Roll up one and all and see the greatest performance ever given by politicians! A play so absorbing that its enthralled a nation of those willing to buy the unlikely story that a group of people responsible for nearly 200,000 deaths due to a preventable disease, who have overseen scandal after scandal from blackmail and bullying to their stirring performance as reverse Robin Hoods- stealing from the poor to give succour to the rich- were ever interested in making our lives better.
We live in a remarkable time. Many things have contributed to the through the looking glass state of affairs we find ourselves in. 9/11, the incompetence of the Bush administration, Blair’s descent into useful lapdog and overt liar who pushed an agenda of war on us for the sake of the black lifeblood of the planet- oil. There’s a distinct delineation between the performative lies of someone like Blair and- as a byproduct- Starmer: they lie about sticking to promises and policies because they genuinely think and perhaps know that lying for the greater good benefits the majority. I do not hate those politicians who lie thinking they must do so for “the greater good” but lying, nonetheless, leads to the sort of crushing disgrace that ended Blair’s tenure.
But this type of performance, this lying is different than the insidious lies of people like Trump, Johnson, Patel and almost every single member of the conservative party “functioning” in the uk today. It is not to excuse it- but a lie told in isolation is different than the constant performance of roles that has encompassed the tories for the last 12 years.
The theatrics of Johnson’s red faced rants at the despatch box are meant only to absolve him of culpability in his now myriad well advertised crimes, some of which are listed above. A man who oversaw wholesale death at the hands of a plague then stood in an expensive press room, studiously dishevelled as only a man running a disaster can be and who barely contained his scene-breaking smirk as he blamed everyone from NHS staff to care home workers to the individuals ourselves, failing at every turn to grasp the depths of the role he plays- his own vital and completely unfufilled role as arbiter of safety. A man who somberly promised there were no parties- but then there were parties but he didn’t go- but then he did go but he didn’t know it was a party- but he did go and he did know it was a party but parties are ok: bravissimo! Johnson truly outdid himself as an actor through those scenes; I know were it me, I would likely have broken and laughed at the obscenity of such poorly written lines- but he performed them with gusto!
The playbook which this government has functioned from has always been written to shirk blame: you will note that not once has any tory, even performatively admitted responsibility for the outcomes of brexit on our economy, of coronavirus and the deaths therein, of rising hate crimes, of the knighthood of a man who oversaw the worst exam results because he would not factor in a pandemic, of the lobbying scandal or of a doctored race report or even of Johnson’s apparently strenuously rehearsed insinuation that Starmer was responsible for the monster that is Jimmy Saville. But that is because any person- not a minority, not even the majority, matters in this play we’re swept up in. Johnson tore up the playbook of politician and is rewriting as he goes, forgetting to refer to his own source material. That’s hardly surprising- Johnson’s prose has always been harshly critiqued by anyone unfortunate enough to delve into it. His half baked lies about political correctness being an import from the EU, fallacious claims of government ministers potential homosexual affairs… he may be an actor. A great writer he is not.
As a man, and a government obsessed with market prominence, the market itself took on the role of judge, jury and indeed executioner of coronavirus. If you couldn’t afford to stay home then perhaps you should have worked a bit harder, studied more, perhaps you should have saved more to get a mortgage then you didn’t HAVE to go out to work: you could have been offered a more prominent role in the play of modern Britain: But we weren’t all offered the stage Johnson was, we worked for our meagre bit parts and we were shunned from the spotlight- a man such as he would never understand this life because it’s so alien to his own. Every pundit who worked as his agent to install him knew he would deliver a brilliant performance as a prime minister, but when it came to fulfilling those duties he would, and has, and is, and will continue- to fall flat, miss the notes, forget the lines.
This mindset so common amongst the elite is not surprising. Those born to be stars are so used to it that it fades into the background. What’s surprising is how successfully this government has played it’s role, plying the working class with this message- and how many have accepted their bit part at the coliseum of conservative- how many working class people stand and cheer at the interval, crying “yes, yes our lives are worse, we’re poorer, more unhealthy, our family and friends died, we can’t afford to heat our homes- more, more!” They leave rave reviews for a government performatively talking about wanting to be the party of tax cuts as taxes go up, the party of individual responsibility as they shirk their own duties- they go off book every day on stage, speaking contradictions to their character and yet the proletariat rise from their seat, applauding.
9% of the UK tested positive for coronavirus last week. Where was the scene of a PM worried for the health of his nation? Was it cut from the play? No.
Because the UK are bored of hearing about covid, because the government and a less than useless media are not pushing the message- there are many reasons. But most of it, to my belief, boils down to a prime minister who stands unflinching at the despatch box, his brows knitted in consternation as he orates about how well we’ve done (despite having the highest deaths in Europe), how great our vaccine rollout (which is now woefully low on the world table and doesn’t even factor in children) is, how we’re levelling up (as 1.1 million people are due to drop into the trenches of poverty). Johnson’s lines are well rehearsed, and of course, complete nonsense.
The prime minister’s bluster is performed by a master of wordplay with absolutely no substance. I often imply that he is a stupid man, and I do believe that there is a dearth of common sense in that head- but to deny he is consciously complicit of his decision to let the market dictate death is to offer him a disservice- I credit Mr Johnson with knowingly leading us into mass death and a decimated economy. Because Johnson and huge swaths of those who gather to watch him perform are fans of hope. They want to live off the great glory of a Britain that never existed. “Built by hard working people” they will extoll in parliament. Built then by slaves imported in droves to fulfil the wishes of our ancestors, and built now by the poor whose earnings are being pared down to nothing by a government who will take our taxes and stuff them in the coffers, ready to drip drip drip feed us until the run up to an election they hope to storm. Suddenly the magic money tree will bloom and Johnson will cry ‘ITS BECAUSE OF ME- I WORKED TO GET YOU THIS MONEY’. A performance worthy of Shakespeare- a man Johnson is writing a book about and being paid more for than I will earn in 5 years no doubt.
Boris Johnson could, tomorrow, convene parliament and do all manner of things to help the cost of living crisis. Energy companies cannot just up and leave; their earnings should be capped and the extra money reinvested into consumer savings, or into green energy which would and should be cheaper. But he would have to eschew the role he’s played for so long. Out would go the spotlights and in he would step, the caricature lost, and we would finally see a contrite, a worried, a selfless PM who would do what he could to help us: but this is a role Johnson is utterly incapable of fulfilling: he is typecast. He will not change.
He could have worked collaboratively with the EU on a brexit deal that didn’t involve heinous red tape and therefore push up the price of goods, ruin businesses that rely on import/export expedience. He could fairly tax the hyper rich, close the tax loopholes that the EU was working on so those who earn obscene amounts of money pay fairly and proportionately. But Boris Johnson will approach the despatch box with his sneering surety that Britain must suffer under his guidance because the market dictates it so. So it is with this that we must realise: Johnson is not a prime minister, he is an actor on a stage, performing a brilliant imitation of a businessman running the country like a firm to maximise profit even at the expense of the workers. As long as the CEOs are rich our lives or deaths do not matter.
Johnson and his allies have each stepped up to the spotlight to perform wonderfully convincing soliloquies, each convincing us of a different reason for the play we’re unwittingly performing: it’s the people of colour, the foreigners, the LGBT+ who have stolen the show, made the whole performance about them: but it is the minorities who simply ask for time on stage- we didn’t write the play. those who proceeded Johnson’s government did, and this government’s wilful continuation of a storyline of deflecting blame is the true reason we are here.
As the audience of the Johnson government’s play dwindles due to covid deaths, due to starvation, hypothermia in their own homes, due to rising hate crimes one must wonder: who will be alive to witness the curtain fall? Will we be lucky enough to survive the full tenure of the Johnson government- and of those who do make it to the final act, who will stand and cry “encore”.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.