Boris Johnson is a nasty piece of work and Jacob Rees-Mogg even worse, so Douglas Ross should not be sneered at – Brian Wilson

Would Boris Johnson, in other circumstances, have been a half-decent Prime Minister? We’ll never know and were never likely to find out.

Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross as a 'lightweight' (Picture: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross as a 'lightweight' (Picture: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)

It is more difficult by the day to disagree with the opinion of Sir Roger Gale MP that Johnson is a “dead man walking”. Equally, it was entirely predictable that it would all end in hubris, even if the precise source of fatal turmoil could not have been predicted. Parties? How mundane!

Re-writing recent history is already work in progress. Johnson was the great “winner” who brought the Tories a thumping majority. Well, yes and no. The Tories owe their great victory, above all others, to Jeremy Corbyn and the people daft or malevolent enough to have made him leader of the Labour Party.

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Beyond that are the circumstances in which Johnson became Tory leader. It could not have happened, certainly in the short term, without the stupidity or cynicism of opposition parties who repeatedly voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal and therefore made her departure inevitable.

When Labour, SNP and Lib Dem MPs walked into the same division lobby with Johnson and the most extreme Brexit acolytes around him, what future did they think they were ushering in? Johnson certainly knew the answer but he needed the complicity of nominal opponents to open the door for him to pass through.

Nor should it be forgotten how ruthlessly the decent wing of the Tory Party was decimated for having the gall to stand up to him. The one thing Johnson is no position to command now is loyalty since his whole career has been built on disloyalty to anyone who got in the way of his ambition.

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Johnson’s talent, as always, was for spotting the opportunity. Gamble on becoming a Brexiteer without ever really believing in it and without regard for consequences. Then use that as the stepping-stone to taking over the Tory Party. Then, hey presto, the road to Number 10 was open.

Thereafter, the fatal flaw in Johnson was always going to be his character. Nobody can go through life telling so many lies, discarding so many people who had outlived their usefulness, deploying fancy language as a substitute for basic competence, without eventually getting caught out.

Arguably, that irreversible moment came in the House of Commons this week when his bumbling, semantically crafted apology that wasn’t quite an apology confronted even the most gullible with the inescapable reality of a man to whom truth and penitence are foreign concepts.

If there is one nastier piece of work in the Tory hierarchy than Johnson, it is Jacob Rees-Mogg. In the list of people I would regard it as a badge of honour to be insulted by, this slimy product of privilege and entitlement would rank very high. So Douglas Ross should not be too bothered about that.

Actually, Mr Ross comes out of this rather well in any rational assessment. It should be recalled that he was certainly the last Scottish politician to resign on any point of principle, giving up his ministerial post over the behaviour of Dominic Cummings during lockdown. So he has a track record to defend.

On this occasion, he took a similar stand. If something very wrong had taken place, then the Prime Minister should resign. When it was confirmed this had indeed happened, he followed through without evasion or back-tracking, at the same time eliciting information from the horse’s mouth that there might well be more to come.

It is not necessary to have any empathy for Mr Ross’s wider politics to respect that stand, which is otherwise entirely missing from Scottish politics. In contrast, Nicola Sturgeon managed to work under Alex Salmond for nearly 20 years without ever, ever, ever, seeing anything remotely amiss. And if you never see it, you never have to do anything about it.

Mr Ross may be sneered at for being sneered at by Jacob Rees-Mogg but at least he has stuck his neck out – twice – on a point of principle and on each occasion has been right. That does not seem to me at all contemptible.

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