We must not airbrush Boris Johnson’s shameful record in office – The Guardian

September 12, 2022
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Paul McGilchrist, John Cookson and Chris Hardy respond to an article by Vernon Bogdanor on how history will treat the former prime minister
Vernon Bogdanor has a peculiarly generous view of Boris Johnson’s premiership (Boris Johnson broke all the rules, but history may be kind to him yet, 5 September) . Despite listing Johnson’s assaults on the constitution, his willingness to flout due process to save his friends, his disdain for parliamentary procedure, his financial improprieties and his lying, Bogdanor believes that “loss of the premiership is enough” for a man whose questionable moral judgment so regularly outraged a nation.
Somehow, Johnson is to be commended for “his public optimism, so valuable in raising the nation’s spirits during lockdown”, despite presiding over arrangements distinguished chiefly by their managerial incompetence. Somehow, the inclusion of a handful of MPs from minority ethnic groups means that Johnson has “done much to raise the status of people from ethnic minorities and women”, as if the elevation of individuals makes one iota of difference to the lived experiences of those whose unidentified “status” he presumes it can raise. Somehow, the empty promises of “levelling up” are magically redeemed by a white paper produced in February, which even Bogdanor admits was issued in the “dying days” of Johnson’s government, as if this commitment was free of the whiff of desperation.
Of course, Johnson is entitled to offer a self-aggrandising version of himself in any future writing, but Bogdanor would do well to heed his own cautionary exhortation that “the immediate verdict of the pundits can be far removed from the judgment of history”. With the Tory press already airbrushing his tenure so as to ease Johnson’s historical redemption, one would hope historians of the future will have a clearer view than Bogdanor that the loss of his job was the least that Johnson should have suffered.
Paul McGilchrist
Colchester, Essex
I was staggered by Vernon Bogdanor’s article. When the full story of the corruption and waste of the PPE scandal is revealed, especially the VIP lane to channel taxpayers’ money for PPE into the hands of donors and cronies, and the abject failure of the test-and-trace programme, Boris Johnson’s reputation will diminish further. His decisions during the pandemic may have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people – responsibility for which he will not evade.
For the first time, we had a government that lied in parliament and trashed the rules concerning the behaviour, integrity and corruption of ministers, including Johnson himself. The Johnson government was the most venal, corrupt, callous and incompetent in British history for at least 150 years. The full story about what the Johnson regime was like and what it did will become available over time and will destroy the last few tattered remnants of his reputation. The only history of his premiership that will be kind to him is the one he will write.
John Cookson
Bournemouth, Dorset
I don’t see why anyone, liberal left or not, should let Boris Johnson “polish his record”. He should be repeatedly condemned for the economic catastrophe caused by Brexit, which his lies helped bring about, and not just vilified but held to account for causing, by his moral and political misjudgments and cowardice, the massive Covid death toll that has, incredibly, been forgotten by the media and populace.
Chris Hardy
West Wittering, West Sussex
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