Boris Johnson is done, and what an exit.
The British Prime minister has finally been kicked out. The last straw could not have been more bizarre and less sublime. Johnson ‘forgot’ that the man he appointed Deputy Chief Whip was a serial sexual predator. His disgraceful term was brought to a screeching halt by another of his serial lies.
Johnson thought he could keep lying. He was wrong.
In the course of a few days, Johnson’s response to Chris Pincher’s groping of two men at a private member’s club flip-flopped repeatedly. Initially, he simply removed Pincher as deputy whip. After public outrage, Pincher was kicked out.
Johnson claimed he wasn’t aware of specific allegations about Pincher. Later, he knew about “speculation” about Pincher’s misconduct.
One senior civil servant couldn’t stomach Johnson’s lies. Lord McDonald issued a complaint stating that Johnson was briefed about Pincher’s misconduct. Johnson claimed he couldn’t remember being briefed. He eventually remembered.
This scandal came hot on the heels of Partygate, and Johnson had used up all his lives.
No COVID rules were broken, he reassured parliament. There were no parties at Number 10. Of course, Sue Gray’s report uncovered several drunken bring-your-own-booze parties that went late into the morning at 10 Downing Street. The prime minister broke the law and was fined by the police.
He who lives by lies, dies by his own lies.
The resignation of two senior ministers triggered an avalanche that forced Johnson’s exit. Despite the unprecedented resignation of over 40 of his ministers, Boris refused to go just yet. Taking a leaf out of Joseph Muscat’s playbook, he will cling on defiantly as caretaker prime minister until autumn. Muscat resigned but stayed long enough to determine who his successor would be — and who it wouldn’t be.
Johnson is staying despite the incalculable, irreparable damage to his own party, his country and its democracy,
Johnson is staying despite the legacy of awfulness, his trademark chaos, and his disregard for democratic norms.
He’s planning to celebrate his one year wedding anniversary at Chequers, the prime minister’s country mansion. This 58 year old man is on his third wedding, with two young children from his current wife and several others from previous relationships.
His behaviour fits a pattern he had already established. When he resigned as foreign secretary, Johnson refused to leave the building for three weeks because he wouldn’t pay rent on a flat.
Former Prime minister John Major urged the 1922 Committee to force Johnson out immediately, pointing out that “it is unwise and may be unsustainable” for him to remain in office for another three months. Even his staunchest supporters want him gone now. They can’t take him a minute longer.
Johnson’s systematic dismantling of democratic norms and his diabolical influence on public life bear striking similarities to that of Joseph Muscat. Both men were broken by their own vanity, an overinflated sense of exceptionalism and the arrogant confidence in their own invincibility. Muscat’s crass self-regard, epitomized by his notorious Invictus tattoo, paved the way for self-inflicted catastrophe. Everything that both men did was corrupt and chaotic.
It was the lying that ruined both of them. Both men lied and lied, and both got others to lie for them.
Who could forget Muscat’s feigned amnesia when asked when he last met Yorgen Fenech? He looked into the distance and asked the journalist which month it was.
He didn’t know about Schembri and Mizzi’s Panama companies, either. Then he claimed Mizzi told him about the company and was just about to list it in his declaration of assets.
He didn’t know about 17 Black, and then he didn’t know who owned 17 Black.
He didn’t know about Turab Musayev’s involvement in the Mozura wind farm, and he didn’t know about the millions of euro 17 Black owner Yorgen Fenech made off that wind farm.
When they ran out of lies, both men played the incompetence card: I forgot… What’s a party…? I don’t remember.
Muscat forgot he invited Yorgen Fenech to his own birthday party. He forgot about Fenech’s gifts of Petrus wines and a Bulgari watch. He forgot that he travelled to Italy with Fenech to celebrate Ali Sadr Hasheminejad’s wedding, too.
When Johnson’s ethics advisors resigned in disgust at the prime minister’s repeated breaches, Johnson simply scrapped the role of ethics advisor.
Muscat was repeatedly found guilty of ethics breaches by the Standards Commissioner, and now Hyzler is banished to Europe with no replacement in sight.
Johnson’s dodgy £200,000 funding of the refurbishment of Number 10 exposed his scrounging. Muscat rented his own car to the state at a €7,000 profit.
Johnson wouldn’t vacate his official residence when he resigned as foreign secretary to save on rent. Muscat accepted €21,000 for first class tickets to Dubai for his family from a donor that he kept secret.
This is where similarities end.
Johnson was ousted by his own party, his own cabinet, but Muscat’s cabinet continued to defend him and protect him until the end. Evarist Bartolo continued to back Konrad Mizzi and Muscat to save his own skin.
Johnson exits in disgrace but Muscat left as a hero, with Labour Party celebrations and a valedictory lap of honour.
Muscat’s successor hugged him on stage and announced he would “continue to consult him every day”. Abela also negotiated a secret €120,000 termination package for Muscat, including the use of government office space for private work and personal profit.
Johnson is considered a huge liability for his party, but Muscat is still an icon adored by Labour’s new crop of MPs who invited him to endorse their candidacy.
Johnson is toxic. Muscat is President of the Professional Football Clubs’ Association.
The disgraceful exits of Boris Johnson and Joseph Muscat should send Robert Abela a strong message: lies will only get you so far, and they will eventually wreck you.
Even if you’re Joseph Muscat. Even if you’re Boris Johnson. And even if you’re Robert Abela.