How is the PM Able to be Both Aggressive & Defensive Even Before He’s Been Questioned?

I’m not very good at this blogging malarkey really, am I? My last three posts were in September ’21, August ’21 & June ’21. And it’s now January ’22. That’s not exactly the kind of regular posting that’s going to build an audience, is it? No matter how interesting or insightful what I have to say is.

And this post—I started writing it back at the start of September, but obviously ran out of time in the session I started it, for whatever reason, and then never went back to it. Don’t ask why, it’s five months ago and I can only just about remember what happened five days ago.

The funny thing is though, I can pick up the thread of what I wanted to say back then, because the subject of the post—i.e. the Prime Minister and his manner—hasn’t changed one bit. And that’s despite all trouble he’s been having over #Partygate.

It first occurred to me after listening to the Prime Minister’s speech in Parliament in September about his “Plan” for Social Care in this country. Something struck me about him after that speech that I hadn’t realised previously. I summed it up in a reply to a reply to one of my tweets about the performance.

During his initial speech, before the Leader of the Opposition had made his response and so, therefore, before the PM had received any criticism of his plan at all, he came across to me as being both very aggressive in the manner in which he presented the plan, but also very defensive of the plan at the same time—despite the plan not yet having been criticised.

And I found that a little odd at the time, but didn’t pay it much attention. But thinking about it after the speeches were done, it sort of made sense to me. Clearly, Johnson knew his plan had major flaws and was getting in his defence of those flaws before anyone had had a chance to mention them. And it looks like he’s from the school of “the best form of defence is attack” because he was attacking the Labour Party even as he made his presentation.

It almost certainly goes back to his time at Eton and Oxford. And to his belief that he can do no wrong & make no mistakes. Therefore anyone who is, or could be, critical of him is obviously wrong and the best thing to do to people who are so clearly wrong is to attack them and point out just how very wrong they are. And if you can do that before they’ve actually been critical of you, but you feel that they might be tempted to, even though they would be wrong to do so, then so much the better—you might be able to stop them from being critical of you (and, therefore, wrong) in the first place. And everyone wants to be prevented from being wrong, don’t they?

That was back in September and over a fairly mundane (if important) policy announcement.

Fast forward five months and we find an embattled Prime Minister fighting for his job after a series of revelations, an internal investigation and now a police investigation into the conduct of not just the Prime Minister himself, but his whole office staff and even his wife.

#Partygate is a scandal the like of which we’ve not seen since… Well, I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it in my lifetime. There was the expenses scandal back in 2009, but that was more about a system not fit for purpose and MPs making claims that they all believed they were entitled too, even though some of them were outrageous. They were ‘gaming the system’, and the system let them—they weren’t outright breaking the very laws that they themselves had made.

Before that, there was ‘Cash for Questions’, but that was one MP playing fast & loose with the rules. #Partygate is not just an entire Government department taking the piss and breaking the rules, but the department of the Actual Prime Minister.

And when The Prime Minister presented and responded to the Sue Grey Report, which was pretty scathing of the culture in No 10 even if it did lack any detail at the request of The Met, we were once again presented with a Prime Minister who thought the best form of defence was attack. He did try to appear contrite and apologetic with his initial comments, but this soon degenerated into a defence of his entire Premiership so far, with him listing what he believes to be his achievements.

It was an odd thing to watch. He was a man who is very clearly in the wrong. Everyone aside from his most blindly loyal supporters can see that. But he was still unwilling to accept he’d done anything wrong. Instead, he came out swinging and somehow managed to make himself look like a victim—or try to. The entire tone of the Prime Minister’s statement was badly, badly out of touch with what was required of him.

What followed though was one of the best statements I’ve seen in The House for a long time. Kier Starmer’s response was dignified & compassionate. He spoke quietly and with sincerity and spoke for pretty much the whole country as he admonished the Prime Minister for his failings in this affair. It really was a remarkable speech.

And what did the Prime Minister do? Rather than take the perfectly valid criticism, he came out swinging and launched an attack on the Leader of The Opposition, which was both unwarranted and completely false.

It was despicable. So much so that it’s now led the Prime Minister’s most trusted aid to resign in protest. 15 years she’s been by his side, but this slur was too much even for her. Of course, there’s the argument she is nothing more than of the rats leaving Johnson’s sinking ship, but still…

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