Towards the end of the war, Adolf Hitler began to blame his coming defeat on his own men for the crime of not being dead enough, and this somewhat remarkable epistemological destination is where Boris Johnson has now arrived with regards to Covid-19.
“Those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, the good ones have all been killed,” the Fuehrer told his armaments minister, Albert Speer, while explaining how it would actually be better at that stage for them to burn what remained of Germany to the ground themselves, rather than let the enemy do it.
And this really can now be known as the Boris Johnson defence.
At this point, we should explain that he was in the middle of outlining his plan on how to stop the imminent second wave of the coronavirus when he made his startling admission.
But that doesn’t quite make sense either. His plan is to shut the pubs an hour earlier. That’s it. Though he spoke at the dispatch box of the House of Commons for almost two hours, the plan, in its entirety, can be repeated in just under two seconds, so he wasn’t exactly in the middle of it, but somewhere in the central third of the two hours of supporting waffle that followed.
Labour’s Ben Bradshaw had asked the prime minister whether the fact that Germany and Italy had far lower death rates and far less severe lifestyle restrictions in place might be because “they have test and trace systems that actually work?”
The answer that followed is not so much one for the history books as one for the Guinness books. Certainly, it is the most execrable thing this most execrable prime minister has ever uttered. If any past prime minister has ever come out with anything quite so toe-curlingly absurd then I, personally, have never heard it.
Obviously, it was Bradshaw’s fault for “undermining confidence” in Johnson’s test and trace scheme that doesn’t work, but we’re well used to that particular flavour of garbage by now. All of Johnson’s failures instantly become the fault of the person pointing them out, the moment they do so.
This is his favourite rhetorical technique. If you told Johnson he had his flies undone, it would be your fault for undermining Next.
Still, this is what you get when you elect a great orator as prime minister, only one whose techniques turn out not to have been honed beyond the standardised “you smelt it, you dealt it” construction.
But the very best was yet to come, and alas we have little choice but to type it out in full.
“Actually,” came the reply. “There is an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world: our country is a freedom-loving country. If we look at the history of this country over the past 300 years, virtually every advance, from free speech to democracy, has come from this country. It is very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that is necessary.”
So there you have it. That really is the end of it. The Germans, the Italians, they are all so cowed, so timid, that they choose to live. It is only the freedom-loving Brits that have done their bit, not just for their own sake but for the greatness of mankind, and died entirely preventable deaths in their tens of thousands.
It turns out that, actually, the “world-beating” test and trace system that’s five months and counting behind schedule – well, you don’t even need it. Not over here anyway. We’re too good for it. Test and trace? Maybe Johnny Foreigner wants test and trace but not the Brits. Oh no. No, thanks. Not in the home of free speech, democracy and rampant Covid-19, thank you very much.
There is, it turns out, not even any point in Boris Johnson trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus because decent, patriotic, freedom-loving Brits will just do whatever the hell they like, and quite right too.
In fact, if you’re sitting there reading this, you should be ashamed of yourself. Why aren’t you dead yet? Because you hate freedom, that’s why, so sod off to Germany and don’t come back. That is, if they’ll let you in. All the good men are dead; only the inferior ones remain.
Of course, it’s worth pausing to note Johnson’s little pause after he’d got as far as “democracy and free speech”. The next one coming down the slipway was “the rule of law”, but he’s currently in the process of legislating to allow his government to break that, and all his (non-invertebrate) legal officers have resigned over it.
The day’s events had an inner consistency, in their own way. It might look odd that, on Monday, Johnson had his senior scientists give their own public briefing, where they showed a series of terrifying graphs to lay bare the seriousness of the situation in which we find ourselves. And that, on Tuesday, it would transpire that all Boris Johnson is planning on doing about it is shutting the pubs an hour early and making them table-service only.
It might seem, to you and I and the rest of the disgraceful undead, that trying to bring down the national R rate by introducing one tiny new measure that is far less draconian than the ones that haven’t worked in Leicester, Oldham, Bolton and everywhere else in between, is kind of insane.
But then, we would think that, wouldn’t we, because we don’t love freedom enough. There’s no point trying to tell the British what to do, so why should Boris Johnson even bother trying?
All the good men are fallen. Only the inferior ones remain, and my goodness, one of them appears to have found his way into Number 10 Downing Street.
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