Prime Minister Boris Johnston and Stornoway black pudding link.
Here’s one for the Christmas quiz. What’s the connection between the political fate of Boris Johnson and Stornoway Black Pudding? Tenuous, admittedly, but there is an answer, writes BRIAN WILSON
I have only met Johnson once. He was an undistinguished part-time MP, editing the Spectator and raking in cash on the post-prandial speaking circuit. I was doing my Ministerial bit at some trade lunch and he was the cabaret.
Two impressions formed. First, he was very funny. It was a routine he had delivered a hundred times with a few tweaks but he was good at it. Second, there was nothing nice about him. Do the gig, take the money and get out, almost certainly not back to the House of Commons.
And that really sums him up. As Eddie Mair put it to him: “You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you?”. Mair instanced three episodes in which Johnson had (a) falsified quotes; (b) lied to Michael Howard, for which he was sacked; and (c) given a confidential address to a fraudster crony who wanted a man beaten up. All well documented.
Subsequently, Johnson became a disastrous Foreign Secretary, a treacherous underminer of Theresa May and a late convert of convenience to Brexit. All leading inexorably to the job he considered his entitlement, in which capacity he will become a particularly disreputable footnote in history.
There is one flaw in this analysis – which is that he has always got away with it and reinvented himself as the people’s toff, first as Mayor of London and, more recently, strolling into Downing Street on the back of votes from post-industrial England.
Will this be different? Will last year’s Christmas parties turn into the demise of Johnson as Prime Minister? On their own, probably not but my guess is that it is the beginning of the end and the Tories will soon turn ruthless. If Johnson had acknowledged the parties, deplored them and censured those involved, the story would probably have died.
Instead, Ministers were sent out to maintain a fiction that was bound to unravel, as it duly has. It is unusually damaging because it conflicts so directly with people’s personal suffering and anguish during lockdown, for which the occupants of Downing Street did not give a hoot. For they are the chosen ones. Crucially, it also critically undermines his government’s own public health measures, so some will die.
There are few more damaging perceptions in politics than of one law for the powerful and another for the hoi polloi. This is so obviously true on many levels that it should not come as a surprise. But people’s noses really have to be rubbed hard in it before they turn offence into votes, and that is exactly what has happened on this occasion.
In that context, there is nothing left to like about Boris the semi-buffoon who muddles through and comes up with pithy phrases. There is only a chancer surrounded by privileged acolytes from similar backgrounds who really believe that they were born to rule.
Allegra Stratton, the lachrymose resignee, is a product of that magic circle, a pal of Johnson’s current wife, awarded a sinecure which she never actually fulfilled, part of a smug media elite … and so it goes on. All round, a pretty horrible breed of people.
Whenever Johnson has found himself in a tight corner, his first instinct has been to lie. Prima facie, he has done so again over the question of who paid for his interior decorations. Having been “cleared” on the assurance he did not know, it now transpires he messaged this individual asking for more.
This has apparently outraged Lord Geidt, the adviser on ministerial standards, who “cleared” him. As it happens, Christopher Geidt has close family connections to Lewis and the Harris Tweed industry, and now owns the farm which previously belonged to Charles MacLeod, founder of the Stornoway Black Pudding dynasty.
It would be pleasing to think that the missive which finally blows Johnson, his lies and deceits away just might be written in this far corner of the Hebrides, as the Christmas bells sound.
COUNCILS AS WHIPPING BOYS – THE ONLY BIG IDEA IN KATE FORBES BUDGET
With a £10 billion increase in block grant, one might expected a little creativity in how the money is spent to bring real change where it is needed most.
One new twist is to give councils freedom to raise council tax. There will be no freeze – so no money to compensate for one, none of which Ms Forbes,pictured left, was brave enough to mention in her speech to MSPs. Yet it is probably the single most important change in her Budget.
It means cash-starved councils are left with a choice between the opprobrium of raising taxes when so many families are struggling or else more cuts to services the same people need. This is not some kind of new, honest politics, but old-fashioned Tory buck-passing to councils as whipping-boys.
Another area in which Ms Forbes’ Budget failed to recognise reality is her treatment of the retail and hospitality sectors, which are on their knees. The rates relief offered is for a shorter period and at a lower rate than in the rest of the UK. Why?
It is only necessary to walk along any high street in Scotland to see what a mess these sectors are in – huge numbers of businesses have closed down never to re-open while many more are on the brink. They need help, not sleight of hand.
The state of our town centres should be a major Scottish Government priority. They provide jobs and shape the environment in which people live. Can nothing creative emerge from Holyrood to meet that challenge?