After only one year in office, Boris Johnson feels under no pressure to hide his complete contempt for the British people by openly rewarding anyone who has done him a favour. How else can you justify a list of peerage nominations that include: his chief strategist, owner of two major newspapers, countless pro-Brexit politicians, and his own brother?
Peerage as a reward for political favour was a favoured trick of Blair and Cameron and it seems BoJo has wasted no time in continuing the tradition; Treating the UK’s second chamber as a prize to be bought not only damages our democratic system but furthers the publics dissolution and isolation from the government. It becomes impossible not to view the whole thing as a corrupt club for public schoolboys.
And it is mostly boys; only 11 of the 36 new peerages were given to women making The House of Lords 73% male and just 23% female.
However, Boris’ decision to reward anyone who’s done him a favour at the first opportunity displays more than the usual cronyism of the British government. It shows Boris for what he is: a politician devoid of any real dynamism, gravitas or respect.
He’s a hustler who curries favour with the promise of reward. He doesn’t inspire loyalty or respect on the grounds of his leadership or power.
Despite his constant bluster and Brexit sabre-rattling, Johnson has never been much for ideology. While acting Mayor of London, Foreign Secretary and now Prime Minister, it was never clear what he really stood for beyond his own self-interests.
His appeal is wrapped up in his identity and personality; not his ideas.
This round of peerage nominations suggests he isn’t going to rely on his personality to keep him in power. Especially as the UK lurches towards a no-deal Brexit forcing us onto WTO trade rules just as the Covid-19 recession hits.
Keeping the ‘Red Wall’ blue, while the economy tanks would be a hard sell for anyone.
Johnson is looking to cement his support within the establishment by rewarding those who have supported him in the past. Enter stage left the Russian born billionaire Evgeny Lebedev who owns the Evening Standard and the Independent.
If you’re wondering how long it would take the media mogul to repay the Tory party then look no further than Saturdays headline “50-year-old man arrested for rape”. True, but that man was also a Tory MP – as every other paper thought it newsworthy to include.
In the wake of Johnson’s 2019 election victory, he visited Lebedev’s mansion to celebrate the 60th birthday of his father, a former KGB spy, after having delayed the publication of the ISC Russia Report.
Johnson nominated the former editor of the Daily Telegraph, the former editor of the Evening Standard, a host of pro-Brexit politicians – both Labour and Conservative – and offered olive branches to leading Tories he expelled over Brexit including Ken Clarke.
He also rewarded Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, just as she returns to the forefront of Scottish politics.
I’m sure that will reassure Scottish voters on the fence about independence.
Stacking the Houe of Lords doesn’t just lavish Johnson’s cronies with power and clout but makes it easier to pass laws, form favourable select committees who scrutinise policy and ‘hold the government to account.’
Despite Johnson’s big election win in 2019, he is already under increasing pressure. The incoherent and clumsy response to Covid-19 matched with the impending failure to ‘get Brexit done’, means the PM will need all the support he can get to persuade the public his premiership has been a success.
When his bluster begins to fail he can fall back on the network of support he is building, not behind the scenes, but in plain view.
The problem is: can we do anything to stop him?
Words by Arthur Mytum
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