We changed PM during Second World War, why keep liar Johnson? Euan McColm

Within days of invading Russian forces entering the Ukrainian city of Bucha on February 27, Karina Yershova’s family reported her missing.

Friends and family used social media in a vain attempt to find her but the 23-year-old seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth.

Last week, the mystery of her fate was solved. Yershova’s body was discovered in a mass grave. Hers was one or more than 400 corpses left behind after Russian troops abandoned Bucha.

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Allegedly raped and tortured before being shot in the back of the head and thrown in a pit, Yershova was - according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) - one of 1,964 Ukrainian civilians killed by Russian soldiers since their invasion began on February 24. A further 2, 613 members of the public have been injured in that time.

A demonstrator poses for a photograph holding a placard calling for the resignation of Boris Johnson
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Yershova and every other Ukrainian killed by the Russians was the victim of a war crime.

In life, Yershova was - according to friends - a “bright and talented student”. In death, she has become a human shield behind which our deplorable Prime Minister Boris Johnson now cowers.

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When it emerged last week that both Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak had been fined by the Metropolitan Police after being found to have broken the lockdown laws by which they expected the British public to abide, supporters of the pair were swift to parrot the agreed line of defence. Yes, they said, they understood public anger over the attendance by these politicians at illegal parties in Downing Street but it was time to move on. And, anyway, there was no way the UK could change Prime Minister while there’s a war on mainland Europe. To do so would be to offer succour to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The cynicism was stomach-churning. The UK changed Prime Minister during the Second World War, a conflict in which British soldiers were active and so how this is not possible when another nation is at war is far from clear.

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Of course, this defence of the Prime Minister and his hapless Chancellor was absolute nonsense. Johnson broke the laws he set and then repeatedly - because this is what he does best - lied about it. He lied to the public and he misled the House of Commons.

Johnson is unfit to be Prime Minister and had he a shred of honour, he would have resigned. Given his inability to feel shame, it should have fallen to Johnson’s colleagues to do the right thing and force him out.

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Instead - a few honourable exceptions such as former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and the Justice Minister Lord David Wolfson, who resigned over the PM’s law-breaking, aside - senior Conservatives rallied to his defence.

And, time and again, war in Ukraine was offered as a legitimate reason to avoid a change of Prime Minister at this time. I wonder how deeply those defenders of the PM thought about what they were saying. Do they sincerely believe the lie that Johnson must be protected because Russia has invaded Ukraine? And have any of them, in a quiet moment, perhaps, considered the implications of what they are saying? Are all further examples of Prime Ministerial wrongdoing to be waved away because of this or that geopolitical crisis? Are we really to believe that only Boris Johnson - a liar - can lead at a time of war overseas?

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If any of Johnson’s defenders is in possession of a soul, do they ever have a long dark night during which they question their undying defence of a man who would throw them under a bus without blinking if he felt their sacrifice necessary.

Has a single of one of them stopped to think about the morality of using dead Ukrainians to shield Johnson?

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For four years, we watched in horror as the American political system was trashed by President Donald Trump.

Trump lowered the bar for behaviour, bullying colleagues, abusing critics, and refusing to take responsibility for his failings.

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But we don’t get to criticise the Trump administration while we have our own liar in office.

The ministerial code makes it quite clear that - having misled parliament over the “party gate” scandal - Johnson must resign. His failure to do so - and his colleagues’ decision to protect him - makes a mockery of rules put in place to protect the integrity of our democracy.

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If Johnson and Sunak are permitted by lickspittle Tory MPs, such as the party’s Scottish leader, Douglas Ross, to survive breaking lockdown laws which saw families separated for months on end, what else will they be allowed to do? At what point will Conservative politicians decide enough is enough?

For weeks, Johnson’s pitiful defenders insisted that no judgement could be made on his political future until the police had completed their investigation. To pre-empt their findings would be an abuse of process.

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Having waited for the Police to act, we are now told the whole thing was so long ago that we should forget about and that the British people are ready to move on.

Are we? Are the countless thousands who lost loved ones during the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic ready to forgive and forget? Are the families separated for months - in some case even at the point when a loved one succumbed to the virus - ready to put aside their pain and get behind Boris Johnson?

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I don’t believe they are. But even if they were, their views would be irrelevant. Boris Johnson broke the law he implemented and then lied about it and if standards in public life mean anything, he must go.

Shame on those who keep the disreputable man in office. Shame on every one of them citing the victims of Vladimir Putin’s invasion as a reason we need this liar in Downing Street.

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