Those ideas are now commonplace. They are also very dangerous. The very same people who utter them usually follow up by telling us that we must place our trust in the biggest liars around, people who belong to an extraordinarily rich and powerful elite and who are deliberately undermining the hard won democratic rights of ordinary people for their own personal advantage.
Politicians aren’t all the same. Personally, I’m only a little local District Councillor but I have never made a penny out of politics. I try and give what I get from my councillor’s allowance back to the local party that helped get me elected. Instead of making money and living an easy life at my voters’ expense the reality is that I have given up hours of time to deal with individual bits of casework for local people on practical things like bins and planning. I have spent hours of unpaid time hacking the streets trying to persuade people that there is a climate emergency going on that we need to get serious about.
Politics costs me money and time. I am not alone in this and there are people from almost all political parties who devote hours of work to trying to do their best for the people they represent. I may disagree with them often and strongly about the best way forward but I usually have a lot of respect for how sincerely they are also genuinely trying to do their bit for the community. No political party has a monopoly of the truth or a monopoly of good will. Any healthy democracy depends on it being widely recognised and accepted that those you disagree with are also decent human beings.
Which is why it matters so much when the Prime Minister of the country systematically lies and cheats. Every court that has looked at Johnson’s decision to shut down Parliament for five critical weeks has failed to find evidence that he told the truth to the Queen. The top court in Scotland has found that he deliberately lied to the Queen and to Parliament for political gain and this is unconstitutional. The courts in England made a different decision but never said that he told the truth or backed him as he is now saying. What they actually decided was that in their view it was not a matter for the courts whether politicians lied or not. The judgement of the highest court in Scotland was that it did matter if the Prime Minister lied to the Queen in order to seek a suspension of parliament for political gain.
That is worrying enough. What was even more worrying was the immediate reaction to that legal judgement from some quarters. The Daily Mail decided that the best way to deal with a decision that the man they are backing has lied to the queen was to send an investigative journalist to look into the background of the judges and launch an attack on their ability to make a neutral and fair judgement. Presumably they thought that Mr Dominic Cummings, a man that no one has elected and has been found to be in contempt of Parliament, was being fair and unbiased when he advised Johnson to get rid of that pesky Parliament and lie about the reasons for it to the Queen.
Parliament has passed a motion insisting that all the correspondence that exists about the suspension of our Parliament for five weeks must be published. Johnson has said he won’t do it. There can be only one reason for this. It proves beyond any doubt that Johnson and Cummings conspired to lie to the Queen and to Parliament. That is a resigning offence. So is ignoring a decision that Parliament has just lawfully made.
Johnson of course won’t resign. Telling the truth, obeying the law of the land and respecting the decisions of Parliament are things that little people have to do. A man with his deep sense of destiny and privilege doesn’t worry himself over little details. Like truth. Or dignity. Or the Parliamentary sovereignty that mattered so much when we were being asked by him to vote for Brexit. Those things are for little people. The peasantry. He was born to rule.
So he will have to be forced out of number 10. There are a number of ways that this could be done. Firstly under all previous understandings of how our constitution operates the Prime Minister is required to be able to command a majority in the House of Commons. Johnson can’t. He has lost five votes and won none. So the Head of State should normally approach the Leader of the Opposition and ask him if he can form a government. It is possible the Queen won’t take kindly to it if the Supreme Court tells her Johnson deliberately lied to her and that she will decide to send him packing and ask Corbyn if he can command a majority. It is more likely that she will only do so after a vote of no confidence in Johnson but that she could recall Parliament to make that possible. If Parliament does vote that it has no confidence in Johnson then it is most unlikely that Corbyn will be able to tell the Queen that he can form a Labour led government. The key question is can any opposition figure form a government of national unity that can command a majority government before we crash out. All that is required is an alliance for a short period of time. The most likely acts of a government of national unity would be to ask for an extension of Brexit and to call either a General Election or a Second Referendum. It is going to take serious cross party co-operation by politicians with many different and competing views in order to arrive at enough consensus to achieve that. Those who give way and compromise will deserve our respect whatever party they come from. They will get vicious attacks instead.
We must expect the narrative of the far right to be “We was betrayed guv”. The simplest way of proving them wrong is to let them implement their no deal Brexit will mean months of chaos followed by a distress trade deal with the United States that destroys our real independence. The damage that would do is a very high price indeed for being able to say “I told you so”. It is also certain that no matter how bad the damage gets the far right will simply double down on their lies. The chaos will, in their minds, be somehow the product of traitors who refused to allow the purest version of Brexit to be implemented. Put another way, you don’t allow your country to be damaged in the hope that it will silence the people who led us into the damage.
So we need to keep fighting. Sooner or later that is going to mean taking on and beating the far right in a General Election. The people of good will have one very important weapon on their side. We have been telling the truth when we said that Brexit would damage the country and every day produces new evidence of the bitter nasty divides that it has provoked. It is possible that Johnson will be able to go to the country as the leader of what is left of the Conservative Party and will make a very determined pitch to assure us all that everything will be fine and dandy if the public will just trust him to get Parliament under control and take us to those sunny uplands that only he and Farage really understand.
It is also possible that the public won’t vote for a politician who has twice been sacked for lying and is now working on the third time. It is possible that the public won’t vote for a man who has cheated on every woman he has ever lived with and started his latest affair whilst his second wife was being treated for cancer. It is possible that the public will decide that not all politicians are the same. Some are very much worse than others and voting them firmly down would be the healthiest thing we could do to preserve our democracy, the independence of our courts, respect for our constitutional traditions and Parliamentary sovereignty.