Boris breaks the rules - again!
Just ahead of his election victory, I wrote about how Boris Johnson had embraced the idea that you can fib and get away with it, so breaking the informal rules that communications experts stand by. Now he is doing it again.
With first his refusal to sack his advisor Dominic Cummings, and now with his position that the issue whether housing secretary Robert Jenrick broke the ministerial code in overriding the local council and his own officials to approve a development by former Express owner Richard Desmond is closed, he’s decided just to ignore the critics and brazen it out.
Parking the Cummings issue, the Jenrick/Desmond row has now been running for more than a fortnight, with The Times in particular digging out more revelations. Tony Blair’s old spin doctor Alastair Campbell said that if a political row ran past the first weekend, a resignation has to follow. Boris has decided to stand by his cabinet minister – which could be seen as loyalty, could be seen as trying to create a firewall because there’s a trail that leads to Number 10 or could be seen as having a totally tin ear to the mood of the nation.
I don’t have empirical evidence of this, but I’d bet that if you surveyed voters up and down the country they’d be more angry about Cummings’ jolly to Barnard Castle than Jenrick’s favouring a Tory donor. What they should be worried about is the pattern of activity – a sense that this Government defeated Labour so comprehensively that it can what it wants.
I also wonder if new Labour leader Keir Starmer is helping Boris. I bow to few in my admiration of the laser sharp questioning of the former Director of Public Prosecutions which has skewered Boris in parliament time after time. But I remember William Hague doing the same to Tony Blair 20 years ago – and as the former Tory chief freely admits it did him precious little good with the electorate. The stiletto in parliament is blunted by the wall of other news.
I wonder if Boris’ strategy is that the next election is not scheduled to be until 2024, so if he can soak up the negativity for a couple of years, he can start work on how to win when we come back to the polling booths nearer the critical time.
Boris has shown an amazing ability to break the rules of communication (among others) and not only survive but thrive. Will his luck run out? Or will he change the game forever?