The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the cynicism, incompetence and brazen dishonesty of the tiny clique who run Britain. The mask has been torn away to expose the ugly face of class privilege. As Alan Woods explains, the public are sick of being treated with contempt. Johnson, Cummings and the rest are destined for the dustbin of history.
That there is a falsehood in his looks,
I must and will deny:
They tell their Master is a knave,
And sure they do not lie.
(On Hearing It Asserted Falsehood, by Robert Burns)
Of late, every time I watch the evening news on television, the lines of Robert Burns’ comments “on the Rev. Dr. Babington's very looks” for some reason come into my head. Every evening, the official representatives of Her Majesty’s government are solemnly paraded before our television screens in order to present to us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth concerning the present regrettable coronavirus episode.
These respectable ladies and gentlemen are lined up in all their governmental solemnity behind a rostrum that bears an uncanny resemblance to the pulpit of a Church of England preacher on Sunday. Their faces are suitably solemn, serious and concentrated on the task at hand.
Tight lipped, unsmiling, expressionless: these are the kind of contrived grimaces that are normally only to be found in two other cases – on the face of a preacher delivering a funeral oration, or that of a man striving to sell you a less-than-perfect second-hand car.
I have to admit a certain feeling of admiration – not to say complete astonishment – when I behold the effortless expertise with which these ladies and gentlemen accomplish their task. Examine their faces for as long as you like, and you will not find any trace of emotion: not a nervous twitch, not the single blink of an eyelid.
This kind of highly polished slickness one would normally associate with either a professional actor, or a highly paid lawyer who has spent his entire career earning vast sums of money from getting crooks off the hook, despite all the evidence arraigned against them.
Oh yes, these are the kind of qualities that one learns to expect from the leaders of Her Majesty’s government in the year of our Lord 2020. Forget the great speeches of the past, the great parliamentarians of the age of Disraeli and Gladstone, Pitt the Elder or Pitt the Younger (I always get them mixed up). Even the half-drunken growls of Winston Churchill are now distant memories of the past. Our modern politicians are of another, entirely different calibre.
It is true, of course, that politicians have always told lies. One takes this for granted. However, the art of telling lies has never reached the sublime heights that we now see paraded nightly on our television screens today. It reminds one of the immortal lines of Hilaire Belloc:
“Matilda told such dreadful lies
It made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes.”
I cannot speak for anyone else, but after several months of watching this charade, I have long since ceased to gasp, or indeed be astonished at anything that emerges from the mouths of the figures behind the pulpit on my TV screen. Like most of the nation, I now take it for granted that there is not a word of truth in it. Worse still, one begins to think this is quite normal. Compared to this, the doublespeak of George Orwell’s 1984 was just child’s play.
If you must lie: make it a big one
Only once in the past has any politician succeeded in coming close to this great achievement. That was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister who developed an interesting theory, which goes more-or-less like this: If you want to tell a lie, do not tell a little lie. Small lies are of no interest whatsoever. No! If you want to tell a lie, let it be a big lie – the most blatant and unbelievable lie, the better. And if you repeat it, and repeat it, and repeat it, sooner or later, people will believe it.
This charming and useful discovery has now been turned into what can only be described as an art form by the present Conservative government. If there were a Nobel Prize for telling lies, Boris Johnson would certainly be one of the frontrunners for it.
Let us remind ourselves of just a few of the great lies with which they have regaled the people of Britain in recent months...
They lied about the number of deaths caused by the coronavirus. They achieved this result by omitting the numerous deaths in care homes, where a great proportion of the deaths have occurred. When this was finally pointed out to them, they continued to lie by alleging that most of these deaths were not related to the virus.
Professor John Ashton, former regional director of Public Health England, said the number of people dying with Covid-19 could be double what the public is being told. To put it bluntly, the evidence on announced Covid-19 deaths is fabricated. Deaths are being deliberately under-reported.
Now, under pressure, the government has revised its figures sharply upwards to over 37,000. This is the highest figure in the world after the United States, but it grossly underestimates the reality of the situation. The Financial Times recently stated that the number of deaths was at least 50,000. But hey! Who’s going to believe the Financial Times when we have the likes of Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson to put the record straight?
In the Rogues’ Gallery of professional liars, the place of honour must be reserved for the health minister, Matt Hancock. This man has done more for the health of the nation than any other single phenomenon since the Black Death. His cheerful misrepresentation of the facts has spared the British people from unnecessary negative thoughts by the simple procedure of explaining that black is white, bad is good, and death is life.
As he stares at us with a permanently blank expression over his preacher’s pulpit, mechanically repeating facts and figures which both he and everybody else knows very well are complete nonsense, one gradually comes to realise that the word “cynic” is carved permanently on all his flint-faced features. But I suppose that only a cynic could fulfil the role of comforting people with a pack of lies while still retaining a straight face, so maybe that is something we should be grateful for.
To the seemingly endless list of lies spouted from this man’s mouth we must add the constant assertions that there is no shortage whatsoever of protective clothing and other necessary equipment for our heroic doctors and nurses, who are daily risking their lives on the frontline to provide morale-boosting headlines for the government. From what we are told, there are mountains and mountains of such equipment carefully stored in the government’s storerooms, just waiting to be picked up and delivered to the frontline.
Sad to say, the troops on the frontline are still saying that this equipment has not arrived, or has arrived in a lamentable condition and is unfit for purpose. There is, of course, a perfectly rational explanation for this unfortunate fact. It now emerges that at least half of the mountain of protective equipment is out of date, defective or unusable for this or that reason. The main reason is that, for years and decades, Conservative governments have allowed this precious stock to deteriorate to its present unfortunate condition. But hey! Nobody’s perfect, are they?
Then there was the interesting episode of the shipment of tons of protective equipment that was supposed to come from Turkey. First, for reasons we were never told, the aircraft sent to pick it up was kept waiting for days, and in any case, was far too small to contain all that had been ordered, and presumably paid for by the British taxpayer.
One wonders why the RAF, also paid for by the British taxpayer with lavish sums every year, was not able to supply a plane of sufficient size. That was also never explained. And to add insult to injury, it finally emerged that the delivered goods were substandard and not fit for purpose. But hey! Accidents will happen in the best families, no?
Last, but by no means least, Matt Hancock lied when he said that the government would guarantee 100,000 tests for the coronavirus by 1 May. It was subsequently alleged that this magical figure had been reached on the appointed day, although that statement has since shown to be false. Since then, they have struggled to meet that figure and have usually fallen below it, while brazenly asserting that the target was now 200,000!
Blustering Boris and puppet master Cummings
Next in line for the prize of mendacity is Boris Johnson. Our Prime Minister has his own inimitable style, which skilfully presents the latest lie under a barrage of bluster and incoherence. Note that he never finishes a sentence, and does not seem to know what a verb is. By the time he has finished one shapeless sentence, one has forgotten how it began. And this is a constant feature of all his speeches and declarations.
One might even say that it is his trademark. It certainly ought to be copyrighted, as probably the most important development of the English language since Shakespeare. The elevation of incoherence into a political weapon is certainly a highly significant development of the art of politics.
Now some foolish people who have, unlike Mr Johnson, never had the benefit of an Oxford University education have been unkind enough to see in this incoherence a lack of elementary communication skills, or just plain ignorance. This is a serious error of judgement that misses the point entirely.
Boris Johnson uses incoherence deliberately, just as a squid squirts ink – to cover its tracks, to confuse the enemy, to get out of awkward situations, and to create such a tangled web of nonsensical and self-contradictory ideas that the listener rapidly forgets what the hell he was supposed to be talking about in the first place.
This carries the art of political rhetoric to sublime heights that were completely unknown to previous generations. It is something for which the present government will enter the annals of political history and remain until the end of time.
This is such a unique occurrence, such a fantastic experience, that one wonders who thought it up in the first place. It could hardly be Boris Johnson. He can be accused of many things, but intellectual brilliance and original thinking are hardly among them. Those that know him say that he is not only intellectually bankrupt, but uncommonly lazy.
For that reason, he prefers to delegate responsibility to other people. He needs advisers to lean on. And there is one adviser that he leans on most particularly. And that is the mysterious Dominic Cummings, known to his friends as Rasputin.
As readers of this article will by now be well aware, Mr Cummings has recently got himself into a spot of bother. Previously, despite a certain amount of adverse publicity, it was generally assumed that he enjoyed some kind of magical immunity and that his post was therefore unassailable. Criticism seemed to flow off him, as grease flows off a Teflon frying pan. Like Jesus Christ, he was able to walk on water. But now, sadly, he appears to have sprung a leak or two…
Deserting his post in the middle of a crisis, he disappeared without trace into the misty wastes of northern England. But he was rumbled. His hideaway in his father’s farm was discovered by the media, who, as is well-known, is congenitally unable to resist a good story, particularly if it involves a man whose aversion to the press, and publicity in general, is also well known.
Mr Cummings is not used to being in the glare of public attention. He prefers to remain in the shadows, where he can hatch his plots, intrigue, and pull the strings that control people who, unlike himself, have been elected to parliament and are generally believed to be in charge of the government of the United Kingdom. However, what is generally believed is not necessarily true.
It is, in fact, a moot question as to who is really the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Officially, that position is occupied by Boris Johnson. But because he is a man who is both devoid of any ideas and also notoriously lazy, this assumption does not stand up to scrutiny. In reality, power has passed long ago from parliament to the cabinet, and from the parliament to a tiny clique around the prime minister.
Now, however, things have moved on. Power has passed from the prime minister to an even smaller clique of advisers, elected by nobody and responsible to nobody. These are the men who really rule Britain, although few people have ever heard of them. And at the head of this gang of upstarts is none other than Dominic Cummings.
A few weeks ago, the public was astonished to learn that Dominic Cummings had attended meetings of the government’s scientific advisory committee – the body that is supposed to have a decisive influence on the government’s policy in relation to the coronavirus. What scientific qualifications does Cummings possess? None at all, as far as we know.
What we do know, from a private blog that he wrote some years ago, is his adherence to eugenicist views. He claimed that: "There is strong resistance across the political spectrum to accepting scientific evidence on genetics. Most of those that now dominate discussions on issues such as social mobility entirely ignore genetics and therefore their arguments are at best misleading and often worthless."
So, when the government repeats like a mantra the line: “we are following the scientific advice”, we now know what it means. Eugenics, as you may know, is a reactionary theory – now completely rejected by the scientific community – that formed the basis for racist theories that claim that women and people of colour are genetically inferior, and that poor people are poor because of their genetic make-up.
What did Mr. Cummings say to those meetings? We do not know, because nobody has ever told us. Apparently, he was just there listening quietly, without opening his mouth. What we do know is the advice that he gave to Her Majesty’s government as to how to tackle the coronavirus problem. The Sunday Times informs us that: "at a private engagement at the end of February, Cummings outlined the government’s strategy. Those present say it was ‘herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad’.”
A clear case of eugenics in action! The “survival of the fittest” means that the old, sick and infirm should leave the scene at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to relieve the taxpayer of an unpleasant financial burden. Probably the shameful neglect that allowed the virus to spread unchecked through care homes was not deliberate policy. But it would seem that some, at least, in the government were not too concerned about it – until it began to attract unwelcome attention in the press.
If Mr. Cummings was so convinced of the correctness of the “herd immunity” theory, why should he make a sudden dash for his hideaway in the Durham farmhouse? Why not stick around, allow the virus to run its course, and thus attain the nirvana of herd immunity?
Evidently, when it comes to his own family, his theory suddenly becomes rather more flexible, enabling him to follow his “instincts” – although they were in flagrant contradiction to rules that he had invented to inflict upon the rest of the population.
The mask torn away
So blatant is the deception practised by this individual, so insolent his reaction when he was finally exposed, and so disgusting was the contempt he displayed for public opinion, that even some Tory backbenchers have demanded his resignation. Evidently, the fires have been lit under their backsides! But one man has stuck by him resolutely.
Boris Johnson is determined to keep his trusted adviser. After all, without Dominic Cummings, where would he get his ideas from? Since the Prime Minister has only an empty space between his ears to keep them apart, he probably depends upon Cummings to tell him when to go to the toilet. He therefore resorts to desperate measures to save his man from drowning. But we know that such desperate attempts frequently lead to both men being dragged under the waves.
In a frantic effort to divert attention from this Cummings scandal, Boris is beating the drum furiously to end lockdown and “open up Britain for business.” That expression is quite accurate, since this decision has been taken purely from the standpoint of the profits of big business, and not at all the health and well-being of the British people.
By rushing to end lockdown when absolutely nothing has been done to introduce the necessary means to protect the population, either by the provision of protective gear for workers or, above all, to introduce general testing and tracking for the whole population – the only tried and true method for halting the spread of the infection – he is recklessly exposing the population to the risk of a new wave of sickness and death.
Abraham Lincoln once famously said: “you can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” And the British people are tired of being fooled. The unedifying spectacle of Mr. Cummings’ flight to Durham at a time when lockdown was supposed to be enforced with the utmost vigour has been duly noted.
It has convinced people that there is one law for the powerful and privileged of this land, and another law for the rest of the population. It has exposed once and for all the blatant lie that Boris Johnson and his crew represent the government “of the common people.”
The mask has been torn away, to reveal the ugly face of class privilege hidden beneath it. This is a government of liars, crooks and conmen that treats ordinary people with complete contempt. In the end, however, the common people will take their revenge. Boris Johnson together with Cummings and Hancock and all the other Tory scoundrels will be consigned to the place they belong – the dustbin of history.