I have struggled to make sense of claims issued by Boris Johnson overnight which he believes show he is innocent of misleading parliament about parties at number 10 during the lockdowns.
His claim seems to have two parts. The first part is that the committee only thinks there were matches because Sue Gray told them that was the case and provided the only evidence that there were matches, and she is unreliable because she has now joined Labor.
This ignores three facts. The first is that the judging committee says they didn’t use his report. The second is that no one suggested that he was talking to Labor about a job when he reported it. The third, and most important, is that she was asked to report because there was prima facie evidence that the parties took place before she reported and so she was asked to investigate. That evidence was not invalidated, as Johnson implies, because she reviewed it. The statement is, then, completely inconsequential. The Committee has already said so.
Second, Johnson says that no one ever told him that he went to parties, so it never occurred to him that he went so as not to have misled Parliament because they didn’t think he did. This could be called the crime of insanity. That’s because he assumes he didn’t know the law, even though he did, and unlike everyone else who had a personal responsibility to follow it, he was only required to do so if an official told him he was in danger of breaking it and if They didn’t, he was innocent. That, politely, is crazy. He suggests that he thinks he’s a bit removed from responsibility when he clearly wasn’t. The law said it wasn’t. As he stated at Eton, the logic is that the rules apply to everyone but him.
After this, the defense assumes that he doesn’t know what a party is when he attends one. That too is an allegation of insanity. He apparently doesn’t share the sanity (in the common understanding sense) of other people, apparently, so it doesn’t need to apply to him.
So this claim requires us to believe that when it was pointed out that he might have attended an illegal party, he did not see fit to reconsider his opinion. Thus, he was able to maintain his innocence even when others had suggested that he was unlikely to be credible. That is also crazy. It requires us to believe that he is incapable of reflecting on his actions after they have occurred, unlike everyone else.
What is the probability that Johnson believes any of this? I’m sure he’s persuaded himself of it, so I suspect so. In that case, the question before the Committee is not whether he thought he misled the House, but whether a reasonable person could have thought he had.
It is not something new legally to take into account. A person appears before a court every session day in this country completely convinced that he has not committed a crime of which he is accused. They will swear blindly that they did not. A jury is tasked with evaluating the evidence that they did, and not their evidenceless claim that they did not. That is what the Committee will have to do.
I admit my bias: I think Johnson lied throughout this and many other episodes and has, at best, a vague relationship to reality. I think he misled the House on several occasions. I can’t see how anyone could think otherwise.
More troubling, however, is the fact that he is not the only one denying responsibility for decision-making. Johnson turned this into an art form, but it’s commonplace. Time and time again, ministers must decide on an issue and instead refer the matter to a third party when they already have the power to take action. The inability to accept responsibility is chronic in government. I suspect Labor will do no better if they come to office. Cowardly politicians seek office to then evade the responsibility that comes with office. Johnson’s claim that he could only know an event was a party if an official told him is just one extreme example of that mentality. Only in parliament could this resonate.
Will the Committee find Johnson guilty? Without corruption at stake, I don’t see how they can avoid doing it. The evidence seems strong. The defense is absurd.
Will the entire House then take action? I also think it’s likely: Sunak has every reason to want him gone. It is a nuisance that he would well get rid of. He ignores everything else: that is enough.
I hope that happens. We can do without Johnson and his ilk.
What do you think?
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