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Let’s reflect on a busy week in Boris Johnson’s campaign to scapegoat migrants, demonise Muslims, stigmatise gay people, control Universities, curb judges, comandeer the BBC, wage a culture war, turn Britain into a one-party state and crown himself World King.
So, then: last Monday, he announced the construction of a wall on the Kentish coast to keep immigrants out of the country, claiming that Britain is “under attack” from France, and that the wall is essential to protect the country.
That was only the start. The next day, he described our Islamic population as “Muslim invaders”, before suggesting that Keir Starmer would allow Jews undue influence.
Sex education – including education about gay, bisexual, lesbian and transexual people and sexuality – is, the Prime Minister said on Wednesday, “a threat to British identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the British state”.
A day later, he completed moves to put new foundations in charge of several universities. Members of their boards of trustees will be appointed by the Government.
As the week drew to a close on Friday, Johnson announced a new system for disciplining judges for their rulings, before moving on Saturday to tighten his grip on the BBC – which backed him up over Starmer, asking if the latter would “comply with Jewish demands”.
Yesterday found the Prime Minister in ruminative, even philosophical mood, musing that “the Western mission has intellectual and spiritual foundations that should be sought in Christianity” and warning against “the Muslim flood and the rise of Asia”.
This imaginary diary and those misapplied links won’t sway those who insist on describing Johnson – all the more since the Paterson debacle – as a British Viktor Orban, with governing methods that also resemble those of Poland’s Law and Justice Party.
Indeed, they have an answer to anything that might encourage a sense of proportion (just like the Trumpites, their rightist mirror image). Disciplining judges in Hungary? What about the Government’s plans for judicial review here, they say?
Fair and free elections – what about compulsory ID and voter suppression? Muslims: remember that Daily Telegraph column on the burka? Corruption: what about the House of Lords?
Now, there are counter-arguments to all these. The panel set up by the Government to consider judicial review has recommended limited changes to migration and asylum appeals, and expressed confidence in judicial review as a whole.
Evidence suggests that compulsory voter ID won’t advantage any particular political party, and it could actually work to the detriment of the Conservatives.
Even if you believe that Johnson’s burka column was irresponsible or even malicious, and led to a surge in anti-Muslim attacks in its wake, you would have to concede that his language was nothing like Orban’s, and that he has not returned to the subject.
As for the Lords, are voters really clamouring for a second chamber of elected politicians instead? And if those who award honours have too much power, then it’s helpful to grasp who they are: no, not Johnson and his Cabinet, but Sir Humphrey.
The official guide to nominating honours expressly cites the role of the civil service. The Blob, not Johnson, is in charge: this would-be duce still can’t get his man into OFCOM.
But there is no point in engaging with the Jolyon Maugham classes, who have such mixed succeess in the courtrooms, about all this – unless you want to vanish down the rabbit hole (or into the chicken coop).
Don’t take my word for the condition of Britain against anyone else’s. According to Transparency Index, Britain’s public sector is the joint eleventh least corrupt in the world, up there at the top with a group of northern European countries, Singapore and New Zealand…
…level with Canada, below Germany but above France (and Ireland). True, the UK has slipped out of the top ten, but that doesn’t make us Poland (45th) or Hungary (69th). Let alone a dictatorship.
Admittedly, proving that the Prime Minister isn’t Orban and the Conservatives aren’t Law and Justice would be a low debating hurdle to clear.
Nor am I going to give the Government a clean bill of health just because this is ConservativeHome. I fear that Johnson will miss the chance to seize the moment – i.e: the aftermath of Brexit – and will burble on for ten years while achieving nothing very much.
He isn’t corrupt, unless you think that giving money to mainstream political parties isn’t a public service worthy of an honour. If you do, then he is scarcely unique: for peerages-for-Tory-treasurers read Blair’s cash-for-honours.
But he has what Paul Staines, in another context, once called “a relaxed attitude to legal formalities”, or rules at any rate: hence all those rows about late declarations. David Gauke has a point this morning about his carelessness with propriety.
He isn’t a liar, but truth – or rather, facts for their own sake – bore him. He would rather be swimming in the sea of hyperbole and metaphor, where exaggeration and effect count for almost everything.
Because he has a kind as well as a selfish streak, he tends to tell people what they want to hear, which can come back to haunt him (and them). Though like Don Giovanni, he doubtless means it at the time.
He is nepotistic, in political terms – but then again, every other Prime Minister in modern times has been so, too. Since there’s a inverse relationship between nepotism and efficiency, this doesn’t always do the Conservatives any good.
This Cabinet is stronger than the last one. But not as convincing as it could be. And the evidence of the Paterson affair suggests that his team’s political radar isn’t picking up stirrings on the backbenches.
Where was Nigel Adams, brought in to strengthen relations with backbenchers? Are the two new PPS’s from the 2019 “in the room” when key decisions are taken? If not, why not? (Ben Gascoigne, the former Political Secretary, is back as joint Deputy Chief of Staff.)
It’s said that Johnson needs a “greybeard” from outside his circle in Number 10 to advise him…just as it was said of David Cameron before him, and of Theresa May in between.
Maybe Downing Street should appoint not an MP from the older intakes but one from, say, 2010: someone who sits between the 2019ers and the pre-1997ers. Meanwhile, other media outlets are back to excoriating MPs, as though the killing of David Amess never happened.
Elsewhere as I write, an KGB-trained apparatchik is preparing the polonium for someone, somewhere who has got on the wrong side of Vladimir Putin.
In a Chinese labour camp, a guard is administering an electric shock from a stun gun to a woman who taken more than two minutes to go to the toilet.
And near the Syria-Iraq border, a former ISIS commander is dreaming of the next Caliphate in which girls as young as 13 will be married to jihadis, and of executions, amputations and lashings in the public square.
How they would all laugh at the up-themselves Remainers, the blinkered equivalents of the respectable Victorians, who Johnson has driven so bonkers as to believe they live in a dictatorship.
Our democracy might not have been compromised had Jeremy Corbyn won the last election. But there is scarcely a terror group in the world – IRA, Hamas, Hezbollah – that he hasn’t smiled at.
Such was the man who Keir Starmer, the moral scourge of the Government, campaigned to put into Number Ten. And Johnson – that would-be fascist, that autocrat, that British Orban-in-the making, still leads in the polls.