With Britain heading towards its worst economic disaster in three centuries — ‘a severe recession the likes of which we haven’t seen’, warns the Chancellor — you might imagine that at least some backbench Conservative MPs would be asking pertinent questions about their government’s increasingly dubious-looking lockdown policy.
“Is it worth destroying thousands of businesses, millions of jobs, and the prosperity of the world’s fifth-largest economy for the sake of a disease which on current mortality rates looks no deadlier than seasonal flu?” might be a good one to start with.
So where are all those Conservative MPs on their £85,000 salaries, with their generous staffing allowances and their ring-fenced pensions, speaking up for those myriad constituents doomed to lose their jobs in the next few months?
Good question. Here’s one of these disappointments in action: a lickspittle MP called Johnny Mercer very much taking the unquestioning, assume-the-position Establishment line in support of his blundering CO Boris Johnson.
Well aware that some in my party don’t consider me a “true Tory”. I don’t idolise their philosophers, I haven’t gone loopy over Europe, and I think the first test of being a true Tory should be “don’t be a knob to anyone, particularly cops.” shame on me! pic.twitter.com/S9PxrhZn5e
— Johnny Mercer (@JohnnyMercerUK) May 19, 2020
Mercer is right about at least one thing in that tweet — people in his party don’t consider him to be a ‘true Tory’ because indeed, he isn’t one. He demonstrated this most egregiously last year when he took part in the smearing of conservative philosopher Sir Roger Scruton.
Scruton was dying of cancer at the time, though to be fair, Mercer wouldn’t have known this: as he admitted in one of his tweets he had barely even heard of Scruton when he decided to join the mob calling for his scalp.
When it subsequently emerged that Scruton was the victim of a leftist stitch up orchestrated by a muck-raking New Statesman journalist who had twisted his words, Mercer still didn’t say sorry. Instead, he published a characteristically puffed-up non-apology apology in the Spectator attempting to justify his lack of conservative principles as some kind of virtue.
But I will never countenance ideology at the expense of groups that for too long have wrongly found themselves pushed to the fringes of society.
Mercer also took the opportunity to remind his readers that he had served in the Army. (“I have actually fought and bled for” free speech, as he put it, poetically). He does this very nearly as often as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan reminds us that his father was a bus driver. Presumably, in both cases, the idea is to show that they’re not just another politician, that they have authenticity. But in fact, in both cases it has the opposite effect: reminding us that they are all too obviously just another politician – desperately trying to lay claim to a bit of mildly exotic hinterland in order to disguise how perfectly useless they are in every other respect.
You can see this in the ‘thinking’ behind Mercer’s tweet. It’s the limited view of a man who is good at obeying orders but lacks the intellectual heft to see the bigger picture. In this case, it simply hasn’t occurred to Mercer’s entry-level brain that the act of politely debating with a policeman threatening you with arrest does not necessarily make you a ‘knob’.
To believe that it did make you a ‘knob’, you would also have to believe that individual policemen are right all the time, that the orders given by their superiors are right all the time, and that the government policy informing these orders is right all the time.
You’d have to be very stupid to believe any of this – but Mercer has perfectly encapsulated that stupidity in his tweet. I wonder who is the real knob in this scenario?
Mercer, unfortunately, is emblematic of more than a few Conservative MPs who could have been just as happy in any party, really, except that the Conservatives happened to be closest to power at the time so that’s where they nailed their colours.
In normal times, this preponderance of conservatives-in-name-only is merely an irritation and a frustration.
But in abnormal times like these, when the prosperity and cohesion and, indeed, the very character of a nation is at stake, then the stuffing of the Conservative benches with chancers, dimwits and invertebrates in the Mercer category of uselessness becomes seriously dangerous.
Will no one in Boris Johnson’s government speak up for liberty, freedom and prosperity? And if they won’t, why do they persist in describing themselves as the ‘Conservative’ party?