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How long will Tories tolerate Johnson’s rank incompetence?

September 1, 2021

The distinguishing hallmark of this government and its lasting legacy will be its almost criminal incompetence. No government in my lifetime or, as far as I can see, in the history of modern government in this country, has so consistently blundered from crisis-to-crisis. Surely, there must come a time when even the most loyal of Tories realise that the man they put in charge of their party and the country is an embarrassment to both?

There are signs that Tory voters are turning against Johnson’s government.

The shattering defeat they suffered at the hands of the Liberal Democrats in the Chesham and Amersham byelection in June came hard on the heels of the loss of a significant number of key seats in the May council elections, especially in traditional Tory voting areas in the south. What analysis there has been of these defeats has mainly focussed on the strong Remain votes there were in these areas, suggesting the losses are a punishment for Brexit.

That is only a partial explanation and one that actually suits Tories looking for straws to clutch.

Brexit has undoubtedly played a part in these limited electoral setbacks but it is not so much Brexit of itself that has dismayed Tory voters but the incompetence of Brexit that is starting to gnaw away at them. Johnson’s idiotic sloganising about an “Oven Ready Brexit” is coming back to haunt him. Try finding an oven ready Brexit on the empty supermarket shelves.

To the charge sheet of incompetence can be added almost every response to the Covid-19 pandemic, apart from the initial phase of the vaccine roll-out.

Now, we have the unforgivably shambolic handling of the retreat from Afghanistan. This was flagged up months ago when Trump did his deal with the Taliban. Biden made no secret of his determination to see a full American withdrawal through to its conclusion. The Johnson government has no excuses for not being well-prepared and should have been evacuating large numbers of people from that blighted country months ago.

Johnson’s bumbling image, once thought endearing but merely superficial, is now ruthlessly exposed as all the man has to offer. It is a fatal character flaw in a country’s leader. His obviously paranoid fear of challenge from within government has meant that he has surrounded himself with a second-rate Cabinet. Wherever you look in this government you find incompetence, indecision and chaos.

We should not lose sight of the human cost of these failures. How many lives continue to be lost as Johnson continues to blunder through the corridors of power?

I cannot help feeling this will continue to gnaw away at Tory voters, even without an effective opposition to exploit Johnson’s many vulnerabilities. Tories are not, on the whole, the type of people who will forgive incompetence and that is what many political analysts are missing. The Remain voting Tories would probably – eventually – forgive Johnson for delivering Brexit if it was a competently delivered Brexit. There will be plenty more headlines to come about the unwanted consequences of leaving the European Union, especially when people start travelling abroad in greater numbers again. There will be long queues at passport control for us non-EU citizens, shocking bills for mobile phone roaming charges, horror stories about the cost of medical treatment for those not realising they now have to take out their own medical insurance when travelling to Europe – and the list will grow.

The unwanted and unplanned for consequences of Brexit will not go away. They will be with us for a very long time to come. Wishing them away will not save the Tories. They will have to take responsibility for them and for the man who is presiding over them.

No government is perfect – and the Covid-19 pandemic has tested every country – but never has a government failed so consistently in every department and in the face of every challenge. Many of us thoroughly disliked the Thatcher government of the 1980s but at least for a decade it was competent. When Thatcher stopped delivering, especially as the disaster of the Poll Tax caught up with her, the Tories ruthlessly dispatched her.

We could do with a bit of that Tory ruthlessness now.

From → Politics

One Comment
  1. Catherine Bruce permalink

    Excellent article. Read this just after explaining to my 20 year old drama student and budding play writer son why he couldn’t head off to Europe for 4 months next summer to work in a restaurant at night and write during the day.
    He can, if he wants to, apply and pay for a working visa, with accompanying police and medical reports but even if he can be bothered to go to the hassle of doing that, he can’t stay longer than 90 days.
    Boris’ promises (lies !) never did ring true for me on almost any topic but as far as Brexit in particular is concerned I am always put in mind of Rudyard Kipling’s words
    “What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?”


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