Boris Johnson, Mister Johnson, Afghanistan discussed on The Economist: The Intelligence


But first. Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions for England yesterday, an attempt to buy time while the omicron variant spreads. They include more masking requirements, proof of vaccination for big events and a recommendation to work from home. Ben Reilly Smith of the telegraph. Thank you prime minister. But reporters wondered whether the announcement was a distraction from other potentially damaging news for the government. You called this announcement forward to bounce headlines about the Christmas party. Is that true? A day earlier, a leaked video published by the broadcaster ITV showed the prime minister's staff joking about holding a lockdown defiant Christmas party last year. His fictional party was a business meet. And it was not socially distanced. Earlier that same day, a former foreign office employee recounted a shambolic mishandling of Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Dysfunctional and chaotic. That is the damning verdict of a foreign office whistleblower on the way it handled the evacuation of people from Afghanistan after the embarrassments and the distractions just keep piling up. This morning, mister Johnson's Conservative Party was fined for failing to report money donated to freshen up his residence. Oh, and he's just had another baby, a daughter. This weekend will mark two years since the conservatives won a thumping 80 seat majority in the House of Commons, but one thing after another has ensured that the government struggles to deliver any of the big changes mister Johnson campaigned on. I think in number ten in Downing Street as prime minister, you can either have drama or delivery and the more drama you have and as we know shortage of it in the Boris Johnson years in office, the less delivery you're able to achieve. And Miguel voigt is a senior editor at The Economist. He came in with a rather ambitious project revolution in British government, sweeping away the more bureaucratic hurdles to reform that do dog aspects of Britain and public policymaking. But this permanent sickly excitement, if you like that the government seems to produce, has just made life very difficult for those trying to deliver change. Let's start with the two events that are the latest example of that drama. They haven't on the same day on Tuesday. Let's go through them one at a time. First, the claim about the evacuation from Afghanistan. Yes, this is a young man who worked as a junior adviser in the foreign office for a few years until September. He has submitted evidence to parliament's foreign affairs committee. And that states that the government's evacuation from Afghanistan this summer, obviously, the chaotic circumstances of having to get out very fast, but he says that this was very arbitrary. People weren't being put in any particular order of the seriousness and urgency with which they needed to be rescued that he emailed. Please for help that went unanswered. And he said, that was due to a lack of direction from the top from the former foreign secretary Dominique rob. There's also a personal angle to this, the whistleblower says that Boris Johnson personally ordered the air lift of dogs at an animal charity as eligible Afghans human Afghans were being left behind. The implication is that he did that at the behest of his wife, Boris Johnson's wife, who's got a strong interest in animal welfare. Mister Johnson denied that the animals were given priority. And then later that same day there was news that really seems to have gripped the country now about an alleged Christmas party at 10 Downing Street. What's the story there? This is a story that's emerged about a big gathering of some 40 or 50 people at the prime minister's office held last December. Remember that the UK was in some of its toughest lockdown measures at the time and more were looming than the broadcaster ITV published a video of stuff as who were rehearsing press briefing including someone who was then very close to the prime minister as his spokesperson, Allegra Stratton, discussing this party. There was a Downing Street Christmas party on Friday night. Do you recognize it? I went home. Hold on. Would you promise to contain how you Chris? What's the answer? I don't know. I didn't want a party whose work. No. There's chief of mine all right. It's a business meeting. This is recorded. Yesterday Boris Johnson got a real beating in the House of Commons at prime minister's questions from both sides of the house. I could understand how infuriating it must be to think that the people who have been setting the rules have not been following the rules. Misses fika, because I was also furious to see that clip. And this is speaking. He said he was very sorry for what was in the video and the whole tone in which the issue had been addressed. But I repeat mister speaker that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that and that no COVID rules were broken and that is what mister Johnson said he'd ordered an investigation into what had happened. He would discipline those involves a pretty clear there's going to be a bit of a clear out there of those involved in this incident. And Allegra Stratton who had been his spokesperson giving that mock briefing in the video. She resigned very upset. I regret those remarks for the rest of my days. No, for my profound apologies to all of you at home for them. And how damaging do you think this latest pair of scandals will be for mister Johnson and his government? I think it looks very bad. The party attorney against him over this because it does look as if there was a culture around Boris Johnson, if not directly involving him, which said, well, that's a rules for the little people. If it comes to spinning out an event or a meeting into something that looks suspiciously like a party, we can get away with it because nobody's watching. I think there is much greater doubt than their wars in Conservative Party ranks that Boris Johnson is able to be the spearhead of the kind of reforms and changes in energy that he wanted to bring into government when he got elected. And that for Boris Johnson was the flip side of Brexit. He said, now we're out of the EU. We can go ahead and do lots of really interesting and distinctive things. The trouble is he can't. He staggers from one crisis to the next and somehow the interesting things get lost on the sidelines. Well, I suppose he has three years left in his term. I guess I should say, at most, do you think there is a chance he could turn things around? Will any of these scandals turn into to more opportunities do you think? Boris Johnson is one of the great and gifted opportunists of modern politics. The question is, can he turn that into grabbing opportunity and can he get the discipline and the self discipline back in his own camp also within his government? And frankly, within himself, to be the transformational prime minister that he promised to be. I think at the moment it feels a bit like an empty proposition. There is the Boris Johnson magic. It is a tainted stardust, but it does exist. He is very good at getting out of trouble. He does repeatedly climb.

Coming up next