As Boris Johnson departs, the country desperately needs grown-up government – Alex Cole-Hamilton
I once watched Boris Johnson leaving his limo and entering Downing Street on the news. He purposefully untucked his shirt at the back and ruffled his hair to look more dishevelled. Proof, if any were needed, that it was always an act. This bumbling routine, the clown-like persona, all fake.
He knew people found that act charming, and played to it. Sure enough, when accounts of lockdown-busting Downing Street parties first surfaced, he leant into it using ‘buffoonery’ to squirm his way out of a simple fact that whilst the entire country was making extraordinary sacrifices, Johnson and his friends were partying. Breaking the rules they had introduced.
On Monday, the grown-ups finally reasserted themselves in the Commons and Johnson was delivered some of his comeuppance. Disgraced and found out, it appears his parliamentary career has run out of road.
The term liar is almost entirely forbidden in parliament. Yet in the debate on the privileges committee’s findings, that he had misled parliament, it was used without sanction and with abandon. Emboldened by public outrage, MPs reminded us of the damage he has done to our institutions and public faith in politics.
Johnson’s fall is remarkable, but he was not just some bad apple. His devil-may-care attitude is emblematic of an Eton-clad political group, ever-present among the Conservatives, an entitled attitude that the rules simply do not apply to them.
Think of the recently emerged Christmas party videos or the time a good chunk of the parliamentary Tory party was willing to vote to change the rules to protect Owen Paterson following paid advocacy allegations. They exploit the vulnerable in our society – minorities and asylum seekers to name a few, pandering to the worst extremes of our politics.
They are led in Westminster by a Prime Minister who breached lockdown rules and couldn’t bring himself to show face at Monday’s debate. Rishi Sunak must deliver our country the justice we deserve. He should start by stripping Johnson of his ex-PM's allowance of an outrageous £115,000 of taxpayers’ money every year for office costs for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives are led by a man so weak, he’s changed his mind three times on support for Johnson. Put simply, the Tories have been in power too long and the rot has set in. We need rid of them and pronto.
But there are no reasons to be cheerful about who governs Scotland either. At a time when Scots are bracing for another battering in the cost-of-living crisis, the First Minister spent last weekend launching a vacuous independence paper and will spend this weekend chairing a conference on the subject. All the while his party is consumed by police investigations and internal warfare.
Scots are crying out for stability and focus in London and Edinburgh, yet they find none of that in those who govern us. That's why my Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to focussing on what really matters: the cost-of-living emergency, the crisis in our NHS, and our public services.
This is where our government's attention should be. Let us hope that Johnson’s disgrace this week may finally signal the promise of a return to grown-up politics. My goodness, don’t we need it.
Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western