Method in madness

Nicola Sturgeon: Boris Johnson is putting himself before the public

Back in February in an article far to cleverly titled ‘Welcome to Borissia‘ I observed that “The combination of Boris Johnson and Dom Cummings may be revolting, but it is revoltingly successful.” Nothing that has happened in the weeks and months since has given me any cause to revise this opinion. It can happen that people are so focused on the awfulness of what is being done they fail to recognise the skill and expertise involved. In terms of the efficiency with which they commit their crimes even murderers can be divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

Time can lend a more open-minded perspective. I dare say that 75 years ago it would have caused at least the raising of a few eyebrows to acknowledge how well-served the Nazi regime was by its Minister of Propaganda. Today, it is a commonplace to refer to Joseph Goebbels as a master of his art and science. One should not rely too heavily on this relaxed objectivity, however. I seem to recall that as recently as 2007 Brian Ferry (Roxy Music) got himself into a spot of bother when he expressed an admiration for the aesthetics of Leni Riefenstahl’s films, Albert Speer’s buildings and the iconography of Nazi regalia. This didn’t make Ferry a Nazi any more than my fondness for the art of Soviet-era posters makes me a Communist. But people are ever ready for a fresh hate-figure at whom they can vent their righteous indignation in an exercise that is invariably futile but which can be easily mistaken for the exercise of power.

Recognising the fact that Boris Johnson has a habit of getting pretty much everything he wants doesn’t make me a Tory. Noting the part played by Dom Cummings in this record of success doesn’t mean I admire or approve of the things done or the methods used. It is simply to acknowledge the reality.

Think about it! If they hadn’t been so successful there would have been less reason to despise them.

It would be interesting and illuminating to analyse the reasons for this success. As with Better Together in the 2014 referendum campaign there are lessons to be learned from the winners. Not necessarily examples to emulate. But ideas that might inform a more worthy campaign than that which so grievously deceived the people of Scotland. This is not the place for such an analysis. I will mention only one thing that I have noted about the way Boris Johnson and Dom Cummings operate that seems to contribute to their success. Something relevant to the current stooshie about the latter and the response of the former to presumably facetious demands for the latter’s scalp.

It seems to me that when faced with such demands , the ‘Cummings Method’ is not to ask how the baying mob may be placated and said stooshie abated but to ask whether there is actually a need to do anything. I can very easily imagine Cummings asking his ‘boss’ one question – can they force you to sack me? I can hear him explain that if there is no way anybody can force his sacking then to sack him would be a sign of weakness. If you don’t have to do what your opponents want you to do, don’t!

I’m not exactly struggling to find lessons in this approach which might serve our First Minister well.

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9 thoughts on “Method in madness

  1. Equally, Mr Bell, should we not be asking ourselves: should we be placating and pandering to NO voters and the British State they support? To my mind, this is the hardest and apparently most elusive lesson to be learned from the 2014 referendum, but, seemingly, we still have not learned it; and, worse, few seem willing to learn it. We have to go round them, by-pass them and leave them standing in bewilderment at our gall at not doing what they say. They have had almost six years of excruciating austerity, a Brexit, no voice for Scotland, and a pandemic, no voice for Scotland, the likelihood of important powers stripped away, no voice for Scotland, probably a No Deal Brexit now, no voice for Scotland…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think you are being extremely generous here. It’s true that Johnson and Cummings, strictly speaking, don’t ‘have’ to do anything but it doesn’t mean there are no consequences to them arrogantly ignoring the outcry.

    The most obvious danger I would suggest is that the English public will react by ignoring completely any government ‘advice’ on containing the current epidemic (which has now become a side issue). All bets will be off and with the virus firmly established within the populace, the second wave will make our recent experience look like a garden party. This could the actual consequence of idiots in power acting like idiots.

    Also, when eejits take over a country or leave a trading bloc or gain their desired result in a referendum because they lied through their teeth at every stage and fooled the public; the fact that this goes unpunished when the lies are exposed, is a failing of the system, not a testimonial to the strategy.

    If I lied and made false claims in order to get a job, I can be sacked if this comes to light at a later date. There are no such checks in politics and that’s why we end up with people like Johnson and Trump calling the shots.

    One of our FMs real strengths is her integrity. I trust you are not advising she should abandon this in order to gain power.


    1. I didn’t say there were no consequences. Only that there is no cost to Boris Johnson. Or at least no cost that he cannot easily afford. The people who vote for Boris Johnson will vote for him no matter what he does. And there are enough of them that Johnson doesn’t have to worry.

      From our perspective, the big worry is that the only thing that might worry Johnson is competition from somebody even worse than he is. Boris v2.0!


      1. Gove springs to mind!
        Somehow, for all his electoral successes, I can see the day when enough tories turn against Johnson.
        He got them what they wanted, that is back into power….. the tories want to keep it!
        If it looks like he becomes a problem for them, then as they did with Thatcher, they will do for Johnson in turn.
        Not that any of it helps Scotland, of course.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thing is, he’s NOT a problem for them. Hard as it may be for us to comprehend, Boris is massively popular among the only people he needs to be popular among in order to win elections. Tories will have a go at him on issues such as Cummings. But watch them fall in line when an election is called. It took something as massive as Brexit to make cracks appear in the party edifice. And Brexit is done. It’ll be a non-issue at the next UK General Election. Which kinda craps in Nicola’s biscuit barrel. The entire SNP campaign machine has been geared to Brexit for so long they’ll have to relearn how to spell independance.


      2. Peter A Bell: “The entire SNP campaign machine has been geared to Brexit for so long they’ll have to relearn how to spell independance.”

        Do you think they would take spelling lessons from you?


  3. If you think that NS is not serious about Independence then your right, so far she has been very successful.


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