So, news is now breaking that Boris Johnson will step down as Prime Minister. As well as the leadership contest, the blame game now begins. Tory MPs are keen to pin the blame for the current mess on Boris Johnson himself. He in turn has attempted always to avoid taking personal responsibility, denying knowledge of illegal events when he was in fact present, claiming not to know about allegations he was personally informed about, minimising allegations of serious sexual assault as “some people cannot handle their drink” -implication “it’s the bar manager’s fault).
Meanwhile, yesterday Sir Keir Starmer argued that Tory MPs could not hide from the fact that they helped to put Boris in power and keep him in power. They couldn’t abdicate from their responsibility. Nicola Sturgeon has made a similar point. You will be unsurprised to know that I agree fully with those comments.
However, I am also inclined to think in terms of pots and kettles when it comes to Sir Keir and Labour shadow cabinet members. He in particular stayed in the Shadow Cabinet and with his colleagues campaigned to put Jeremy Corbyn in power. Let’s just remember that Jeremy Corbyn had a track record of sharing platforms with terrorists and calling them friends. Corbyn was also responsible for antisemitism running rife through a mainstream party and indeed said and did things that had antisemitic undertones themselves. So, when it comes up propping up someone morally unfit for office, sadly the current leader of the opposition has previous.
I have long argued that before we talk about whether Boris should go for this or that misdemeanour, we need to acknowledge that he should never have been allowed to take office in the first place. Here was a man who was already known to lie, who had been described by previous bosses as unfit, who had been forced to go to places like Liverpool to apologise for offence, who had recently betrayed his wife. Here was a man who had been caught on phone seeming to insight violence. Boris is not just a clown, a lovable rogue, a joker. Yet, despite all of this, Tory MPs allowed him to go through to the members’ ballot and those members then voted for him in huge numbers. Why? Well because, despite, or even worse, perhaps because of all of this they believed he would get Brexit done and get the Tories re-elected. Those MPs and party members must take responsibility for where we are today.
Secondly, Labour MPs and members including Sir Keir Starmer must take responsibility for putting us in a position where so many people could not in good conscience vote for them. By offering an equally unfit alternative, they played their part in Boris not only winning but getting close to a landslide.
Going further back, the leaders of all parties and previous prime ministers going back to at least Tony Blair must bear their share of responsibility. Whether it was by losing the support of core voters in key places by alienating them or the hollowing out of our civil service, or the way in which their own behaviour in office (dodgy peerages and dodgy dossiers, throwing phones and throwing tantrums), they played their part. We may have reached the nadir but the trajectory has been going thos way for a long, long time.
And of course, we the wider public need to recognise that we’ve indulged people like Boris Johnson. If Tory members chose Boris and stuck with him because they thought he was popular and electable, if they assumed the public would overlook his short comings then for a long time they were right. So, responsibility cannot be ducked.
Of course, we humans have form. We love to make excuses and shift blame. That’s exactly what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. That’s what sin does. So as we talk about where responsibility lies today, we should be alert to the ongoing temptation we all face to try and shift blame and duck responsibility.