Roy’s West End View: Battered Boris savaged by top Scots true blues
(Image attribution: Think London, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
There’s a memorable scene at the start of the epic movie Waterloo, starring Rod Steiger as Napoleon, where – with allied armies converging on Paris – the Emperor’s marshals gather to insist that he should resign.
“I will NOT! I will NOT! I will not, not, NOT!” he explodes, castigating them for their lack of moral fibre.
Minutes later an aide appears to whisper in Napoleon’s ear that Montmartre has fallen and, ashen faced, the wee man in the big boots signs his resignation letter.
That, making due allowances for the different historical context, is roughly where Boris Johnson was at in packed House of Commons on Wednesday, January 12.
While appearing to apologise, sort of, at least to begin with, he then proceeded incrementally to try and exculpate himself from what, even by his own colourful standards, was his biggest political blunder. Or to qualify that, biggest that has come to light in a way that cannot be swept under the carpet.
Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer, the SNP’s Ian Blackford and others denounced him in fulsome terms and demanded he should go, knowing perfectly well he would do nothing of the kind. Why should he? He’s got away with a whole list of previous iniquities, from the infamous proroguing of Parliament stunt – apparently legal but massively anti-democratic – to the fortunes squandered on his spectacularly bad taste flat decoration.
Blackford was shrugged off as a Scottish “Nationalist” Party hack, while a Labour MP’s searing indictment was “partisan”.
With the Boris bubble finally about to burst, leaving a hideous trail of Brexit disaster in its wake, he instead “kicked the can down the road” by insisting it is vital to await the result of a pending inquiry into his ill-considered festive shenanigans (which happened just over a year ago).while being forced to admit for the first time that, yes, he was at that shockingly insensitive, in fact unforgiveable, garden party.
However the “bring your own booze” do attended and implicitly sanctioned by the tousle-haired Tory super-twit (but only for 25 minutes, so that’s all right) was actually “a work event”.
It could be that some (unkind, certainly partisan) souls might suggest he had technically breached some obscure rule or other, but, hey, look at the success of the vaccination programme!
It didn’t wash, it won’t wash, and his political career is over – bar a lot of shouting and millions of column inches and party infighting.
(Image attribution: Ruth Davidson. The Scottish Parliament, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
But meanwhile, as he thrashes around in the net he has woven for himself, the people who should have been his staunchest allies north of the border are saying exactly the same things as the SNP and Labour.
Ruth Davidson, during her tenure as leader of the Tories in Scotland, may not ultimately have achieved much for her party here for all her hectoring, bawling and shouting, but on her watch the Conservatives did manage the seemingly incredible feat of becoming second placed at Holyrood – although some would argue that was largely down to Labour’s self-destruction as a political force in Scotland for the foreseeable future.
Many Scots consider Labour did the Tories’ dirty work for them in the 2014 referendum, and electoral wipeout (bar one Edinburgh MP) followed at the subsequent General Election.
Ruth may have dreamed of becoming a major force in Westminster, but as thanks was instead appointed a Baroness in the redundant obscenity which is the House of Lords, there to fester among hereditary dust magnets, bra tycoons and other expensive wastes of space.
Hell hath no fury. She is at one with Keir Starmer and Ian Blackford and wants Boris out.
So too, perhaps more pertinently, does current Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, whose track record on Partygate (as the row has inevitably been dubbed) has been consistently straightforward, robust and uncompromising.
It won’t please him at all, one might suppose, to find next day that joke-in-poor-taste Jacob Rees-Mogg, a refugee from a PG Wodehouse novel, sees him as “a lightweight figure” in Scottish politics. No, Moggy insisted, the Scottish Secretary (Alister Jack) was a much more significant force.
Eh? Jack is a staunch defender of the Union and an able speaker, and possibly much more besides, but it would be surprising if he were seen as “significant” – or even recognised – by as many as one in 500 Scots.
Perception is sometimes everything, and while he pops up in the press from time to time he is seen by many as a sort of Westminster proconsul obsessed with nailing Union Jacks to public buildings.
No matter how good he is at his job he has little public profile, hardly anybody knows why he’s there, and won’t be missed when he’s gone. He’ll surely be awarded a knighthood for sticking it out in the face of seemingly universal derision or indifference – politics is never fair.
(Image attribution: David Woolfall, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
Douglas Ross, by contrast, is certainly significant. If he cannot improve the Tory share of Holyrood votes in Scotland then who can? He’s also telling it like it is, and unlike his appalling Westminster boss comes across as principled and honest.
People like Rees-Mogg do not, of course, have a Scooby what goes on in Scotland and care even less – we’re a troublesome colony, but a relatively minor irritation in the greater scheme of things (whereas to Labour we are pivotal and vital, as they struggle to rebuild support after the Corbyn disaster).
Ross and his cohorts will have their work cut out defending hard won limited gains in the aftermath of the Boris administration, and making clear their disgust at his stupid , uncaring and possibly illegal actions is an absolute necessity – lacking which another dose of oblivion in Scotland surely beckons.
Meanwhile back at the Number Ten bunker beleaguered Boris may take some consolation from one perhaps small crumb of comfort as he ponders his imminent sacking …at least he’s not Prince Andrew.
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