Morality, Political Psychology & Partygate
It has been a very long time since I published a blog post. But after civil servant Sue Gray's Partygate report was published yesterday, I had to say something. At a mere 12 pages, this brief summary of the parties held at No 10, while the rest of the country hunkered down during lockdown, has confirmed what we have known for several weeks. For many, the report answers their questions. For me it raises far more questions than answers.
The full publication is due to be released after the police inquiry is complete. The fact that there is far more to this story than the current report is horrifying to know even without knowledge of the details. What was confirmed yesterday is that there is flagrant moral bankruptcy in our government. I am amazed at the prevailing attitude of arrogance and disregard throughout the Prime Minister's Office that would have facilitated these 'gatherings', which from the sound of things were nothing more than booze-ups in government headquarters. To be honest, aside from lockdown, I have a problem with that being the government culture at any time in history. Should we be having regular knees-ups in government offices when we are the world's second most powerful nation? I'm not quite sure that's a good idea. But as we all know, the cut that runs deepest is that all of this occurred while millions of us lost civil liberties which caused multifaceted, irreparable damage for many, and meant that loved ones suffered and died alone. These are the obvious offenses but let's dig deeper by asking some questions.
Why did Boris Johnson insist that the public wait for the Sue Gray report when he has always known what it would contain? For no other reason than that he was clearly biding his time. He used the intervening time to try to win over MPs and to keep bleating on to the public through his tweets and the press about how we should remember his so-called great achievement of Brexit. Apparently, we need to overlook his many lies about Brexit, too, and just pay attention to the fact that it happened. We should also focus on his 'amazing' response to COVID-19 and the successful vaccine rollout. Of course, there is growing data that the official government narrative about COVID-19 isn't quite adding up either. There are serious questions to be asked about the government's knowledge around vaccine efficacy, necessity and safety. But hey, let's just ignore all that, too.
Truth is, Boris has a tendency to lie a lot. While it is in no way unusual for a government official to lie to the people, Boris seems to lie with a bold-faced tenacity that is second to none. He is unblinkered, unfettered by conscience, and wholly determined to do whatever he likes no matter what moral rules he has to break. He has repeatedly refused to resign, clearly unmoved by any moral obligation to preserve the dignity of his office, or to acknowledge frequent calls from his colleagues, the papers and the public to step aside. He's unashamed and determined. In fact, he seems to relish being the enemy, behaving as though trading jibes in a schoolyard by calling SNP's Ian Blackford fat and suggesting that Labour Leader Keir Starmer protected Jimmy Saville by failing to prosecute him. While Boris's peers either chastised his misconduct or beseeched him to depart office during Prime Minister's Questions, Boris showed every expression other than contriteness, at varying times being glib, bored, bemused and overtly cocky. He said he was sorry but the closest he came was wearing the expression of a boy caught stealing biscuits. So, my next question is, does it matter that our Prime Minister appears to be amoral?
For many MPs, it doesn't seem to matter at all. Over the last several weeks we have witnessed a swinging pendulum of responses from Boris's peers - from outrage to support and something in between. The joke is, they all knew Partygate was happening well before we did; many of them were attendees to the so-called 'work events'. So, it is clear that morality is not a priority with MPs. If it were just about morality, someone in government would have spoken out before the issue became public. The MPs have been reactive, not proactive, about the COVID-19 restriction breaches. How they are responding now is very much driven by political psychology above all else. By this I mean the psychology of political strategising. It is all about retaining power, maintaining loyalties, covering each other's tracks, personal ambitions and unspeakable agendas unknown to the public which are the real drivers behind recent political decision-making. For many MPs, the betrayal of the public will not be the deciding factor in whether or not they make a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister. To these MPs, this is a game to be won. We're just the pawns who need to be played in order to get the victory. So, what happens next?
Well, Boris is buying more time. 'Let's wait for the police investigation to be over before we release the full report,' he says. The last I heard the police had received a bundle of over 500 documents and 300 photos (which suggests that there were a lot of parties, by the way). But the main point is that this investigation is going to take a while. In the meantime, Boris intends to gaslight the public to death, saying what he thinks we need to hear, manoeuvring, schmoozing, and hoping we'll all forget the travesty that has occurred. His political psychology is working overdrive at the moment. Because Boris knows that morality is ultimately not what will drive the public either. What is driving the public is FEAR.
We have just spent two years being screamed at on a daily basis about how COVID-19 is here to kill us all. We've been locked down, shut in, broken down and left shell-shocked. We are emerging as different people into a different world. People are desperate to go back to normal but that will take a while and that's if it ever happens at all. We all have COVID-19 PTSD. Boris knows the public is vulnerable. Boris thinks we're desperate. So, he'll do what we want - for now - to get us on side. He has removed all Plan B restrictions. Just last night they desisted on the NHS vaccination mandate and repealed the care worker mandate, too. Perhaps these were governmental admissions that they lost the legislative credibility to enforce these mandates knowing that they were breaking laws themselves. Even if these aren't admissions, at the very least the timing was perfect. Boris seems to believe that all he needs to do is do and say what the people want and all will be forgiven. He may not be wrong.
The biggest question that no one seems to be asking is this: WHAT DOES PARTYGATE REALLY TELL US ABOUT COVID-19? I'll ask another way. Would you go to loads of parties if you thought you would be at risk of death from a deadly virus? I don't think anyone would. So, it says a lot to me that government officials partied like it's 1999 throughout 2020. Perhaps they knew something about the virus that we didn't. Perhaps they knew then, like the data has proven, that people over 65 with multiple comorbidities are most at risk from serious illness or death after contracting the virus and the majority of us would be fine. Most of those partying didn't fall into the high-risk category, so they regularly got together without issue. Yet still, they managed to pressure, cajole and terrify the public into vaccination uptake, vilifying those who dared to question the speed at which the mRNA vaccine was made available to be used in a manner it had never been used before. The government has all but silenced discussion about vaccine safety and injury. For two years the government told us that if we didn't undertake all of its measures, we were risking our lives and the lives of others. Meanwhile, they were partying. If nothing else, the public should pay very close attention to the fact that Boris Johnson told us to fear something that he and his peers did not. This raises a world of questions that we cannot even begin to ask or answer here.
So, we return to the madness that was yesterday. As the night settled after the release of Sue Gray's report and Boris's Razzie Award-worthy apology in the House of Commons, the evening ended with Liz Truss's announcement that she has contracted COVID-19. With a straight face, she told us that fortunately she has had her 3 vaccinations, suggesting that she is somehow advantaged by triple injection. The irony, of course, is that if the vaccinations worked she wouldn't have COVID-19 in the first place. There was a time when vaccination actually meant inoculation. But this is the brave new world we live in, where we see what's happening but are told to ignore it and believe what we're told. This is the type of world where the Borises will survive and thrive, where morality - and common sense - die and political psychology reigns. The other option, however, is that we wake up, pay attention and demand more from our government.
We should all be concerned about the motives of a government that removed our civil liberties while expanding its powers to an obscenely wide degree to the detriment of all, especially those in the lowest economic demographic. While they partied, no thought at all was given to the growing mental health crisis, impact of loneliness and lack of socialisation, and the devastating effects of lockdown on people's financial circumstances and children's education. The government wielded legislative power to stop our lives while it continued as it pleased and now believes a simple apology is enough. For you, this should go far beyond whether you are Conservative, Labour or any other party. This is a problem of political psychology exercised in the absence of morality and it affects all of us. For those of you staying loyal to Boris because 'he's stopped all them immigrants from comin' in', he has betrayed you, too. So, fat lot of good your loyalty is doing you.
Please think critically. Pay attention to what you're seeing. If we turn a blind eye to this, we are telling the government that we accept a government that lies to us while leading us and the consequences we suffer do not matter. If we accept that, the worst will be yet to come.