Opinion: Basing political movement on lies unsustainable
Last updated 7/12/2022 at 5:09pm
In the end, it wasn’t one scandal that brought down Boris Johnson. It was a series.
While each transgression was unique, they shared this truth: The British prime minister is a liar.
The weight of the untruths finally became too much even for Conservative parliamentarians. In recent days about 50, from closely allied Cabinet secretaries to ministers and lower-level officials, resigned with refrains that the serial mistruths on matters political and personal made Johnson’s continued tenure untenable.
Johnson, true to form, tried to hold on tenaciously, but last week he finally yielded to the inevitable and announced his intention to resign.
“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader,” Johnson said in front of the prime minister’s residence, the iconic No. 10 Downing Street. “The process of choosing that new leader should begin now.”
Finally expressing a modicum of regret — notably not for his scandals but for leaving the office the voters and his party bestowed on him in a landslide 2019 election — Johnson said: “I want to tell you how sorry I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks.”
Bad breaks aren’t his alone. Brexit’s ideological and executional shambolism hasn’t economically or geopolitically enriched the United Kingdom as he and his fellow Brexiteers promised. Referring to Johnson’s campaign mantra to “Get Brexit Done,”
Ben Judah, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Program, told an editorial writer in an email interview, “Brexit is done, but Brexit isn’t working. The danger for the Conservative Party is that if the U.K. continues to flatline economically, in a decade or so the policy could be reversed when the country starts to feel visibly poorer than France or Germany.”
And the unresolved issue of how Brexit is applied to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — due in part to Johnson’s dissembling on the issue — threatens to rekindle sectarian tensions that mainly had been extinguished since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement ended the multi-decade era of violence known as the Troubles. Elsewhere, some Scottish politicians are pressing for another independence referendum.
Johnson was also somewhat slow in marshaling the U.K.’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. And his multiple violations of COVID protocols, once in place, spiraled into the scandal known as “Partygate,” leaving even many supporters disgusted by the double standards of Britain’s leaders and the prime minister’s recurring lies about it. No one — not the public, let alone legislators who pegged their political careers to Johnson — wants to be lied to. But Johnson consistently did just that.
Belying his disheveled ethics (and often appearance), Johnson can be credited with a more orderly and in fact honest approach to bilateral ties between the U.S. and U.K. While he seemed an early ally of former President Donald Trump, who backed Brexit, Johnson extended the outreach to President Joe Biden in an attempt to honor and hone the “special relationship.”
If they’re willing to listen, there are lessons in Johnson’s downfall for America’s conservative cousins across the pond. Even a charismatic political leader can lie for only so long before allies realize that basing a political movement on mistruths is unsustainable.
— Minneapolis Star Tribune