UK Covid live news: minister brushes aside claims PM does not care about standards by stressing he’s popular


They just don’t get it do they? Owl

Andrew Sparrow 09.25


Minister brushes aside claims PM does not care about standards by stressing he’s popular

Good morning. If Boris Johnson was hoping that Matt Hancock’s Saturday night resignation as health secretary was going to draw the line under the many questions about this matter – not least why Johnson did not sack Hancock as soon as it became clear he was ignoring his own lockdown rules – then this morning there will be a need for an urgent rethink. This became obvious about 30 seconds into Nick Robinson’s superb interview with Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, on the Today programme. Robinson started by asking why Hancock was not on Friday. Buckland responded by claiming to be “amazed” that Robinson was asking about this, and not probation service reform, given that Hancock has now gone, but Robinson just laughed this objection.

From there, for Buckland, it just got even worse.

The most telling moment probably came near the end. Buckland refused to accept the claim that Johnson does not care about ethical standards in government. But then, in what sounded a more candid defence, he suggested it was only Johnson’s critics who were raising these points, and that it did not matter much because Johnson was popular. Inadvertently, he seemed to be confirming Robinson’s point.

Here is the exchange.

NR: There is a sense that this government, in particular this prime minister, believes that the rules are for little people, standards are to be sneered at and ignored, provided the prime minister is ahead in the opinion polls. Is that the view of this government?

RB: I think it’s entirely the opposite of the truth. This government is all of the people’s priorities.

NR: I’m asking you about standards, not the people’s priorities, Mr Buckland, you well know. You see, there is an argument, and many people would have is, it doesn’t matter if the public don’t care about standards. Standards are standards. You’re a lawyer, you’re a justice secretary, I suspect you believe, to the very core of your being, that you should uphold the law and uphold the rules. I’m putting to you that that is not the spirit in Boris Johnson governs this country.

RB: I entirely disagree, I wouldn’t be in government, if I felt that the prime minister didn’t agree with me on those fundamental principles. He does.

And I think that, frankly, all the rest is just talk, and usually talk by people who have an agenda that clearly is against that of the prime minister.

I think the truth is a lot of people just don’t like the PM, and they veil their dislike in this sort of language. I think they can’t get over the fact that he is popular in the country and liked in the country, and has won a resounding election victory.