There is a weary exhaustion to the fall-out of the cheese and wine, secret santa filled Christmas party at Downing Street last year, while many of us were in Tier 3 lockdown. It arrived in a week when we should have been talking about the ghost children missing from our schools, the people who were left behind in Afghanistan, the desperate need for drug treatment which actually works.
Instead, Boris Johnson’s inability to tell the truth has lead the agenda for seven days and is threatening to stretch on ad infinitum.
Very few will be shocked that Johnson can tell a lie, but many will be shocked at just how badly he told this one.
The Conservative backbench, hardly a beacon of cohesion, will be mutinous. To say Johnson’s ability to lead us through a winter threatening to be overrun with cases of the new Covid variant, Omicron, is in doubt, would be the biggest understatement since Dominic Raab said over the weekend that “no rules were broken” at Downing Street last year.
Yesterday, there was not a single Cabinet minister willing to face journalists after the video of now former Downing Street aide Allegra Stratton sniggering about the party emerged.
Instead, the head of the NHS was forced to come on air and tell everyone to get their booster jabs – a crucial message which will save lives.
We could laugh about the No10 party, it would probably be easier to.
But we shouldn’t.
Disillusionment in politics has already seeped through to a generation who really have got the pointy end of the stick over the last decade, let alone the last two years. For many between the ages of 19 to 30, who grew up in the shadow of 2008, faith in the mainstream was never instilled in us. Instead, disillusionment was in our blood; it is a sense of tiredness that runs deep.
There are myriad reasons for this: mountains of debt, dreams of owning a home which may never materialise; the careers that are years behind where they could be.
But there is another common refrain: “I’ve never once voted for someone I believed in”.
Such is the flotsam of politics, many simply don’t vote at all. Turnout at elections has been steadily falling 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 which leads many to believe there will never be any change.
A disbelief in the mainstream continues to drive conspiracy theories. If people don’t believe those in charge have integrity, the wormhole of disinformation becomes all the more appealing.
The Online Safety Bill was another thing we should’ve been talking about this week.
Yesterday, the human rights barrister Susie Alegre wrote a compelling case for how we integrate children’s welfare into a digital rights bill for an online world. She wrote about young girls’ weaknesses being a selling point for advertisers looking to flog extreme weight loss pills. Instead, the threats facing our children were subsumed by a storm the Prime Minister, in throwing his staff under the bus rather than admitting responsibility, decided to carry on.
Most people are willing to accept a level of dishonesty from politicians; expect it, even. With Johnson, there has always been a level of idiocy voters are able to tolerate. Such was the case with the Peppa Pig monologue.
The fallout of scandals is often, rightly, red hot anger. There was much of this yesterday. The quiet, cold killer of disillusionment comes later, but it is a much greater threat.