Over the past couple of days, I’ve been watching the BBC series Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution. It’s really interesting, although you do need to be a bit of a geek for this topic. I would really recommend watching it though. Not only was it a time of real change in the country, but it was the only time we have ever had a multi-term Labour government. Before Blair became leader of the party, Labour had never managed to be re-elected to government (I don’t think the 1966 election is generally counted because that election was called 18 months after they had squeaked into power).
The shots where the camera just lingers on the faces of Blair and Brown after an answer is riveting to watch. There are consequences to the decisions that you take when in high office. And you can tell from their expressions that the consequences of the decisions they took weigh very heavily on them. That is even more true for Blair, who of course will have the spectre of Iraq over him forever. Brown also has plenty to think on from his time as Chancellor and then Prime Minister. But most importantly it is absolutely clear from the show that both men took the job of being Prime Minister absolutely, deadly seriously. Whatever you may think of their politics, their choices and the consequences of those choices, you have to give them that.
And the reason I say that is because I simply don’t see that in the current occupant of Number 10 Downing Street. I disagree with almost every policy position he has ever taken, certainly before COVID hit, but it is also the attitude he gives off every time he is being interviewed, or making a public statement or anything like that. I never see any evidence that Boris Johnson has any reverence for the job he has been given by the British public. No matter what he says, I just don’t think he takes the job seriously. It’s as if he feels that being Prime Minister is his just due, without having considered that he might want an agenda to go with the position. Being Prime Minister doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know what the hell you’re going to do once you’re there. And Boris Johnson never had an agenda that he truly believes in. I don’t think he truly believes in anything. Blair and Brown both had agendas and ideas that they wanted to push through. Ideas that they genuinely felt would improve the lives of everybody living in the country. Boris Johnson’s most defining policy is one that he jumped on the bandwagon of. Until the referendum was called, Johnson had never once openly advocated for Britain to leave the European Union; he had been critical of it, sure. He had written many articles decrying the EU, even if he made up what he was criticising them over; Johnson genuinely wrote an article claiming the EU was attempting to ban prawn cocktail flavour crisps, it was totally disproved, and yet he still used it as part of his pitch for leaving the EU; reminds of something he had written on the side of a bus that he posed next to, doesn’t it? Or how about the time he decided to try and illegally suspend Parliament to force through any old version of Brexit without Parliamentary approval because trying to debate in the Commons was too much of a ‘rigamarole’?
That has always been this Prime Minister’s shortcoming. He wants the position and the power of that position, but he doesn’t want to have to do anything with it. He just wants to be Prime Minister. He is the single laziest man to take the job for decades. Everyone else has had a programme that they wanted to implement. Johnson has nothing. This government seems to make up policy as they go and then drop it quicker than a scalding hot plate if it turns out to be unpopular. Whatever you may think of Blair and Brown, they at least took the job of running the country seriously.