Boris Johnson is the shameful product of a rotten political system


“Why does the country have such a clearly inappropriate man as Prime Minister, a man who makes us an international laughingstock and leaves a long-lasting legacy of disastrous misadministered laws and regulations, and a demoralized civil service? and deeply damaged?”

At BBC Politics North Sunday, I was asked to speak about the situation of Boris Johnson. I said I would prefer to talk about why we are talking about Boris Johnson.

Why does the country have such a clearly inappropriate man as prime minister, a man who makes us an international laughingstock and leaves a long-lasting legacy of disastrous, misadministered laws and regulations, and a demoralized and demoralized civil service? deeply damaged?

Let’s take stock briefly, as we face a potentially long and turbulent “partygate” outage since the police intervened in the mess.

From the world’s point of view, I will take just one example among many that could constitute a thick library tome. Only one from “Operation Red Meat” (groan – how Trumpian): The Ghanaian government immediately refused any suggestion that he was in talks with the UK over the uncertain treatment of refugees, or that he would even go along with the idea.

And the laws! I quoted on Politics North an unlikely ally, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Tory minister under John Major, who in the debate on the latest bill to reach the House of Lords, on state aid, noted“Again and again…we’ve had legislation that hasn’t been properly thought through.” Despite the best efforts of the increasingly escalating House of Lords, as the record shows 14 losses for the government on last week’s disastrously repressive and undemocratic police bill, disastrous laws are passed and then poorly enforced (see Environmental Land Management Programswhere “lack of detail prevents farmers from making critical long-term decisions”).

Then there is the civil service – gutted by austerity under David Cameron, it has been, Politics concluded last week, corroded by the pressure to cover up the man at the top and his minions following his lead. A revealing quote: “I think the blatant lies come more from the political side than from us.”

And since Sunday – politics moves fast these days, an insider came out much stronger on corruption and disorder in government. Lord Agnew of Oulton, the Minister for Fraud Control, in a dramatic resignation speech, said: “The total loss from fraud across Government is estimated at £29billion a year… but a combination of arrogance, indolence and ignorance freezes the machinery of government.

Boris Johnson was elected Conservative leader because MPs and members believed he could win the next election. They didn’t think – or need not think – that he could win the majority of the country, just that he could sway swing voters into swing seats (often seats that had strayed away from a party Labor who had ignored them for decades, “knowing” they would vote Labor no matter what.)

But the problem isn’t just Johnson. You must be wondering why have we had three such disastrous prime ministers in a row?

Theresa May, who never having her maidenhead safe seat had to fight a competitive election, fell in the Tory leadership when Andrea Leadsom implodedwas at sea during the 2017 election.

There was David Cameron, who fell into Brexit with rampant overconfidence, having become Prime Minister because he thought he should personally get the role, with no idea what he wanted to do with it.

It is easy to blame individual behavior for our current bad governance and bad international reputation – and I do – but there is clearly a systematic problem when the country is so badly governed and so undemocratic, with parliament not representing the views People .

It only took the support of 30% of the country – that’s the percentage of eligible voters who turned out for Johnson in 2019 (44% of people who voted) – to give Johnson 100% of the power to the House of Commons.

The irony is that the unelected House of Lords – its composition determined by a mix of medieval heritage and 18th-century style patronage – is oddly more representative of the country than the House of Commons, and more effective in its scrutiny of legislation.

In all the scramble to get rid of Boris Johnson – and this week or next week, or next month, or after the local elections in May – it will happen, we have to step back and ask why we are in this situation. It’s not like there’s gonna be something better then intensify.

This constitution is the result of centuries of historical accidents. It’s uncodified (you can’t find an official document that tells us how we are governed), relies on people “good guys”, and is deeply undemocratic. It’s outdated and it doesn’t work.

We need a change of system – a modern, functional and democratic constitution. It needs to be written, not because it guarantees that people will do the right thing, but because many of the current ridiculous elements (see “spider letters”) just wouldn’t be printed and because there would be clarity on how it works.

And its form should be decided by the people, through a constitutional convention, a form of popular assembly, a form of deliberative democracy that is taking on a growing and successful role in the world.

Decades ago, New Zealanders abandoned their Westminster-style system and opted for a proportionally elected parliament, where MPs represent the views of the people. It gave them Jacinda Ahern, who this week annulled his marriage to comply with Covid restrictions. Boris Johnson couldn’t even postpone a few simple knees in the office. It is a contrast not only of individuals, but of systems.

Natalie Bennett is a Green Party counterpart and an editor of Left Foot Forward

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