TopGuard’s French correspondent, Sylvie de Beauvoire, continues her (spoof) interview with Prime Minister, Borys Jvanovich, about lying and false promises. If you haven’t read Part Two yet, here it is. Part One can be viewed here.
Transcript resumes …
Sylvie de Beauvoir (SB): During your second term as Mayor of London, you were conducting an extra-marital affair with Jennifer Arcuri. You arranged for her to accompany you on a government foreign business trip despite your officials saying she didn’t qualify for inclusion. And you arranged for her to receive business grants which she didn’t qualify for either. That’s abuse of public office isn’t it? That’s fraud isn’t it?
Borys Jvanovich (BJ): I was never held responsible or charged with that.
SB: Do you have an explanation as to why you weren’t charged?
SB: In 2021 you nominated Peter Cruddas, a very large donor to the Tory Party, for a peerage, against the advice of the Lords Appointments Commission. They had objected to Cruddas’s behaviour as Tory Treasurer in charging £250,000 a time for access to Prime Minister David Cameron. You over-rode the Commission and appointed Cruddas to the Lords anyway. Three days later, Cruddas donated a further £500,000 to the Tory Party. Most people would say that was profoundly undemocratic and corrupt behaviour on your part.
BJ: I didn’t care what people thought.
SB: And you nominated your brother Jo Johnson, for a peerage too, didn’t you? That was pure nepotism wasn’t it?
BJ: I thought he deserved it.
SB: I don’t think anyone else thought that. In 2021, the Tory MP Owen Patterson was investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for allegedly breaking MP’s lobbying rules. He had helped to secure huge Covid contracts for Randox, without competitive tendering, and he had lobbied the Food Standards Agency and the Department for International Development on behalf of Randox and Lynns Country Foods, both of whom paid him a monthly salary.
It was recommended that he receive a 30 day suspension from Parliament, which could have triggered a by-election. This punishment was confirmed by the Parliamentary Committee for Standards.
This was then put to a vote of the whole House, who were whipped by your party to reject it, which was unprecedented. But the House did vote for an Andrea Leadsom amendment to replace the Standards Committee with a new one with new rules which would have seen Owen Patterson let off. This was all done with your encouragement, approval and support. Eventually there was so much negative outcry that Patterson resigned.
Your behaviour was unacceptable in a Parliamentary democracy wasn’t it? More like what happens in places like Belarus or Turkey?
BJ: Yes, but Patterson had been a good colleague.
SB: I’m sorry, Borys, that’s no excuse and I’m sure you know that.
There were so many corruption and sleaze scandals during your time as Prime Minister, which have tarnished the name of a political party with a long recent history of behaving reasonably democratically, albeit with some exceptions, such as the MP’s expenses scandals of the 1990s, exposed at the time by the Daily Telegraph, your old paper. The Labour Party too have had their scandals. But Tories are now known as the sleaze party, and all that has seriously undermined the quality of our democracy.
To mention a few other scandals:
You suppressed the Russia Report by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, which had been completed after you became Prime Minister but before the 2019 General Election, because it contained information about dark, oligarch money from Russia flowing into the Conservative Party. After it was finally released in late 2020, you failed to act on its recommendations.
Robert Jenrick, Housing Minister, provided planning consent for a housing development in Tower Hamlets owned by Richard Desmond, a previous owner of The Express newspaper, one day before a community-benefit worth £45 million would have become payable by him. Desmond subsequently donated money to the Conservative Party, and you were pictured with your arm around a grinning Desmond.
You appointed Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary, while knowing his past history of bullying allegations, gaffes and incompetence. He fully lived up to that reputation, until he finally resigned in late 2022. You put up with him all that time.
You appointed Priti Patel as Home Secretary, despite her having been sacked previously by Theresa May for security breaches, and retained her in office even after an internal Cabinet Office Inquiry had found that she had bullied staff and breached the Ministerial Code. You ruled that she hadn’t.
You personally benefited from money and gifts provided to you by Conservative Party donors, such as free holidays, free food, money for your flat refurbishment, loans, money in exchange for dinners and tennis matches with you, after you complained that the Prime Ministerial salary was insufficient for you.
You appointed Chris Pincher to the Whips Office, despite knowing about his extended history of sexual misconduct, though you denied knowing about it. However, Lord Macdonald, former Permanent Under-secretary of State at the Foreign Office, wrote that he had personally briefed you about Pincher in 2019. That triggered a large number of resignations from your government, and you subsequently resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it illustrates that there were no limits to the corruption you were prepared to engage in personally, or to overlook in the case of your colleagues. I’ve made no mention of the Partygate scandal, the Brexit deceit over the Irish sea border, the threats to breach international law, the election gerrymandering, the betrayal of the Net-zero environmental objectives by approving the Cumbria coalmine and the encouragement of more oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, or the threats to withdraw from international human rights agreements.
If a Prime Minister behaves like that, so can we all. It has set a terrible example to the country, and diminished the UK’s economy and international reputation for probity, and the welfare of its population. The UK’s Transparency, Inequality and Corruption Indices have all worsened as a result.
Borys, do you accept all that as true?
BJ: Substantially, and with some reservations, yes.
SB: Is that all? You agree it is all true, you agree that it is all bad, yet you can’t at least bring yourself to say sorry?
BJ: Not really. I did what I thought best at the time.
SB: Best for whom?
BJ: Best for me and the party I suppose.
SB: Well, although in general I prefer trying to see the best in another person, and to give them the benefit of the doubt, in this case, Borys, I have to say I have to conclude that your behaviour in public office has been utterly irresponsible, disgraceful and scandalous.
You and your party have disgraced themselves, and brought a degree of ruin and humiliation on this country. But at least you’ve admitted it, up to a point, even if you haven’t publicly apologised for it. It’s what I expected.
But we should mention some wins from your recent career. So-called Borys bikes, and the cycle lanes that were approved, albeit very expensively, while you were London mayor. Your rapid strong support for Ukraine and its president, has rightly drawn praise.
I think I’ve run out of questions, and you’re probably thinking about lunch, so perhaps we should draw this interview to a close now. Is there anything else you would like to say?
BJ: Sylvie, I have valued your insights and plain speaking. It is refreshing to hear that, although personally painful. I don’t get that from anyone else. So I’m grateful to you. Thank you for coming.
SB: Thanks. We discussed earlier your character flaws, and your personal reasons for your belief that ‘the rules don’t apply to me’. You’ve proved that multiple times. You’ve said that you accept yourself as you are, flawed but at least likeable, to yourself and some others. I accept that, on a personal level, but there are many who don’t, won’t, can’t and shouldn’t forgive you.
You have a chance, when you write your political memoirs, which I believe you already have an offer from a publisher to write, to be completely honest. Not to write just a long list of achievements, or excuses, or a whitewash over the failings, or a comedy of errors, but to actually write something that is true and useful.
How about ‘The Art of the Shyster’? If you want a ghost writer, I could probably help. You could top and tail it, and inject a few classical quotes, jokes and stories about Peppa Pig to make it look authentic.
BJ: I’ll reflect on it Sylvie. That may be beyond me, I don’t know. And thanks again. I’ll ask Jennifer to ring for a cab for you.
SB: Goodbye Borys. My regards to Carrie. Sorry I missed her. Thank you.
I had plenty to think about on my journey back to London. I rang my editor, and promised him a piece by about 9pm that evening. I had a few hours to compose it when I got home.
He rang me back about 10pm, said it delighted him, and that it would appear on the next day’s front page.
I retired to bed, feeling exhausted, but reasonably satisfied that I had done my job.
The very next day, while I was reading the day’s news about Borys’ resignation, my editor rang.
‘I assume you’ve seen the news’, he said.
‘Yes, I’m just reading his resignation statement. I’m flabbergasted. He’s taken no notice of my advice about changing and behaving honestly. Instead he’s gone straight to his comfort zone and drawn deeply on his bottomless well of entitlement and self-pity. It was always all about him.
‘And he’s impugned the integrity of the Privileges Committee, the Conservative Party, Parliament, and all Remainers. He won’t be forgiven for that, despite what Rees-Mogg says.
‘No’, he replied, ‘this must surely be the end of his Parliamentary career. They won’t let him back as an MP now. At least I hope not. I think most people will be very relieved’.
And on that rather disconsolate note, we hung up.
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