June 24, 2024


Advocacy. Mediation. Success.

The 'fading' of great state crimes: why isn't Johnson's Covid failure deemed criminally negligent?

Will there ever be a day of due legal reckoning for Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and others responsible for Britain’s staggering Covid death toll?

That’s the question most of our political and media class have serially failed to ask and feared to probe.

While covering every daily aspect of the Covid crisis, and airing criticism of the government’s handling of it, our ‘all-seeing’ media remain collectively averse to calling out such failings as criminally negligent. 

Instead, it has helped peddle a narrative of ‘learned mistakes’ and ‘recovered fightback’, serving to soften the harsh truth of government culpability.     

Alongside Covid cases and deaths, rising daily figures for total vaccines administered come as welcome, optimistic news. Yet while this signals the effectiveness of the rollout against relative infection numbers, the hailing of vaccine stats by Johnson and Hancock carries a more diversionary message, suggesting that the success of the vaccine effort ‘now outweighs’, or ‘makes up for’ the ‘regrettable errors’ over the virus itself. It’s ‘look how many lives we’re saving’ trying to blot out ‘look how many lives we’ve lost.’

Having failed to stem new incoming variants, and with scientific advisors warning of rising cases, Johnson appears to be in yet another business-first rush towards lockdown exit. Again, none of this is posed in terms of continued criminal negligence. 

In dutiful step, Starmer’s Labour has nothing serious to say about Johnson’s Covid catastrophe, adopting the same, lame ‘let’s all move on from national trauma’ message. 

It’s been left to a few conscionable figures like MP Richard Burgon, reported almost alone by the Morning Star, to state what truly needs saying: 

“The government’s actions and its mishandling of the Covid pandemic amount to social murder.”

Beyond all the government/media ‘Covid progress’ spin, Burgon’s call keeps us attuned to the true scale and gravity of the crime. 

And it comes with now added insight on the dark depravity of those running the rotten state of Britain. 

After over a year of mass human tragedy, Dominic Cummings has just lifted another bit of the creaky lid on the horror show that passes for government Covid ‘management’. 

We know from medical scientists like Stephen Reicher that the picture of chaotic negligence painted by Cummings checks out against what he and others around Independent Sage had been hearing since early 2020. 

Not just serial political incompetence, but callous disregard for an exposed public: “Let the bodies pile high in their thousands”; “I really should be the mayor of Jaws”. Cummings confirms witnessing it all. 

Cummings knew where the ‘bodies were buried’, which is why Johnson had kept him so close for so long. Now he’s returned and done what Johnson always feared, using the ‘confessional’ playbook to exonerate himself and take down selected others.

Cummings’ own motives for damning Johnson and Hancock can be fairly guessed at: plain vengeance; hitching himself to the Sunak-Gove faction. But it’s also an account carefully calibrated to paint him as the ‘insider with conscience’, finally ‘coming clean’ in belated ‘service to country’, the man from the dark side ultimately prepared to shed the light. 

Cummings’ ‘testimony of remorse’ has, it seems, allowed him something of a ‘public pass’ after the Barnard Castle farrago. Much of his intimate disclosure has been received as serious corroborating evidence, as he fully intended. 

Yet Dominic Cummings is still every bit as guilty. He was there, in situ, directing it all, part of the same criminal cabal. Why didn’t he come forwar
d with all his ‘deep concerns’ at the time? No amount of damning detail or contrite pitch can alter the truth that Cummings is massively tied to everything that Johnson signed off.

Moreover, his ‘confessions’ come with a striking absence of human contrition. Nor does he portray Johnson himself as acting in any inhuman way. 

Cummings may have: 

“admitted some responsibility for these failures. But he has attempted to deny the mendacious nature of the Government decisions which needlessly sought to sacrifice British lives on the altar of business interests.”

And within that terrible calculus lies the tragedy of so many lost souls, sacrificed to these self-protecting figures and their sordid power play. 

Again, just how do they get away with it? 

Well, power just does what power does, many seem to say. It’s as if resignation to such monstrous conduct is now written into what we expect of the elite political class. 

How, otherwise, could someone preside over the staggering loss of 150,000 lives and still not only be sitting in office, but sitting there with even greater public support?

We live not only in a mindless, malevolent state, but in a mass-conditioned state of mind where all this taking of life no longer even seems perplexing. This is the propaganda of ‘acceptance’ on a grand scale. 

Instead of shock, outrage and the certainty that no one responsible for such crimes could ever survive another day in office, we follow our media in treating it all as a gaze into the criminal set’s own political play. We become the passive audience, alarmed, disturbed, angered, perhaps, by what we see, yet still safely seated, beyond the stage, knowing the boundaries of the theatre and the limitations upon which we can ever usefully speak or act ourselves.

Days after Cummings’ dark revelations, the great media show packed up and moved on. As ever, it’s the spectacle they’re interested in, the theatricality, the captured scene, the actual subject matter itself – the mass deaths and suffering – treated only as lurid backdrop. 

‘Special correspondents’ like Laura Kuennsberg and Robert Peston perform their appointed roles as privileged courtiers, their coveted, confidante access and cloying closeness to Johnson, Cummings and culpable others immeasurably more important to them than any human duty to watch the culprits and report their crimes.

Unlike the media’s relentless stalking of Jeremy Corbyn – a real humanitarian, feared and punished for threatening to pull back the curtain even just a little on the whole rotten establishment show – Johnson has been indulged as a ‘comedy favourite, a ‘playful villain’ who, whatever his farces and follies, still gets to be the public’s ‘roguish own’. Media fascination with Cummings amounts to the same pantomime game.

It may seem a churlish point, but how did we ever come to be using the familiar ‘Boris’ rather than ‘Johnson’ for a leader responsible for such acts of inhumanity? Again, our overly-intimate press lobby and leading media has much to answer for.    

Perversely, even the more ‘critical’ spotlight on such leading acts provides anonymity for the much bigger theatre of power within which people like Johnson and Cummings perform. Where would you ever see the BBC stop, turn and shine a wider, searching light on the system itself? The double depravity of the system is that it not only permits such criminal conduct, but uses people like Cummings as ‘proof’ of that very system’s own capacity for ‘critical interrogation’ and ‘media scrutiny’.

Blurring the memory of great state crimes

The efficiency within which this duplicitous show plays out can be seen in the entrance of other big stage villains. With similar front, mass war criminal Alastair Campbell rolled up for the Cummings ‘aftershow’, urging that Johnson be pursued fo
r corporate manslaughter. Again, like Blair’s frequent comebacks, Campbell’s ‘moral intervention’ was regarded as perfectly normal, indeed admirable, by our selectively recalling media. 

All this is par for the course in obscuring the high crimes of the political class at large. Just as the media so eagerly host the ‘sage’ Blair and Campbell, so will it come, in time, to excuse, whitewash and exonerate Johnson and Cummings. 

And in doing so it erases the truth of the Tory party itself as a major killing machine. 

Alongside those sacrificed to Covid sits the 120,000 taken by Tory austerity. All these lost souls mean nothing to people like Cameron and Osborne, Johnson and Cummings, Hancock and Gove. That’s because such figures of entitlement and privilege, so many raised on the establishment fields of Eton, have always regarded the culling of humanity as fair game, home and afar. 

Johnson is but one exponent of that savage mindset, Cummings a cunning interloper overseeing the whole mercenary process. But they can only get away with what they do because the system itself is so steeped in histories of human sacrifice in the name of conquest, power and profit.

Like all great western crimes, from the million lives taken in Iraq, to the decimations of Libya and Afghanistan, from the failed takedown of Syria to the enduring support for Israel’s criminal slaughter of Palestinian lives, all indigenous victims become an ultimate historical footnote. 

Their importance and loss are always subsumed to homely imperatives about our ‘national healing’, the gradual erasure of their suffering giving way to eventual public amnesia and the need to ‘move on’ from our national crimes and ‘trauma’. 

And the perpetrators, the people who took all those lives, get to live out their own elevated ones in lauded security. Criminals in suits, using the cover of state office and political duty as the pension perk of lifetime immunity. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, Blair, Campbell and Brown, the Clintons, Obama and Albright, Cameron, Osborne and May…

And so it will follow for Johnson, Cummings, Hancock and others, enjoying lifelong protection alongside Trump, Pence and their zealot cohorts.

The brazen assuming of such privilege is matched only by a reluctance to specify the true nature of such crimes and pronounce openly on the need for prosecution. 

As Kamran Abbasi reminds us, in a searing article at the BMJ:

“The “social murder” of populations is more than a relic of a bygone age. It is very real today, exposed and magnified by covid-19. It cannot be ignored or spun away. Politicians must be held to account by legal and electoral means, indeed by any national and international constitutional means necessary. State failures that led us to two million deaths are “actions” and “inactions” that should shame us all.”

Abbasi is no more sparing of a servile media:

“The media might help here, remembering their duty to speak truth to power, to hold elected officials accountable. And yet much of the media is complicit too, trapped in ideological silos that see the pandemic through a lens of political tribalism, worried about telling pandemic truths to their readers and viewers, owners, and political friends. In fact, truth has become dispensable as politicians and their allies are allowed to lie, mislead, and repaint history, with barely a hint of a challenge from journalists and broadcasters. Anybody who dares to speak truth to power is unpatriotic, disloyal, or a “hardliner.””

Beyond momentary outrage, a psychology of passive, belated acceptance will likely prevail: ‘these things happen’, it ‘was a crazy time’, ‘what’s the point of blame’, ‘it’s in the past…’

But none of this would diminish and fade from public consciousness if our media were doing their rightful job. How did the ‘story’ about potential charges of Gross Negligence Manslaughter against Johnson come to disappear so quickly?   

Forgetting is a natural human response. Time helps blank out harsh memories, like a protective mental shield. 

But there’s a more encouraged kind of ‘caring amnesia’, urging that we ‘must all get on’ with life, accept ‘facts on the ground’, ‘trust in leadership’, and, as in Iraq, ‘learn from our mistakes.’ The ‘errors’ and losses, thus, become ‘ours’, not theirs
. The dual psychological trick is not only to blur the extent of loss and suffering, but to normalise the actions of the perpetrators and diminish the extent of their culpability.

Typically, it will fall to lofty liberal appeals for a ‘new unity of purpose’. The nation will again resound to noble-sounding Guardian-speak calling for formal inquiries and ‘due accountability’, all as a ‘cathartic coming together.’

But like other state horrors, the great Johnson Covid crime will be lost in a fog of institutional obfuscation, political mitigation and media amnesia. 

No embankment wall of hearts or durable monument, no commemorative claps or charity telethons, no dragged-out, Lord-appointed inquiry will ever likely be matched by just, legal restitution for this great act of social murder.