BLINK and you will miss the position the Prime Minister has decided to adopt on the big issue of the day.
Boris Johnson loved the EU, until opposing it was considered electorally advantageous. He even believed we should ‘stop moaning about the dam-burst’ of immigration, until he depended on patriotic social conservatives to get him into Number Ten.
You won’t be surprised to hear, then, that Johnson was also a firm opponent of prime ministers stuffing the House of Lords with their pals, until he had the chance to shove his own chums into the Upper Chamber.
Embarrassingly for the PM, Private Eye’s most recent issue (1528) features a segment of an article written by himself in 2003.
‘Think of the lunches; the hackery; the behind-the-scenes schmoozing and fixing; the quiet words from the Government Chief Whip; the winking, the nose-tapping, the soft belching in the Savoy Grill Room, or Glyndebourne, or Ascot. It is a disgusting way to choose the revising chamber of a great and ancient legislature.’
Johnson need not ‘think of’ this any longer; he is living it.
At the time, he was writing about then prime minister Tony Blair’s decision to make the Upper House fully appointed, rather than elected. The desire of a ‘machine politician and power freak’, he declared. Better to allow the public to elect its members, to protect the chamber from ‘jobbery’ and from PMs who want it to be ‘stuffed with his cronies’. Now Johnson is busy stuffing his own cronies into the House!
Even Blair wasn’t so shameless as to appoint his own brother, yet Jo is on Johnson’s list (for what?). So too is Charles Moore, his former editor at the Daily Telegraph (which published the above piece seventeen years ago) and a long list of generous Tory donors.
Like Johnson, I can well imagine the winks, coughs and, of course, schmoozing which took place before these selections.
And don’t think this is a one-off. Johnson, no doubt led by Dominic Cummings, is now planning on ‘sorting out’ the House of Lords Appointments Commission in preparation for a ‘second wave’ of peerages this autumn (Eye, 1528). The Lords ought to make room for more donors!
It doesn’t take much, then, to work out that the PM has no principles. But he does have power, and that’s all that matters in modern Britain.
This article first appeared on Bournbrook on August 18, 2020, and is republished by kind permission.