Belgium in Brief: The rise and fall of Boris

Belgium in Brief: The rise and fall of Boris

One day. To answer my closing question from yesterday's letter, Boris Johnson eked out just one more night before announcing his resignation. But even this matter of hours seemed improbably long for a man who wears misconduct like a robe of honour.

The Prime Minister has been in hot water since long before he took office in 2019. No stranger to scandal, the rambunctious leader of the Conservative Party had cultivated a public profile as a bumbling buffoon with a hairstyle to match.

Far from espousing the values normally expected from elected leaders, Johnson capitalised on the power of being talked about and was widely presented as an affable eccentric, more likely to go off on a tangent about Roman poets than give a straight answer on policy – a sort of class clown who spiced up the serious business of running a country.

If Johnson were to have any particular skill ascribed to him it would be the knack of getting away with it. All his life, the Brexit ringleader has stomped from one sticky situation to the next, caught out for lying, cheating, and even breaking the law but never caring to admit to the error of his ways. Remarkably, where most would have their reputation indelibly tarnished for doing just a fraction of what Boris has been up to, Bojo's persona was only embellished as he blustered from one misdemeanour to another and another and another.

This couldn't go on forever, any right-minded observer assured themselves. There must surely come a time when it all catches up with him, mustn't there? How could anyone possibly accumulate such an endless tally of red marks against their name and still hold their head high?

Fittingly for someone who rose to the top by railing against "excessive" EU regulations (often grossly misrepresented or fabricated altogether) and who constantly harked back to the good ole days of the UK being able to do exactly as it pleased (like when it still had an empire), the key to Johnson being able to swagger between calamities was distinctly British.

Where other countries have codified conventions that leaders overstep at their peril, Britain has taken honesty and moral integrity for granted, as if holding office alone is proof of your worthiness. Appealing as this idea may be, when faced with someone who so evidently doesn't care a jot for principles, this flimsy idealisation lacks the brawn of the law to bring miscreants into line.

Politics is changing, not only in the UK, and checks on power will need to be far more robust to deal with a new breed of politician. In an era of post-truth and disinformation (often barefaced lying), trust in the institutions that govern us is constantly undermined. It will take more than a new Prime Minister to usher in a more sober, sensible politics.

That said, bets on the next PM? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:

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