On a day (29 March 2022) when the PM has made it clear he has no interest in mass law-breaking, on his watch, in his office, here’s my revised essential Johnson guide to government:
- Accept responsibility for nothing.
2. Blame others for things that are your fault.
3. Take credit for things that aren’t your doing.
4. Preach unity but sow division.
5. Act like you’re the opposition and the opposition are the government.
6. Treat scrutiny as insolence.
7. Use public money for political ends.
8. Use flowery language and verbosity as a substitute for clarity and substance.
9. Speak in three-word slogans and avoid detail.
10. Where gravitas is advisable, use levity.
11. Where gravitas is essential, use levity.
12. Make people angry about things that don’t matter, so they ignore things that do.
13. When your voters start to see through you, escalate the culture war to win them back.
14. Attribute good things to Brexit when they’re nothing to do with Brexit.
15. Attribute bad things to anything but Brexit when they’re everything to do with Brexit.
16. Abuse the French and Germans, but refer to them as “our friends”.
17. Compare Brexit to the Ukrainians’ war of self-defence.
18. Devise a foreign policy for a world in which Europe doesn’t exist.
19. When war breaks out in Europe, adjust your foreign policy for a world in which the EU doesn’t exist.
20. Use that war to claim nothing else matters.
21. Talk about World War II. And Churchill.
22. Stand in front of flags.
23. Treat immigrants and refugees as commodities rather than people.
24. Cite our proud history of welcoming refugees while doing all you can to tarnish it.
25. Portray compassion and compromise as wokery and weakness.
26. Encourage the belief that being expected to display good manners, diplomacy and respect for others’ views is an intolerable infringement of your freedom of speech.
27. Praise the UK’s values of tolerance, freedom and rule of law while displaying intolerance, restricting freedoms and attacking the rule of law.
28. Cite the sacredness of our sovereign parliament while granting yourself presidential powers.
29. Extol the virtues of the Union while doing all you can to undermine it.
30. Deliver serious messages of global import with a glint in your eye, to show your supporters you don’t really mean them.
31. When put on the spot by an interviewer, look from side to side with an exasperated expression, punch the air, and try to interview the interviewer.
32. Exchange honours for favours, and reward electoral defeat and incompetence with peerages.
33. Make corruption seem acceptable.
34. Wear a permanent smirk that tells the world you just don’t care and you can’t be touched.
35. If there’s a pandemic, ignore the death toll and declare it over when it no longer suits you.
36. Claim you’re a world leader at this and at everything else.
37. Never, ever apologise for anything.
38. If asked to apologise, say you have done so even when you haven’t.
39. Make it seem as if an apology is as good as a resignation.
40. If the demand to apologise doesn’t go away, hold an inquiry.
41. If the findings of the inquiry don’t suit you, say it’s time to move on.
42. If in doubt, lie. Then lie again. And again. And again. And again.