Let’s Move On From Boris

Boris has a new slogan, “Move on”, which he deployed repeatedly today in his appearance before the House of Commons Liaison Committee. Remembering short slogans is fairly well the extent of his political skills, and he contrived to look pleased with hmself for remembering this one. The public, he solemnly informed those watching, now wanted the narrative to “Move on” from the Dominic Cummings debacle.

The problem with this slogan is it does not have a good history. The aged among us will remember that after the disaster of the Iraq war, it was constantly repeated by Tony Blair. OK, millions of people were dead. But it was time to “move on” from that. Only he could not. The dead of Iraq have haunted him ever since, they enabled Brown to depose him and Blair has the look of a man who believes the dead will be waiting to speak against him in the next life. No matter how much the Guardian still tries constantly to rehabilitate him, he will always have to be protected from the British public, a stinking rich, morally bankrupt pariah.

One of the first articles published in this blog spoke of Blair and his “Move on” mantra. On 21 April 2005 I published from the Blackburn parliamentary election:

Two months ago I arrived here alone, standing forlornly with my rucksack on Blackburn railway station, in the midnight snow. I wanted to make a stand on principle against illegal war, and against Jack Straw’s decision that we should use intelligence obtained under torture. I wanted to get some national publicity for these issues during the campaign, to counter Tony Blair’s mantra: “Let’s move on” from the war.

(Am I the only one to find this mantra insulting? I think I’ll rob a bank to get some campaign funds. When the police come to take me away, I’ll say, “Hey, let’s move on. OK, so I robbed a bank. Whatever the rights and wrongs, that phase is over. What is important is that we all come together now and get behind the really great things I’m going to do with the money.”)

When a politician is desperate enough to use the “move on” slogan, you know they have done something very wrong indeed and are in big trouble.

“And now we must move on from Watergate to the business of the people”

said President Richard Nixon on August 25 1973.

Like Johnson, Nixon made the claim it was “the people” who want to move on. This is the standard mantra for politicians who have done something very illegal: the public do not care, are not interested in justice being visited on politicians. It is always the public who are urging the guilty politicians to “move on” and ignore the trivial detail of their own guilt.

“No decision I have ever made in politics has been as divisive as the decision to go to war to in Iraq. It remains deeply divisive today. I know a large part of the public want to move on.”

Tony Blair on 4 March 2004.

“Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long and I take my responsibility for my part in all of this,” he said. “That is all I can do. Now is the time — in fact, it is past time — to move on. . . . And so tonight I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of the past seven months, to repair the fabric of our national discourse, and to return our attention to all the challenges and all the promise of the next American century.”

Bill Clinton on the Monica Lewinsky affair, August 17th 1998.

We now know it would have been a good deal better if America had not “moved on” but had taken a much deeper interest in Clinton’s appalling history of predatory sexual behaviour.

I presume you see the pattern here. If a politician tells you to “move on” from a subject, it is a gigantic red flag that you should do precisely the opposite. I tried to discover some examples of politicians telling us to “move on” from an issue, where hindsight does not show the politician to have been a massive crook. No examples were readily apparent.

Ladies and gentlemen, I add to this list of shame:

“It is now time to move on… the country wants to move on.”

Boris Johnson 27 May 2020 on the Cummings Scandal.

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