by Mary Harrington
Friday, 28
January 2022
Debate
10:45

Why I’d choose Boris over Nicola Sturgeon

Give me a mendacious Lord of Misrule over a technocratic tyrant
by Mary Harrington
The Lord of Misrule. Credit: Getty

The SNP’s ongoing effort to gain full legislative independence while still enjoying the fruits of the Barnett Formula continue apace, with news that the party has tabled legislation that would give Holyrood the power in perpetuity to impose further lockdowns. At present Scottish lockdowns can only be imposed while the UK-wide Coronavirus Act remains in force — and this law was passed only with the proviso that it should be regularly reviewed, with ministers obliged to make the case for why it should continue in force at intervals.

The UK’s devolved administrations have consistently made more enthusiastic use of the pandemic state of exception than England, with more far-reaching restrictions, enthusiastic uptake of vaccine passports and longer lockdowns. In contrast, at the onset of every pandemic wave our now-embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson was at least sometimes reluctant to impose tough restrictions on individual liberties in the name of pandemic control.

As parties, cakes and other revelations continue to drip-feed into the news cycle, Johnson is now facing calls to resign for his own refusal to abide by restrictions that at different points in the pandemic he was less than keen to impose. In that context, I wonder how much of the furious energy now being directed at toppling our Prime Minister is rooted in his instinctive aversion to the kind of public-health technocracy now being pursued by the SNP?

This is not, of course, to make any claims on behalf of his moral character. Johnson has, over his premiership, emerged as a kind of Lord of Misrule: shooting from the hip, cracking jokes, surrounded on all sides by chaos and improvisation and very little in the way of principles, character, plan or even substantive political ideas.

But despite his now well-documented downsides, Boris’ chaotic, libertine and libertarian nature makes him an intuitive opponent of the sort of impersonal, rules-based Computer Says No governance now being pursued by the SNP and by many other jurisdictions worldwide. (In Quebec, for example, unvaccinated people are now forbidden to enter shops unless accompanied by a Health Warden whose task is to ensure they buy nothing but food or medicine.) Under such regimes, our status as bodies (and potential disease vectors) always takes precedence over our inner lives or individual stories, and the emotional misery caused by submission to this worldview is celebrated as heroic.

Notwithstanding the long lockdowns he presided over, Johnson’s own behaviour implies what he personally thinks of these kinds of impersonal rules-based orders: they don’t apply to him. To a partial extent in the pandemic, he’s extended that reluctance on our behalf too. We might wonder whether that chaos and aversion to rules isn’t, perversely, argument for not defenestrating him.

To put it another way: if they’re the only two options, I’ll take a shambolic, mendacious, libertine but fundamentally liberty-loving Lord of Misrule over grey-faced bureaucrats with the permanent power to lock me in my house at a moment’s notice. We might do well to wonder at the motivations of those currently seeking to persuade us otherwise.

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D M
D M
8 months ago

Yes agree. I have always felt that Boris is a traditional liberal at heart. For example our covid rules in England have not been too onerous compared to many countries. His replacement could, and probably would be worse. Cakegate is not a good reason for him to go.

Last edited 8 months ago by D M
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
8 months ago
Reply to  D M

This article sums up my view. I don’t understand why more Tories aren’t tolerant of his incompetence.
This is exactly what we need in our politicians – then no ideology can be applied effectively – perfect.

D M
D M
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Astonishing but true. And Boris hasn’t actually done anything seriously, or even significantly, bad

Bruce Luffman
Bruce Luffman
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Are you being ironic? Not sure it is being appreciated!

D M
D M
8 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Luffman

Boris has not done a poll tax or huge austerity or brexit in name only or anything nasty He’s not an ideologue.

Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
8 months ago
Reply to  D M

Oh yes, Johnson and his Merry Maid Ms Patel are so loving of your right to liberty that they are busy ramming a Bill down our throats that takes away all kinds of Liberties that Brits imagined was their birthright. And Ms Patel stops not even there, she’s all for whipping away your very Citizenship so she can subtract one more quasi-immigrant from her rosters.

Not sure if this article is openly hypocritical, or deliberately obtuse.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
8 months ago

We don’t have citizenship, comrade…we are subjects…which has safeguarded our liberties far better than many countries with a library full of books supposedly defining, and defending, their citizens’ rights.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
8 months ago
Reply to  D M

You always want someone whio is instictively and intellectually opposed to rules for the sake of rules, or big state high taxes or whatever, to be the person forced to apply them in extreme conditions, because they are more likely to rescind them when things improve.

D M
D M
8 months ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Yes Absolutely

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

To quote a certain Mr John Lydon:
“I never thought I’d live to see the day when the right would become the cool ones giving the finger to the establishment and the left become the snivelling self-righteous ones going around shaming everybody.”

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago

Yes, I agree. It’s still the choice between plague and cholera, but life-affirming chaos has it over puritan technocracy any day.

Andrea X
Andrea X
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Which one is the plague and which one cholera? 😀

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I honestly couldn’t say!

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think people consistently under estimate how many people are of the Conservative sentiment without approving of everything (or even much) the party of the same name may do.
In contrast with ideologues like the ones in the SNP, and Sturgeon herself, nobody can ever disapprove of anything she does and remain in the party…they have an explicit rule to that effect.
Britons never, never, never will be ideologues.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Be honest – Sturgeon is more like Ebola!

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
8 months ago

There was a time where I could never see myself choosing the Tories over the other parties, but now they seem to be the only liberal party left on offer which forces a rethink of the old allegiances.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
8 months ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

The liberal principles of the other parties have always been a chimera.

Sanja Sulić
Sanja Sulić
8 months ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

The roles are reversed to say the least!

Andrea X
Andrea X
8 months ago

In fairness I would pick a puppy basher over Sturgeon.
However, are we sure that Boris wouldn’t lock us up (AGAIN) at a moment’s notice on his sage friends’ “say so”?
A more apt comparison is between Parliament and the Scottish assembly. So far Parliament has been a beacon of democracy, mostly thanks to the real opposition (i.e. the Tory party), as opposed to puritanical and rubber stamping Holyrood.

George Glashan
George Glashan
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrea X

thats a good point Andrea, the Tories are currently the government and the opposition, but you cant signal with your vote which side of the Tories you are supporting, but at least its not automatically interpreted as a vote for authoritarianism like with the Scottish National Socialist Party or the Anti-Semitic Islington Millennial Jamboree, formerly known as the Labour Party. .

Last edited 8 months ago by George Glashan
Kal Bevan
Kal Bevan
8 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

What a stunningly insightful comment! Straight to the heart of it – the Tories are indeed both HM Government and HM Opposition… I shall somehow insert this brilliant phrase into every conversation from now on

George Glashan
George Glashan
8 months ago

i’d take a dog sh!t sandwich over Emperor Krankie

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
8 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Not one for “sitting on the fence” then George 🙂

George Glashan
George Glashan
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

i’m also talking hyperbolic mince, if you actually served me a dog sh!t sandwich or gave me the choice to play with Saint Nicola in the park , you’d see me sprinting to the swings to meekly push our beloved leader, faster than Peter Murrell could eat that sandwich.

Last edited 8 months ago by George Glashan
George Glashan
George Glashan
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWkSB-D-hYo
Scotland 100% accurately described by The Simpsons

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

This article also inadvertently explains why I voted Trump in 2020.

tom j
tom j
8 months ago

I’ll take a shambolic, mendacious, libertine but fundamentally liberty-loving Lord of Misrule over grey-faced bureaucrats with the permanent power to lock me in my house at a moment’s notice. “
Me too!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
8 months ago
Reply to  tom j

But Boris is a creep and a weasel – the real thing is they both are Horrible and never should hold power over anyone.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
8 months ago

I suspect that there isn’t a single person at the BBC who even understands this trade-off – let alone supports it.
The more they endlessly headline daily “partygate” add-ons, the more people who supported/elected the “flawed libertarian” will start to remember why they voted for him – and why they grew to dislike their miserable scolding “auntie”.
PS – Even the radio talk show callers are moving from “disgusted” to saying “FFS change the record”.

Last edited 8 months ago by Ian Barton
Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

Completely agree.

Andrew D
Andrew D
8 months ago

Hear hear

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago

Even Mr Sturgeon and the little Caviars would prefer Boris to ‘her indoors’.

Last edited 8 months ago by Chris Wheatley
George Glashan
George Glashan
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

If the scuttlebutt is to be believed Mr Sturgeon prefers any & all men to her indoors, many have commented on the overwhelming scent of lavender concerning their nuptials.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
8 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Peter Greenaway, or someone, is meant to be working up a new film as well*The French Ambassador’s wife’s wife*…God knows what it is about…

George Knight
George Knight
8 months ago

Fortunately, the “Lord of Misrule” is a deal smarter than those who seek to topple him. After all, he sorted Brexit after months of May embarrassment; he dealt effectively with Covid by parachuting in Kate Bingham to obtain vaccines, rather than wait longer for the civil service and he adopted a light touch approach to regulations. He has some good ideas for the future too; levelling up and social care, to name two. Hopefully he will emerge from “partygate” refreshed and ready to roar – beware all those timid Tories who have bayed for his downfall.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
8 months ago
Reply to  George Knight

Cor yes, revenge will be sweet. Those Tories who snitched on the whips.
The 1922 Committee could be coming to an end methinks for their disloyalty and the appalling tactics they’ve exploited to try and get rid of Johnson.

Iris C
Iris C
8 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Not the 1922 committee itself, just six MPs, including David Davis who, believe it or not, stood for the top job in the Tory Party in 2006 when David Cameron won.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
8 months ago

It worth remembering where the SNP stood in 1940.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
8 months ago

Having read all the comments before this it seems that the concensus in the parish is that BoJo should be forgiven. .Are you therefore in favour of forgiving a lot of people who exhibited similar waywardness AND refund their fines, some of which were quite hefty?

Andrew D
Andrew D
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Yes

stephen archer
stephen archer
8 months ago

It has to be Boris but that’s like being given the choice between an old timer with failing faculties and another old timer who’s delusional, narcissistic and totally unbalanced.
Boris = shallow, disorganised, waffler, spineless, lacking in integrity, compulsive liar
Sturgeon = evil, obsessed, deaf, dictatorial, unscrupulous, dishonest, compulsive liar
These are my impressions, they could be misguided. This post should maybe be censored due to the selection of adjectives. If it isn’t then there’s still some freedom of speech.

Last edited 8 months ago by stephen archer
Al M
Al M
8 months ago
Reply to  stephen archer

The freedom of speech question is perhaps where we find an answer. Suppose you really are a dissident expressing views that oppose a political leader and which might get you into bother. Which of the two would you be more concerned about, supposing either was in a position of authority and you had spoken out against them?

stephen archer
stephen archer
8 months ago
Reply to  Al M

Doubtless the obsessed. If I’m not wrong I believe she’s implemented legislation for hate crimes to be able to be reported based on utterances at private gatherings like dinner parties. It’s no longer easy to say I’m proud to be Scottish, there’s so much negativity that’s developed over the last 5-10 years and it’s all due to three letters beginning with S.

Al M
Al M
8 months ago
Reply to  stephen archer

I agree with you on all points here. Gone from a generally good-natured rivalry between UK nations to situation of anger, hatred and bigotry. Having Scottish, English and Welsh family, along with a liking for the UK as whole, it’s a rather sad state of affairs. The idiots shouting at cars on the A1 during lockdown was a particular low point for me.

William Shaw
William Shaw
8 months ago

I suppose it had to happen eventually (even a stopped clock is right twice a day).
I agree.
But partly because the only other choice for the UK is Labour, and they are total loonies.

Last edited 8 months ago by William Shaw
Shelly Andon
Shelly Andon
8 months ago

I am really quite tired of ideologues in politics and one reason I voted for Boris was because he u-turns when required and shows that he is really responsive to changing circumstances. I think that the Downing Street shenanigans are being kept alive and like a splinter in the electorates brains by ideologues in the Tory and Labour parties and Like many I am over it. I just want the government I voted for to get on with the job of governing and responding to our ever changing global economics and politics. My plea to Britain – Please just stop making a spectacle of your ideologies and small mindedness.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago

 the party has tabled legislation that would give Holyrood the power in perpetuity to impose further lockdowns.
What do the Scots think of this proposed legislation? If they’re ok with it then I don’t blame the grey-faced bureaucrats. We get the leaders we deserve.

Al M
Al M
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

It’s much the same as ever in the one party political stalemate that is modern day Scotland. 50% unequivocally support it and the other 50% loathe it; small amounts of statistical noise either way present endlessly opportunities for analysts to write some copy and pay the bills.

Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
8 months ago

For me (an Australian) i find i can only truly rely on the depth of a person’s ability to confront or rather face real diversity in questioning and how they explain or even not explain themselves when such is apt – for only when one has eyes or ears which really see or hear respectively can one say nothing and all.
Neither the he nor she alluded to in this thoughtful piece by Mary, has me as a fan of them in their social position of ‘misrule’ or ‘malrule’ respectively.
Mary’s piece reminds me of the defenestrations that occurred in Germany for example during the Reformation. May tossing some ‘deluded lefties’ onto American streets in their disabused famous cities serve further awakening to all the ‘crap’ legislated and proselytised – the poop and rubbish (for poop is not rubbish, just waste) that predominates the physical streets there could possibly and ironically save them! But they can’t or won’t affirm that owing to their being lost and spiteful in their core derailment.
Hale, Mary!

Last edited 8 months ago by Julie Kemp
philip.buckle
philip.buckle
8 months ago

I generally agree that of the two Boris is the least damaging but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that he has “very little in the way of principles, character, plan or even substantive political ideas.” This article sets up a false dichotomy. Both are awful. It isn’t which is better but which is less harmful to our society.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago
Reply to  philip.buckle

That has been the case in every election I’ve voted in.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
8 months ago

Think about it this way. No Boris, and you could be left with something like Trudeau.

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago

I’m going to do something I don’t usually do: answer the headline without reading the article. The reason you prefer Boris over Wee Krankie is that you’re not mad, right?

John Riordan
John Riordan
8 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

So now I’ve read the article, and basically it wasn’t a bad guess.

However the final line above deserves repeating: “..I’ll take a shambolic, mendacious, libertine but fundamentally liberty-loving Lord of Misrule over grey-faced bureaucrats with the permanent power to lock me in my house at a moment’s notice.”

If anyone really would make the second choice here, they do not deserve liberty in any case, and they aren’t even sane, in my opinion.

Last edited 8 months ago by John Riordan
Frances Mann
Frances Mann
8 months ago

Thank you Mary . I agree.

Mark Thomas Lickona
Mark Thomas Lickona
8 months ago

I was saying back when the “scandal” was newly-minted that Boris was, in fact, leading by unruly example. (Also speculated that the almost-year-old “revelation” was a hit-job designed to cut off at the knees any resistance on Boris’ part to They-Bot’s OhNOOOOmicron Plan-B panic-scription. But then, I’m nuts.)

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago

The original Lord of Misrule was fun because he only ruled during the carnival. A ‘shambolic, mendacious, libertine’ (i.e., incompetent, lazy, dishonest, and immoral) prime minister only remains fun as long as there is enough order in the system to keep everything working nicely anyway, so we can enjoy relaxing at his antics. That state of affairs will not last long. Once we ensconce the Lord of Misrule as our leader, the ‘shambolic, mendacious, libertine’ ethos can be relied on to spread to the opposition, civil service, judiciary, police, and public morals. In the end you have to choose: entertaining anarchy, or an orderly, working society?

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

There’s a lot of ruin in a nation, Rasmus. I would worry too much.
We have been blessed with dishonest, incompetent and immoral PMs for the last 30 years and yet we are still here.
Last 6 PMs:
Major – Back to Basics, Family Values: nobbing Edwina Currie behind his wife’s back
Blair – sexed up WMD evidence: hundreds of dead and maimed servicemen
Brown – listened patiently to a Labour voter and then called her a Bigoted Old Women when he got in the car
Cameron – hot-footed it as soon as the referendum results came in for a career selling his contacts to shady businessmen
May – Brexit means Brexit became Brexit means Britain being an EU chattel with her Backstop
Boris – had some cake on his birthday

Last edited 8 months ago by Matt M
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

What do they say – “Hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue”. As long as people acknowledge the idea that it is worth something being competent and honest, and try to live up to it some of the time, we can have a society where such virtues are encouraged – even if more in the breach as the observance sometimes. Once we – and the leaders we select – openly flaunt that the only thing that matters is getting a shag today and screw anyone else, any alternative behaviour will be actively suppressed.

Claire D
Claire D
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Call me contrary but I think you are both right.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago
Reply to  Claire D

And I think you are right Claire

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I understand where you are coming from, Rasmus, but I can’t think of one single leader political leader that even comes close to the standards you are describing. They’re all just as bad as each other. I’d much rather have a president or prime minister that drinks and shags than one who is monitoring me to make sure I follow all the rules.

Warren T
Warren T
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I would imagine that every PM or POTUS had his share of misdeeds. Why on earth would anyone want to become one without those perks?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It’s the human condition.You seem to have mistaken politics for religious belief.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Who says the carnival is over?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago

That is up to the voters. The carnival will last as long as they want to keep laughing and avoid dealing with reality.