I wrote the following in the few minutes before the next British Prime Minister Liz Truss was announced. The election of her to the role by Conservative Party members followed the ejection of Boris Johnson from the job for his unforced errors and disregard for the truth.
An unforced error is a mistake in play that is attributed to one’s own failure rather than to the skill or effort of one’s opponent. And there were several that resulted from Johnson’s disdain for what I believe he saw as petty rules. He was attractive to those who wanted a strong leader precisely because he was a buccaneer, treading where others more timid feared to tread. As in many things, qualities have a good and a bad side.
The first unforced error was that on 28 August 2019, the Parliament of the United Kingdom was ordered to be prorogued by Queen Elizabeth II upon the advice of the Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson. Britain is a constitutional monarchy, meaning that the reigning monarch has little power, and ‘on the advice of’ is a particularly British way of saying the the prime minister ordered the Queen to prorogue Parliament.
A prorogation is the discontinuance of a session of Parliament without dissolving it. Johnson’s purpose in proroguing Parliament for an unusually extended period was to severely limit the time that the MPs in the House of Commons had to consider the Brexit Bill that was before it.
Concerned citizens raised a legal challenge and the Supreme Court ruled that the prorogation was unlawful.
Had Johnson’s Government given even the slimmest of reasons for their action, then the Supreme Court would not have looked to the adequacy of the reason. But the Government gave no reason, and that allowed the court to conclude that the reason for such a lengthy discontinuance was simply to deny Parliament time to carry out its function, and that that was unlawful.
The statement by Johnson that I found most telling was when he said later of his accomplishments, “..we saw off Brenda Hale..” Brenda Hale was the president of the Supreme Court. First, he didn’t see off anyone. He was called on his flagrant trashing of the rules of prorogation. Second, it is boorish to call her by her name and not by her honorific. Third, he and she are part of the system of Government that rules this country, and to trash her personally is to prove his disdain for the laws and the system that hold the country together.
Owen Patterson MP
The second unforced error was to try to overturn the 30 day suspension of Owen Patterson MP after Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards of the House of Commons, found him guilty of breaching the paid advocacy rules.
In October 2021 the Commissioner found that Owen Paterson had breached the paid advocacy rules for making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency and four approaches to the Department for International Development in relation to Randox and seven approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Lynn’s Country Foods.
The Commissioner said Paterson had “repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the house into disrepute” and that “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests”.
Acting on her report, The Commons Select Committee on Standards recommended that Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days. The Government decided they didn’t like that and voted to overturn the suspension. The uproar that followed resulted in Own Paterson resigning as an MP.
The third unforced error was to maliciously slander the Leader of the Opposition Labour Party in the House of Commons.
Munira Mirza is a British political advisor who was the Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit under prime minister Boris Johnson, until she resigned today, 3 February 2022. She resigned because, as she described in her resignation letter, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson knowingly and maliciously slandered the leader of the Opposition with a false claim about his supposed failings when he was Director of Public Prosecutions.
Christopher Pincher MP
The final straw for the members of his Cabinet was when he promoted Christopher Pincher MP, knowing that Mr Pincher was subject to an investigation over sexual assault, and then lying to Parliament saying he was not aware of the allegations and the investigation.
And I have not touched on Partygate and the breaches of the rules about meeting during COVID that his Government has laid down and which the population had followed, sometimes resulting in family members not being there to say goodbye to loved ones on their deathbed.