first anger, then disillusion

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Thursday 09 December 2021 6:00 a.m.

Boris Johnson’s party has been at the center of a string of political scandals for months. (Photo by Matt Dunham – WPA Pool / Getty Images)

There is weary exhaustion from the cheese and wine spinoff, Santa’s secret Christmas party in Downing Street last year, when many of us were locked out at level 3. It’s arrived a week later when we should have been talking about the ghost children missing from our schools, the people who remained in Afghanistan, the desperate need for drug treatment that actually works.

Instead, Boris Johnson’s inability to tell the truth has dominated the agenda for seven days and threatens to spill over and over again.

Very few will be shocked that Johnson can lie, but many will be shocked at how much he said this one.

The conservative backbench, barely a beacon of cohesion, will be mutinous. To say that Johnson’s ability to lead us through a winter threatening to be overrun with cases of Covid’s newest variant, Omicron, is in doubt, would be the biggest understatement as Dominic Raab said this weekend that ‘”no rules were broken” in Downing Street last year.

Yesterday there was not a single Cabinet minister willing to confront reporters after the video of former Downing Street aide Allegra Stratton sneered at the party was shown.

Instead, the NHS chief was forced to go on the air and tell everyone to get their booster shots – a crucial message that will save lives.

We could laugh at the No10 party, it would probably be easier.

But we shouldn’t.

Disillusionment in politics has already seeped into a generation that has really had the sharp end of the stick over the past decade, let alone the past two years. For many people between the ages of 19 and 30, who grew up in the shadows of 2008, faith in the mainstream has never been instilled in us. Instead, disillusion was in our blood; it is a feeling of fatigue which is profound.

There are a myriad of reasons for this: mountains of debt, dreams of owning a home that might never materialize; careers that are years behind what they could be.

But there is another common refrain: “I have never voted once for someone in whom I believed”.

These are the wrecks of politics, many just don’t vote at all. Turnout in elections has steadily declined over the years.

The Barnard Castles, the Christmas parties, the Owen Patersons, the Greensills, the Randox contracts; none of these things come as a surprise. But they add stones to a path of weariness that makes many believe that there will never be a change.

Mainstream disbelief continues to drive conspiracy theories. If people don’t believe those in charge have integrity, the vortex of disinformation becomes all the more attractive.

Another thing we should have talked about this week was the Online Safety Bill.

Yesterday, human rights lawyer Susie Alegre wrote a compelling pitch on how we are integrating child welfare into a bill on digital rights for an online world. She wrote that young girls’ weaknesses were a selling point for advertisers looking to flog extreme weight loss pills. Instead, the threats our children faced were subsumed by a storm that the Prime Minister, throwing his staff under the bus rather than admitting responsibility, decided to continue.

Most people are willing to accept some level of dishonesty from politicians; even expect it. With Johnson, there has always been a level of idiocy that voters can tolerate. This was the case with the Peppa Pig monologue.

The fallout from scandals is often, and rightly so, burning anger. There were a lot of them yesterday. The calm, cold killer of disillusion comes later, but it’s a much bigger threat.


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