From Great Britain, A “Laws Are For The Little People” Scandal, And From The Prime Minister, A Terrible Apology

Boris Johnson, Great Britain’s eerily Trump-like Prime Minister, was caught behaving like Nancy Pelosi, California Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Dr. Deborah Birx, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, John Kerry, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, just-exited NYC mayor Bill de Blasio,  and others in the U.S. who have violated the restrictions they placed on the public’s liberty and right to the pursuit of happiness in their embrace, at least officially, of Wuhan virus panic.

Three days ago, an email “emerged,” as they like to say now, showing the PM’s  private secretary inviting people to a lawn party at 10 Downing Street while the rest of the country was under a strict pandemic lockdown. The cheery missive concluded, “bring your own booze!”

The party occurred on May 20, 2020, as the British public was required to remain in their homes and away from others unless they had a “reasonable excuse,” such as around 40 staff gathered in the garden that evening, eating picnic food and drinking.The Prime Minister and his wife Carrie Johnson attended.

Rumors of the party had been circulating at the end of last year. Questioned about the episode, Johnson denied in Parliament that he had attended any “party.” On December 8, he declared in the House of Commons, “I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken.” A week later, he told reporters, “I can tell you once again that I certainly broke no rules.” On December 20, after The Guardian newspaper published a photograph of the prime minister mixing with colleagues over wine and cheese in his garden, he said, “Those were people at work, talking about work.”

The increasingly dubious dodges did not stem the outrage. The U.K.’s Cabinet Office  launched an inquiry, led by civil servant Sue Gray, into the allegations that Johnson’s office broke the rules about pandemic restrictions, and that Johnson lied about his own participation. To its great credit, the much maligned British journalists did not try to stifle criticism of the “laws are for the little people” hypocrisy of their elected leaders as the U.S. news media has. (To be fair, the vast majority of the U.S. miscreants have been Democrats, so the news media was only protecting democracy…). Indeed, the British News media  has stoked the flames.

Johnson’s political opponents are calling for his resignation, and his position may be genuinely imperiled by the scandal, so Johnson decided that it was time to come clean—sort of—and issue an apology, which he did during “Question Time” in the House of Commons:

I want to apologize. I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.

I know the anguish they have been through – unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love. I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules. And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility. No 10 is a big department with a garden as an extension of the office which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus.

When I went into that garden just after six on 20 May 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event. With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.

I should have recognized that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this house I offer my heartfelt apologies.

All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established. I will of course come back to this house and make a statement.

Wow. What a terrible apology. It is, at very best, a Level 10, the worst on the Apology Scale: “An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.” It may even inspire me to add a new, even lower category–I’ve been meaning to revise the scale for some time.

Johnson apologized, but it’s unclear what he was apologizing for. He doesn’t admit to lying, for example. His deceitful excuse was always that this wasn’t really a party, so he could say he didn’t attend a party, but the email decisively exposes that as a lie. Amazingly, the PM never admits that the “Party? What party?” route was intended to deceive, but just says that he can understand why some members of the public wouldn’t see it that way, those simple, innocent souls, bless ’em. They felt bad, he says, and he’s sorry for the way they feel.

Still, Johnson is at most saying that he judged the situation incorrectly, that he just made a mistake. He is not apologizing for any wrongdoing or admitting to any. Indeed, his reference to the investigation is a stall: why does he need to know what Sue Gray decides? He was at the party. He knows exactly what happened.

There was nothing stopping Johnson from saying—well, nothing but cowardice and a lack of character: ‘I apologize. The party on my lawn violated the rules I put in place for the public, and and i violated those rules myself. Elected officials and a nation’s leaders must not hold themselves above those they serve, and impose rules and laws on citizens while arrogantly violating those same rules themselves, without fear of consequences. I knew I had done wrong, and then, inexcusably, I lied about it to avoid accountability. I am deeply sorry, for I know that I have wounded the public’s trust I must have to govern.’

Of course, after saying that, his only ethical course would be to resign.

It looks like that is what he’s going to have to do anyway, because that wretched apology didn’t satisfy anyone.



Sources: NYT, NPR

6 thoughts on “From Great Britain, A “Laws Are For The Little People” Scandal, And From The Prime Minister, A Terrible Apology

  1. I’m not the biggest follower of British politics and news media, but if it has any similarity to the US, then I speculate the media is hard on Boris because he’s from the conservative party and they are all liberals, except the Daily Mail, if I recall. It’s no sweat off their backs to sic him. Which he deserves. Hopefully he won’t cry when resigning, like Theresa May did.

      • So then…is Johnson “Trump-like” if all we have of him are the left wing media portrayals of him? Whatever “Trump like” even means given that Trump wasn’t even remotely given a chance.

    • Aleksei, the British media is quite different from the American media (or has been, historically). Media outlets there wear their biases on their sleeves, and are quite up front about it. They’ve never adopted the almost uniquely American conceit of “objective” media. Rather, they select their target audiences and appeal to those audiences by reflecting their audiences’ views.

      We’re seeing that now in the US, of course. But a lot of Americans were raised on the myth of “objective” media and still can’t quite embrace that their beloved [insert name of outlet here] is doing anything other than on the level.

      You could argue that this isn’t the best way to serve information to the public. I would argue that it’s more honest than the way we’ve done it here, until lately.

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