir Starmer failed to prosecute Jimmy Saville was as monstrous as it was inaccurate. It is hard to overstate the significance of his chicanery.   

Had he one iota of contrition or humility, he would have resigned weeks ago. Instead, he limps on, supported only by his zealot gang of Brexit-loving maniacs such as Nadine Dorries and his superego. It is notable that the only person to have resigned in this debacle, Allegra Stratton, was one of the few people who didn’t attend any of these parties. Number 10 should take note.  

Instead, Johnson continues to shift the focus, cloud the room, and push the blame onto someone else. He has promised to review the internal structures of Number 10 Downing Street. This has happened, but only because those of stronger moral fibre have all resigned. He, and he alone, is responsible for the goings-on of his department. That is the cornerstone of ministerial responsibility, and his failure to resign is as clear a signal as anything that he must be removed from office.  

Sue Gray’s report, even heavily redacted, made this clear in language more explicit than most expected:  

“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.” 

The farcical spectacle is offensive to the public and makes a mockery of Britain on the world stage. This is especially true with Putin’s increasingly threatening behaviour on Europe’s eastern border. He was met with derision in Ukraine last week: a reception that fits neatly into Putin’s narrative of an internally chaotic and arrogant Europe. Johnson therefore could well be a national security threat.  

Conservative MPs must know this. Anyone who continues to support the Prime Minister now can be considered either plain stupid or morally absent. Neither of which are characteristics worthy of the offices they serve. Every day that passes with Johnson still in Number 10 further corrodes the Conservative Party, once considered the natural party of government and the country as a whole. 

The Telegraph will take him back and he will no doubt do extremely well on the well-trodden path of lucrative speaking engagements. Indeed, this may present an opportunity for Johnson. Having reached the limit of his ambition, he may be able to dust himself down and apply his considerable talents outside of the sphere of public consequence.  

For the good of everyone, not least himself, he must go.  

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