Boris Johnson and Donald Trump are two buffoons who embarrassed two major democracies by their election to national leadership. Both are now gone and much good riddance. Both are also now in disgrace and facing punishment for their sins.
On Monday, the UK House of Commons ratified a parliamentary committee report that ruled former British prime minister repeatedly and deliberately lied to them about breaking COVID lockdown rules. The New York Times referred to the report as “a clarion call for the restoration of truth as the bedrock principle in a democracy.”
Donald Trump has been indicted by two grand juries, one in New York for falsifying business records in order to conceal damaging information and unlawful activity from voters; and one in Florida for retention of classified documents and conspiracy to hide them from the government and his own attorneys. All this aside from two impeachments and other assorted legal challenges.
One striking difference in the two cases is the reaction of their political colleagues.
The UK House voted 354 to 7 to approve the report condemning Johnson with even former Conservative PM Theresa May voting aye. May observed, “I also say to fellow members of my own party, that it is doubly important for us to show that we are prepared to act when one of our own, however senior, is found wanting,” a comment perhaps directed at the current PM Rishi Sunak who failed to show for the vote.
The report recommended the maximum possible punishment—if Johnson were still a member of Parliament, he should be suspended for 90 days. This would trigger a potential by-election and political defeat.
However Johnson, in anticipation of the findings, resigned last week. But he doesn’t escape punishment. The report further recommended that he be denied a pass for access to Westminster. This could end his political career.
While Johnson’s Conservative colleagues obviously take umbrage at his offences to political norms, Trump’s Republican colleagues rail against attempts to bring him to account for much more serious misconduct than Johnson’s. Even though the Donald stands indicted for criminal offences, they continue to indulge his egotism and lies, eroding trust in the country’s justice system in the bargain.
Neither man seems to understand that they have done something wrong—narcissism in full flower. They even trash those in their own party who refuse to accept their contempt for democratic institutions, accusing them of betrayal, and charge their accusers of witch hunts.
Unfortunately they also both maintain significant followings who seem oblivious to their misconduct, in Trump’s case no matter how egregious. They could still exert considerable influence with their nation’s politics. A disturbing thought.
Nonetheless, after witnessing U.S. Republicans encourage Donald Trump’s serial violations of democratic norms, it is refreshing indeed to see British Conservatives putting principle over party.
Labour’s shadow leader of the House, Thangam Debbonaire, quoting Winston Churchill, observed “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” British conservatives have acknowledged the truth; in the U.S., malice and ignorance prevail.