LThe Downing Street coronavirus briefing last night was given by Matt Hancock, now identifiable only by his dental records. According to Dominic Cummings, Hancock was a serial liar on a lethal level who should have been sacked 15 or 20 times. According to him, Matt Hancock “threw a ring around retirement homes”. It would have been a lot better if he had thrown the ring in Mount Doom instead.
Elsewhere, it appeared that a government that came to power promising to control our borders allowed 1.59 million – ONE FIVE NINE MILLION POINT – of travelers who will be heading to the UK during the four-month lockdown, from January to April alone, two-thirds of whom were not UK nationals. If we don’t fully open in three weeks, be sure to thank the Conservatives by adding a few more points to their poll ratings.
So yes: you have heard a lot of denials in the last 24 hours. But the biggest repository of denial in the UK remains the polls, where no revelation of incompetence or failure has more than a positive impact on the government. A midweek survey saw the Tories climb six points, to 44%, which feels perfect for a country where, at that point, Cummings was claiming industrial levels of lies, incompetence and contempt for the elderly and vulnerable, and topped it off with details as Boris Johnson wanted. Chris Whitty to inject him with the virus live on television. Remember, even Donald Trump at his craziest only wanted the other people to inject the disinfectant.
Yet we are where we are. The big puzzle is that so many who have spoken of the “cult of Corbyn” are so reluctant to face the fact of the cult of Johnson. In many ways, Johnson is the much more classic cult leader. His decisions have resulted in the deaths of a large number of people and he has many pregnant women.
If only the people who correctly identified the obnoxious and bizarre tendency to excuse absolutely anything when it comes to Jezza could be man enough to see it on such a grander scale when it comes to Bozza. He is, after all, the current Prime Minister. And for over a year, many – not just Cummings – have pointed out in ruthless and verifiable detail his appalling decisions or indecisions, which have led to tens of thousands of needless deaths, far deeper-than-necessary economic damage, and a longer loss of freedoms. To say nothing of his approach to funding vacations and home decor that wouldn’t seem out of place in a TV evangelist.
But let’s get back to the first principles of this whole worship business. The thing about cult leaders generally is that they are charismatic, masculine, and able to persuade people of the wisdom of things that are not in their best interests. There is simply no moral failure on their part that could be placed in front of their followers that would not make them passionately excuse or love them for it. False prophecies, missing funds, being present but not involved when laying a wreath in Black September, noting one of the world’s worst deaths and constantly hesitating to the point of manslaughter – all of this is bad shit for foreigners, but just makes cultists closer and closer to their beloved leaders.
This is something a lot of people have noted in their reactions to Jeremy Corbyn. But you don’t hear from Johnson – and he’s miles taller than Corbyn. Just look at the extent of the damage. Compared to that, what was Corbyn? The equivalent of a suburban Utah cultist with a few dedicated followers who never get anywhere. Johnson is the David Koresh, the Jim Jones, the Charles Manson.
So maybe it’s no wonder that seconds after Cummings gave detailed testimony about Johnson’s obvious inability to perform his duties, you can’t budge for Tory MPs to explain it all in a lunar fashion. Just as Corbyn was an #absoluteboy to some, Johnson is a #massivelegend to some more. Men want to be like him; women want to be left alone to raise a child by him.
Of course, part of the problem was choosing the cult deprogrammer. Cummings this week looked like the Tony Blair of the Conservative Party – a guy who knows how to win an election and often makes a lot of sense, but is a hopelessly compromised messenger because of that one thing he did. I’m just not going to wonder today if it was worse to go to a beautiful place in the northeast to test your eyesight or to start a war of regional destabilization in the Middle East on a fake flyer and without a strategy. Release. Either way, it seems like the right thing to do is to rely on the judgment of the locals.
More sadly still, Johnson is aided and encouraged by a generation of Westminster observers so baffled by polls that they have completely decoupled morals from politics. I miss being told that things don’t matter because they haven’t “cut”, or that such and such a horror show is “built in” to the audience’s relationship. with Johnson, or that something doesn’t matter because “the voters don’t care.” So what?! Voters don’t care about a lot of things that are really important nonetheless. Yet we are inundated with experts and politicians who can tell you the election price of everything but the value of nothing.
In the end, saying that the public doesn’t expect better than the substandard governance served over the past 14 months isn’t the victory he thinks. Is it this state of mind that will make Global Britain successful? Do me a favor. This is the mindset of managed decline, and if they can’t see it, they’re really lost to the Kool-Aid.
Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist
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