After five years of telling the British people to ignore experts, Johnson just fell foul of his own propaganda.
Michael Gove famously said, during the Brexit debate, that the British public were getting tired of experts. Johnson and many of his colleagues regularly rubbished professors, economists, scientists, and sector experts to pursue both Brexit and political office.
When most of the scientific community in the UK came together to warn them about the risks of Brexit, they were ignored and rubbished. When business leaders warned of damage to business, they were laughed at and belittled. When doctors warned about the state of the NHS, they were brushed off.
Ten years underfunding the NHS, cutting corners, making do, and now the government has had to write an open cheque to keep healthcare working. Yes, this is an unprecedented crisis, but the healthcare system was already facing its own unprecedented crisis before this crisis unfolded. It might just have been cheaper to have funded it properly for the last decade.
And after 10 years of rail being run by an incompetent minister, with underfunding and failed structures, the government overnight has effectively had to nationalise the entire rail system for 6 months to keep it working. And as they close all the schools, they are having to make provision for the children whose families are so poor they cannot afford to feed them, and who relied on school to provide them with their one meal a day. The only good thing to come out of this, is that after 10 years of shameful inaction to reduce car usage and the pollution that has been killing thousands of people, the air is now cleaner as those same people face the threat of Coronavirus instead.
For five years, the people now leading this country have built a society that celebrates ignorance, promotes exceptionalism and individualism, and puffed up the chest of anyone willing to jump on their bandwagon so they felt self-righteous. Brexit Britain was about us not them, it was about glorifying ignorance and arrogance over information and expertise. They rallied their crowd by threatening to ignore international law and European rules, thumbing their nose at political leaders, and at social norms.
And now a real crisis has hit, and the erstwhile second-rate columnist and now prime minister stood up and told us to pay attention to the two scientists at his side, to obey the rules, and to work together, and wow… everyone ignored him. Johnson set the country up to be the people against parliament, populism against the establishment. Now, in a real crisis, he is the establishment, and he has proved himself to be powerless, undermined by his own propaganda.
When he told the people to stay at home, they ignored him. When he told them to listen to the scientists, they ignored them too. He set this up. He created the climate in which political leaders lack respect, in which people embrace their ignorance and ignore experts, in which people can think they’re right because it feels right, regardless of whether they’re right or not. Five years of pursuing a strategy for the country that everyone, everywhere, said was a bad idea, that all experts criticised, that went against all economic and rational orthodoxy, and here we are now, this is the country Boris Johnson created.
Johnson has built his career on lying, exaggerating, bluffing, and bravado. It all ran out today when he had to shut the country down because nobody had paid any attention to him.