The dangerous moral vacuum

There’s a theory going round that Johnson and his team put the Dyson texts through a focus group filter and decided that the whole story could be spun to Johnson’s advantage, portraying him as a man so committed to the care of his beloved subjects…sorry, voters… that he would move heaven and earth to save lives. This philanthropic impulse included taking interruptions to his personal life on his private phone and using his personal charm and charisma to persuade hard-nosed business chaps to come up with goods they had never made before (and, indeed, might never make or deliver).

Were the texts about to be leaked by Johnson’s opponents in the belief they’d inflict some pain? Was it all a semi-dead cat to switch attention from Paul Waugh’s questions on Arcuri? Was it to distract from Johnny Mercer’s sacknation (hybrid quit/fired)? Unlikely, though having a junior causing trouble won’t have amused the World King and nor will Mercer’s surprising to no-one revelations that the government is full of dishonest types and a bit of a cesspit.

It appears that quite a lot hung on the strategy of harping on about thousands of ventilators to bolster Johnson’s image, because ventilator was clearly Johnson’s favourite word in PMQs on 21 April; it was puffed out as a smoke screen for every other failure of action, inaction or deceit. Repeatedly challenged on corruption and on the appalling treatment of the 3 million excluded from all support throughout the pandemic and with no access to the Johnson mobile, the answer came “Ventilators. Thousands of ’em.” Here’s Anna McMorrin getting the hot air treatment:

On the Dyson front, quite aside from Dyson’s distasteful obsession with the money side of this purportedly altruistic act, another aspect of this whole stunt seems to have been overlooked. Just how many ventilators did Dyson provide? Well. Here’s the answer:

You read that right. Zero.

This is not the article in which we remind everyone that arch Brexiteer Dyson sucked Leavers into his buccaneering Brexit vision and then treated them like dirt, heading off to Singapore – the role model for so many free market cultists, with its delightfully authoritarian approach to its citizens as the price for economic success. You can find out more here on the patriotic and extraordinarily wealthy Brexiters who patriotically skipped the country once it had voted to blow its brains out.

This piece is more concerned with the relentless hollowing-out of moral values and standards under this corrupt and mendacious regime. Quick flash back to the 2019 general election campaign. Man on the street shouts “Boris all the way!” “But he’s a liar! He lied to you about the Brexit benefits. He lied on the side of a bus.” “They’re all liars!”, counters the guy, obdurately triumphant, “And Boris is the best. The best liar.”

It seems that Johnson’s infrequent flirtations with the truth are actually a cause for admiration (at worst) and indulgence, (at ‘best’). Tim Shipman wrote in The Times (sadly behind a paywall) that focus groups on Johnson were of the opinion that:

“Far from expecting him to stamp out Tory cronyism or second jobs, they hoped he would cut them in on the deal. They trusted he would get jobs and public money flowing to them”

In short, cut fans in on the deal in some way and lie, cheat and bestow favours to your heart’s content, mate! That mindset is deeply damaging, profoundly corrosive and its normalisation should concern us all. We are seeing it played out in Tory marginal seats where the message from Jenrick and Sunak appears to be ‘vote for us and we’ll see you right.’

Remember when bribery and corruption were a bad thing? If this government have their way, you soon won’t…or won’t admit to such an anachronistic view.

But, wait. There are enough of us, aren’t there? Enough of us who see all this clearly for what it is? Enough of us who will keep on calling it out, writing to our MPs, writing to papers, sharing the truth, the stories in the Bylines network and Byline Times, backing the Good Law Project and, yes, getting out on the streets once we can. Aren’t there?