Ugly language, ugly outcomes – this government is a danger to us all

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

When I look back over the last eight years, one image dominates: September 2019, and Paula Sherriff ‘s pleas to Johnson to tone down his language – language being quoted back to her colleagues in death threats – is dismissed as ‘humbug’

It wasn’t the day the ugliness started – heaven knows there’d been enough of that under Theresa May, who bears far more responsibility for it than some would have you believe. 

But it was the day I realised, without any lingering doubt, that Johnson didn’t care what his words led to.

And it was the day I realised that – even if some of his colleagues cared a little bit – they clearly didn’t care enough.

That they were either fanatics or cowards. 

Among those for whom it was clearly a price worth paying – because he didn’t open his mouth to condemn it – was Michael Gove, our new extremism guru. 

A superb piece by Rafael Behr in The Guardian – about the threat that comes from the “radicalisation of the centre” – hits the nail on the head more emphatically than anything else I’ve seen.

Because the greatest threat I’ve felt these last few years is the one that comes from the Conservative Party. 

The threat I felt every time our prime ministers – including that nice, grown-up Mrs May – normalised the monstrous debacle of “No Deal”, with all the self-inflicted harm that would have entailed. 

The threat to our civil liberties – the right to vote, to strike, to protest, to have legal representation, to claim asylum – intrinsic elements of the liberal democracy Gove says he’s trying to protect. 

The threat to our economy, our supply chains, our farming and fisheries. 

The threat to the lives and livelihoods to the millions of people whose lives were turned upside down by the hard Brexit his party pushed – most notably EU nationals and British nationals living in EU countries. 

The threat to peace in Ireland, so casually put at risk by the Tory party. 

The threat to our fragile democracy from the systematic lying, propaganda and gaslighting deployed by Mr Gove’s party and its relentless abuse of parliament and legislative processes, ever since the Brexit vote. 

The threat from Putin’s Russia and Trump’s America (both past and possibly future) made that much more severe by the concerted efforts by Tory governments over many years to sever our alliances and weaken our influence in our own small and vulnerable continent. 

The threat I feel from seeing our two most recent ex-prime ministers actively promoting Trump, simpering at the MAGA fanatics like starry-eyed schoolchildren.

The threat I have felt daily for eight long years from people who speak grandly about our “shared values” even as they aggressively pursue the politics of division, so lost in their own culture wars that they have long since lost touch with reality. 

So Michael Gove can talk to us all he likes about extremism. It is an important subject. But there is nobody left in the Tory Party who can lead that conversation and expect us to keep a straight face.

They are a danger to us all. 

For more articles by Richard Haviland, click here.