Kirsty Strickland: Might the Union head the same way as Johnson the lying lawbreaker?



AS a former columnist, Boris Johnson will understand the worry that comes on days of intense political drama, when you know that whatever you’ve written will be out-of-date by the time it is published.

He will also be aware that such moments of breaking-news overload are rarely a positive sign for the subjects of them.

On Tuesday, Sajid Javid resigned as Health Secretary, signalling the beginning of the end for the prime minister. Chancellor Rishi Sunak resigned shortly after, though allies insist there was no co-ordination between the pair. During that dramatic half hour the dam, that had for so long seemed indestructible, finally burst.

Morale within the Conservative Party was already at a record low after days of lies, denials and tawdry justifications from Number 10 over the Chris Pincher allegations. In short, it was a repeat of every other scandal and unforced error we’ve seen from the UK Government this year.

It proved that Boris Johnson hadn’t learned from his mistakes and that his promises to clean up the culture of sleaze in government were hollow.

Nobody could have predicted that that the day would end as it did, with two big Cabinet beasts finally coming to the conclusion that they had had enough.

To their eternal discredit, they did so without any real claim to honour. Both men knew who Boris Johnson was when they agreed to enter his government. They were willing to accept the unacceptable and defend the indefensible when it looked like their man was still a winner.

They only left because they know the Prime Minister is on his way out, too.

Make no mistake: these are the dying days of Boris Johnson’s premiership. As things stand, he’ll be lucky to survive to the weekend, let alone summer recess.

His status as the great political survivor has always been vastly overstated. Shamelessness allowed him to cling on for longer than others would have, but the damage is now beyond repair.

The SNP, who haven’t got their problems to seek at the moment, must be watching on with a mixture of nervousness and glee.

Boris Johnson is the ideal bogeyman for the independence cause. His arrogance and incompetence are so overt that a committee of SNP strategists would struggle to design a more perfect Prime Minister to help bring supporters onside.

Politics shouldn’t be about personalities but it can’t hurt to have an opponent who is the living embodiment of unearned privilege.

The SNP won’t get so lucky twice.

When Boris Johnson is finally forced out, the Conservative party will select a dullard to replace him. They’ll choose a steady hand; somebody who will diligently clear away the bottles and empty the ashtrays before they get to work trying to repair what remains of the party’s credibility.

What that means for Scotland and the constitutional question remains to be seen.The SNP has raised the prospect of using the next UK general election as a de facto referendum on independence.

While an early poll is still unlikely, it isn’t impossible. It could come as a last roll of the dice from a fatally wounded Boris Johnson or from a newbie Prime Minister who wants to seek a fresh mandate from the public.

While the SNP will no doubt be watching closely to see how events unfold in the coming days, it’s tricky to war-game a situation that is defined by utter chaos.

That chaos was clear to see during PMQs yesterday, when even Johnson seemed unconvinced by his continued leadership.

As his own colleagues lined up to tell him it was time to go, he couldn’t even manage a trademark derisive smirk in response.

It is fitting that Johnson’s imminent downfall will be brought about by a gluttonous concoction of sleaze, booze and sexual harassment. The only surprise is that it has taken so long for his allies to accept reality.

Under Johnson, government ministers have been subject to a sustained period of humiliation. They are sent out to spout the government line – only for a retraction to be issued a few hours later revealing that everything they told journalists was a fabrication.

It seems that even the masochists among us have their limits.

While Johnson may have managed to successfully stuff his Cabinet full of cheerleaders and sycophants, there are still those further down the chain with some semblance of dignity.

Wednesday saw a slew of PPS resignations, each accompanied by a damning assessment of their boss’s many failings.

It feels like vindication for a weary public who made up their mind about the Prime Minister’s suitability for the top job a long time ago.

Parliamentary conventions and standards in public life are important, but we also shouldn’t overlook the psychological impact that having a man who is seemingly immune from the consequences of his actions has had on the nation’s morale.

Resilience isn’t easy to muster when a cost-of-living crisis hits immediately after a pandemic which saw us confined to our homes for the best part of two years.

We know what this government thought of those rules and we are well-versed in the excuses they offered for their reckless behaviour.

Since then, the public has been waiting for this moment of reckoning. Because for normal people, consequences follow bad behaviour. For too long, Johnson has been the exception to both that rule and the rules set down by his government.

The next Prime Minister will inherit the many crises of their predecessor but they will at least have the advantage of a fresh start – provided that that person isn’t somebody who stood by quietly as Johnson took liberties with the country’s collective patience.

As the endgame nears, the road ahead will start to become clear. For the Conservative party, that will mean a change of leadership.

For Scotland, that change might be far more fundamental. The next Prime Minister can’t be worse than this lying lawbreaker, but they still won’t be somebody who commands majority support among voters in Scotland.

Time is nearly up for Johnson and the union might be heading the same way.

At some point, crossing your fingers and hoping for the least-worst option just doesn’t seem like a sensible strategy any more.





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