The coronavirus is spread in the thousands of tiny droplets of moisture that are released into the air every time an infected person coughs or sneezes. Boris Johnson can release thousands of words in the air every time he speaks without most of it meaning anything at all. And what he says that does actually mean something is usually a lie.
On Tuesday the lying liar who is the British Prime Liester announced that he’d visited a hospital where he had shaken hands with people with coronavirus. In doing so he managed to be simultaneously boastful and a liar. He’d visited Kidderminster hospital, which doesn’t have any patients with coronavirus. Which is just as well, because otherwise Boris Johnson could have spread coronavirus to the entire Conservative cabinet. And honest, I really am saying that like it was a bad thing. Well, sort of. To be honest there was never any risk, even if the hospital had been full of infected people. Johnson couldn’t have spread it to the cabinet because in order to contract the disease you have to be human. Mind you it does have to be pointed out that the biggest difference between the coronavirus and a Tory government is that the coronavirus has killed fewer people.
In making his bloast, which is what you get when you combine a lie with a boast, Johnson was clearly trying to channel Princess Di who famously shook the hands of people with HIV during the 1980s and in doing so helped to destigmatise the condition. The difference is that HIV can’t be spread by shaking hands with someone who has it and Di was using her public profile as a means of winning kindness and acceptance for people facing what was then a virtual death sentence and who were at the time rejected and despised by many.
On the other hand Boris Johnson’s wee bloast was nothing more than an attempt to steer public attention back to him. It must be awful for him. There he is, world king and everything, master of all he surveys except those bits with Dominic Cummings in them, and then this pesky disease comes along and hogs the limelight. Perhaps he was getting confused with scrofula, which people once believed could only be cured by the touch of the monarch. The plebs ought to be more grateful, what with him giving up his permaholiday in order to grace them with his presence.
This is still the stage in Boris Johnson’s term in Number 10 when he was expecting to be in his honeymoon phase and should have been basking in public adulation and immune from all criticism. But instead of walking on water, this government is sinking under the floods that Boris Johnson has been working so hard to ignore. The criticism that Johnson is a part time prime minister has stuck, following his failure to appear in public during the floods that struck much of England and Wales. Negotiations with the EU for a future trade deal have not got off to a good start. His government’s new proposals for changes to the immigration rules have been widely criticised by industry and business – those very sectors which the Tories traditionally claim to represent. Priti Patel is mired in allegations of bullying and at war with her civil servants.
There’s an almighty row brewing on the horizon in the shape of changes that the Conservatives want to make to the powers of the courts to overrule the government. And now there’s an epidemic which threatens to have a severe impact on the economy at the very time that the government hopes to inject vast sums of money into parts of the economy in an attempt to retain those Northern English voters who gave Boris Johnson the keys to Number 10, and just as the NHS in England is struggling to cope with the cumulative effects of years of Conservative austerity and a brutal and uncaring benefits system is driving people into despair and hopelessness. Homelessness is soaring, raising the question of just how all those people who are already the victims of Tory policies can be expected to self-isolate during an epidemic when they’ve been reduced to sleeping in a shop doorway.
As all those critics of the SNP who infest the Scottish media are so very quick to tell us, the longer a party remains in government the more that problems build up for it and the more tired that it gets. The Tories have been in power, either in coalition with the Lib Dems or governing by themselves, since 2010. They might have gone through several leaders during that time, but Boris Johnson’s term in office isn’t that of a new, fresh party taking over the reigns of power. His government is just a new paint job on an already decrepit edifice. The cracks are already showing.
We’ve already seen a very different tone in the respective leaderships of Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson as the Scottish and British governments respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Providing good leadership during a time of crisis is what Nicola Sturgeon does best. Where Johnson was bumbling and disengaged during his press conference, the First Minister was confident and reassuring. And for all that it’s been the object of savage criticism by the British nationalist media, the Scottish NHS is in far better shape than its English counterpart and better able to cope with the massive stresses that will be put upon the health service by the coronavirus outbreak. All of a sudden even Michael Gove is going to have to admit that we need experts.
Still, at least the coronavirus epidemic does provide plenty of opportunities to bury bad news, along with burying what shreds of credibility remain in the Conservatives’ claim to be the natural party of government. Despite its majority in the Commons, Johnson’s administration of misfits who seek fights and confrontations at every opportunity is not a government which is displaying the signs of a strong and stable government. That’s a government which only makes enemies. A government with a lot of enemies is not a goverment that’s going to be able to keep Scotland in its shortbread tin forever.
The next couple of years promise us a bumpy ride, but the less competent that the Westminster govermment appears, the more likely it becomes that the next independence referendum will deliver a yes vote. That’s the one sliver of hope in some very dark clouds.
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