Boulton is not one to give away his own personal opinions very cheaply, so it would, perhaps, not be unfair to view Boris Johnson’s little afternoon trip to Cop26 in Glasgow through the prism of Boulton’s assessment of politics today.
“Until recent years my assumption always was that, whether I thought they were playing well or badly, the prime minister, leader of the opposition, the first thing they thought about was doing well by their country,” he said. “I’ve really rather lost that. I think ‘what’s right for me?’ dominates a lot of politicians, rather than what’s right for the country."
Of course we can’t know how long that assessment has been in the making. It could even be coincidence that it should be said in the week that one MP has resigned after being found to have been lobbying on behalf of private companies that were paying him a hundred grand.
It may have nothing to do with the actual prime minister trying to use that scandal as a pretext to take down the standards commissioner herself, who has also had the temerity to look into the obscure web of funding behind Johnson’s £800-a-roll golden wallpaper.
And given the interview appears to have happened last Thursday, the day Johnson was forced by the sheer level of public and private vitriol over his outrageous plan to abandon them altogether, it probably doesn’t have anything at all to do with the news that Geoffrey Cox spent most of the last lockdown quite literally phoning it in to Westminster from the British Virgin Islands, where allegedly corrupt government officials were paying him four-hundred grand to make sure that “allegedly corrupt” never made it all the way to “disgraced”.
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But it, certainly, the case that Boris Johnson really did wander out on to a world stage in Glasgow and have to say the words, when questioned by journalists: “I genuinely believe that the UK is not a corrupt country. Nor do I believe that our institutions are corrupt.”
He also said, “You’ve got cases where sadly MPs have broken the rules. What I want to see is them facing appropriate sanctions.”
He said these words even though he, personally, whipped his own party into overturning a punishment handed out to one of their own MPs, which would also, he knew, have the deliberate side effect of taking down the investigation into his own wrongdoing. That MPs who have broken the rules were facing sanctions, and then he stepped in to stop it.
It hardly needs to be stated that, you know, you shouldn’t need to say it. There are no politicians, no leaders, no dictators or autocrats anywhere in the world who have ever said, “Yes, that’s right, we are corrupt. I am corrupt.” There are only two kinds. There are those who aren’t corrupt. And then there are those who have to say they aren’t corrupt.
All this, by the way, as Johnson was there doing his best to corral the more powerful nations of the world into more drastic action on the climate crisis. The UK is a world leader on climate change, principally because, for most of the last decade, better politicians than he were taking action on it, while he was still writing newspaper columns denying it was real.
The UK does actually have a degree of global authority on climate change. But what it doesn’t have, not anymore, is the moral authority to back it up. Who would ever bring themselves to listen to someone, standing there, acting out the part of a man trying to save the world, but who is so obviously and so utterly only concerned with what’s in it for himself?
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