I am getting increasingly fed up with hearing ‘Let us not forget that this is the Prime Minister who has consistently got the big calls right’. This particular quote comes from the Daily Express of June 7, 2022, but it originated in a speech by Johnson himself and has been parroted by Tory MPs, party donors, papers including the Express, the Mail and the Telegraph, and a raft of right-wing commentators.
It’s clearly the ‘party line’, because it’s just been trotted out by Helen Hurford, Conservative candidate in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election, which will take place on June 23, 2022. Speaking at hustings on June 16, she backed the Rwanda deportation scheme and stuck steadfastly to the line that Boris Johnson ‘got the big calls right’ on the vaccine programme, the Covid financial support schemes and war in ‘the Ukraine’.
It simply isn’t true. But the big calls cited are always Brexit, Covid, and Ukraine.
Yes, I am viscerally opposed to Brexit, but even if I were a Brexiteer wrapped in a Union flag I could not claim Johnson got it right. It wasn’t just what was done, which is bad enough (just look at the impact on the economy, for a start), but also how it was done.
There was the illegal prorogation of Parliament, the strong-arm tactics directed at MPs who wouldn’t do as they were told, and the result was a Brexit which is still NOT done – with the Northern Ireland protocol about to provoke a trade war and the UK’s participation in the desperately-important Horizon programme still in limbo. Nonetheless, the same Express article claims Johnson got ‘a very good deal with the EU’.
On Covid, the Express says Johnson’s ‘judgement on Covid was sound’. Yet the government was late calling the first two lockdowns, and it was slow realising the impact that Covid was having in care homes.
Johnson made a point of not wearing a mask in Hexham hospital, and said he would rather ‘see the bodies piled high than call another lockdown’. Yes, the UK’s vaccination programme started out as a success, but was soon overtaken by other European countries.
And is it correct to say (the Express again) that it was ‘Johnson’s vaccination programme’? He may have authorised it, but it was the NHS that carried it out.
As for Ukraine . . . at every stage – despite claims that the UK has been leading the world in supporting Ukraine – the UK has followed the US in deciding what equipment and which weapons to send. It has also been scandalously slow in accepting Ukrainian refugees. To say that ‘Without his support, it may have been overwhelmed’ is nonsense. All Johnson does, whenever he is under pressure here, is to promote himself by phoning or going to Kyiv and having his photo taken, looking ridiculously pompous in his suit and tie alongside the battle-ready Zelensky.
The claim that the Prime Minister has got the big calls right is about as accurate as Trump claiming that the US election was stolen, a claim that is not going so well now the House Select Committee is investigating.
I look forward to a future investigation about Johnson’s inflated claims!