Avatar photo

By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Boris Johnson must face the consequences for drunken ‘partygate’ culture

As prime minister, you are not bigger that the people you lead – lest you be left with egg on your face.

In fully functional democracies, no rules or laws solely apply to the plebs, with the elite and the rich being spared from any fitting sanction for wrong-doing.

Public fury in the United Kingdom over the raging “Partygate” – dogging embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for presiding over a law-breaking binge at 10 Downing Street with other members of his Cabinet – should come as no surprise.

Despite instituting a hard Covid lockdown – which, like in South Africa, made it impossible for citizens to enjoy life as usual – it is understandable why Johnson is feeling the outpouring of anger from the UK public.

From initially making a firm denial to succumbing to pressure, Johnson has conceded to MPs in parliament that he was “appalled” by behaviour at lockdown parties, but defended attending them.

How hypocritical could such an explanation be, coming from the UK’s first citizen?

Under Margaret Thatcher, John Major or Tony Blair, it was unthinkable that the respect accorded to 10 Downing Street would be reduced into a theatre of such a scandal by no other than a disgraced prime minister, who has put his interest above those of the people he leads.

MPs like Sir Roger Gale have joined the chorus of Tory backbenchers calling on Johnson to quit.

ALSO READ: ‘In the name of God, go!’ UK PM Boris Johnson defies calls to quit

Now facing a prospect of a vote of no confidence, with the public rightfully infuriated by leaked pictures of Johnson shown holding a beer at one of the lockdown parties, the Boris saga should serve as a lesson to the democratic world – including here in South Africa.

Can you imagine if President Cyril Ramaphosa were to render the Union Buildings a place to entertain his cronies with some of the most expensive whisky, while we suffered under the hard lockdown?

With his popularity already plummeting due to lack of political leadership amid an economic slump in the UK, the latest scandal is likely to make things even more difficult for Johnson.

Cast your minds back to when things had become so difficult for former president Jacob Zuma – from rape charges, the arms deal to the Guptagate, things got so out of hand in the country that even his own comrades had to call for his head.

Just like in the current Johnson Cabinet, there were those who served and handsomely benefitted for being part of the Zuma administration.

They defended him to the last. Leadership – particularly at the level of a prime minister or president – should be beyond any reproach if it is to survive public scrutiny.

If the kitchen is too hot to handle, the best is to get out of it. It would have served Johnson and his Cabinet well for him to immediately step down and not attempt to spin or defend the indefensible.

To command national and international respect and honour, the best for Johnson would be to be honourable: swallow your pride and arrogance by doing the right thing.

As prime minister, you are not bigger that the people you lead – lest you be left with egg on your face.

In the era of the powerful social media, leaders throughout the world have no place to hide. Johnson today finds himself among such leaders.

Previously it was Zuma, with all his scandals, which rendered South Africa a banana republic. Nelson Mandela has taught us that leadership is earned.

Read more on these topics

Boris Johnson Columns law United Kingdom (UK)