There are very obviously benefits to be had as a serial liar. In America, Sleepy Joe Biden lies and lies to an increasingly sceptical public while here, Bunter Johnson, for whom the truth is virtually an unknown commodity gets away with lying at every opportunity. It seems that while politicians with a reputation for honesty can find their careers ended by one broken promise, Bunter doesn’t care, simply because no one expects him to keep his word. His relationships with family, friends and voters are entirely transactional. They get to hear what they want: he gets to bend reality to whatever serves him best at any given time.
One of the great public illusions comes with the fact that many people mistake his constant tilting of the truth as a sign of self-confidence. I do not believe that I am afraid. To me, it is a sign of someone with no self-worth or self-confidence at all. Someone who can’t face reality so must change his tune whenever it suits him – and that means lying through his teeth if necessary.
This week our Revered Leader has added two more broken manifesto commitments to reducing overseas aid earlier in the year: he’s trashed the triple lock on pensions and he’s gone back on his promise not to increase national insurance for workers. He has also been caught out on his claim that he had a social care plan worked out two years ago. If he had, then he would never have needed to earmark the tax rises to bail out the funding gap in the NHS caused by the coronabug pandemic. Though that possibly qualifies as a slightly lesser lie.
But there was no mistaking that Boris looked very pleased with the way his latest broken promises had landed as he took his seat in the Commons for prime minister’s questions yesterday to cheers from his sycophantic backbenchers. Not least of these was Mathew Hancock, (remember him?) who now seems desperate to be one of the lads again.
When Hancock was health secretary, he made a show of wearing a Union Jack face mask in parliament to demonstrate his commitment to public health. Now he goes bare-faced. Anyone might think he was crazy enough to imagine he might be in line for a way back into government in the coming cabinet reshuffle. Surely not even if he can probably tell the difference between Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje, which is more than the hapless Gavin Williamson seems able to do. Bunter recently went so far as to describe his education secretary as heroic. He was surely waxing sarcastic? Or was he?
What should have been a tricky session for Johnson was made easier by another pathetic performance from Keir Starmer. The Labour leader tried to pin him down on just how many people might have to sell their homes to pay for their social care, but Bunter blustered on about private insurance schemes. In addition to increased national insurance contributions, it seems that the government is expecting those with low value homes to fork out more on insurance premiums.
Much of the exchanges, though, were just a repeat of the previous day’s arguments, in which the Labour leader struggled to make any telling contribution despite the Tory plans appearing to hit the worst off the hardest. The trouble is that Labour have no social care plan of its own despite having had more than a decade to think about it. Just saying those with the broadest shoulders should pay the most taxes is hardly the answer. If you’re going to come up with thirty six billion smackers you need to be able to say exactly how the money will be raised.
Just how relaxed Johnson was about his tax rises was soon apparent when the junior treasury minister Jesse Norman was sent out to open the hastily arranged debate. If the government had been in any way concerned that it might lose the vote, then Johnson himself – or Sunak or Javid – would have started the ball rolling. As it was, Norman kept it short and sweet. Probably because he’s got as little idea as anyone else in government how this is all going to pan out. The highlight of his speech was his insistence that it was a profoundly Conservative thing to break one promise in order to fulfil another. I used to vote for these turnips but that sounds downright cynical to me.
In reply, Rachel Reeves was as hamstrung as her leader by Labour’s failure to have a properly costed alternative plan, though she made the case with more passion than Starmer ever shows. Her argument that the NHS would always need more money and that it would prove impossible to cut further spending after three years and with only fifteen percent obviously impressed a few conservatives. Let’s face it, this is a social care levy that does not deal with social care.
Jake Berry, the head of the Northern Research Group of Conservative red wall MPs, made a more coherent case for the failings of the policy than most opposition MPs by observing that the lowest paid would be worst hit and that constituencies with lower house prices would be bailing out those with more expensive real estate. Steve Baker wondered why the Tories were implementing Labour policies. Both said they wouldn’t be supporting the government in the division lobbies.
Not that Bunter could give a damn about a few errant Tories as he was assured of winning the vote. Another broken promise had paid off. In the short term at least. Whether it would cost him the next election when Tory voters had felt the impact of the tax hike was something he would worry about later. Like most pathological liars, Johnson really only lives for the day.
In the event, only five Tories had the guts to vote against the government. They were Esther McVey, John Redwood, Christopher Chope, Philip Davies and Neil Hudson.
Another thirty seven of them withheld their vote, including a number of ‘Red Wall’ MPs who have been deeply concerned about the proposals.
So while Americans are beginning to show concern about their dithering leader, I really feel that Britons should be equally concerned about the man in charge over here. I always said that Tony Blair was the most dangerous political leader since Hitler but I am beginning to worry that Bunter Johnson might be even worse because he feels no shame at his own mendacity.
Where will he lead us next and with what obvious falsehoods will he put down any dissent among his cowering followers?
That remains to be seen but I won’t be voting conservative again I’m afraid.