Dear Josephine...

Let's talk about the things that are being a little side-lined in the media.


All we hear about is whether Boris Johnson should resign after receiving a FPN for breaking lockdown rules, and/or asking whether he 'intentionally' or 'accidentally' misled Parliament, or whether maybe Tony Blair once didn't pay a congestion charge.


Those things might be worth a bit of time. But the REAL question in my opinion is this: Does the Prime Minister have the moral authority to lead? And what happens in future?


Forget the Conservative Party for just a moment. We've had a race to the bottom over standards in public life. When an MP sentenced to prison for perverting the course of justice refused to resign (Labour), we had problems. When we have a former Speaker (Bercow) banned from having a Parliamentary pass for life for bullying, there's an issue. When an MP (Conservative) defends a colleague convicted of sexually abusing a child, there's something wrong.


If we as a society normalise all this, then soon there won't be any expectation on our politicians to even pay lip-service to following the law.


We don't need whataboutery. Should Blair have resigned because he didn't realise his car wasn't registered for the London Congestion Charge? Irrelevant (and there were far more important reasons Blair should have gone). We don't even know whether he actually received a penalty. But it's not comparing like with like (civil/criminal for starters).


The real problem for Boris Johnson is that he and his government were using daily press conferences to lecture us all about why we needed to follow their lockdown rules. Day after day, it was hammered home to us that we couldn't see our relatives even if they were dying. The government which criminalised meeting your friends was at the same time breaking that very law.


The real problem is that Boris Johnson has no moral authority to lead any more. I don't want a race to the bottom. If a future Labour Prime Minister (and it will now surely be a Labour PM next if Boris Johnson is still in charge at the next election) behaves in such a way or worse, we'll just be told "Ah, but Boris didn't resign when...".


Year on year, we're expecting less and less in the way of morality from our political leaders.


I'll finish by pointing out that Boris Johnson wrote back to a little girl called Josephine, who cancelled her birthday party because of Covid restrictions, saying what a wonderful example Josephine was setting. Our Prime Minister, sadly, wasn't. And it's his job to set an example. The Prime Minister should be expected to behave to a higher standard than a 7-year-old girl.


With kind permission from Jonathan Arnott

Former MEP for the North East Region


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