This was supposed to be a press conference to get the world’s governments to act on climate change, but Boris Johnson was again haunted by questions about his government’s despicable activities.
At one point, the UK prime minister even felt it necessary to tell the world that the UK is not a “corrupt country” when he spoke to international media in Glasgow at the UN Cop26 climate summit.
It must have been an embarrassing moment for the politician working to make Cop26 the centerpiece of the UK’s “year of leadership” on the world stage.
“I sincerely believe that the UK is far from being a corrupt country, and I do not believe that our institutions are corrupt,” he said. “This is very important to say.”
The fact that it should have been said at all is a signal of how low public opinion about politicians could have fallen, and perhaps also an indication that Johnson is worried about the consequences of Owen Paterson’s fiasco that could damage his international reputation. and potentially undermine his targets for Cop26.
Johnson battled accusations last week that he tried to change the rules of ethical conduct in parliament to get rid of the responsibility of his party colleague, Tory Paterson. This caused a wave of political pain, public discontent and a new analysis of the behavior of the deputies, their lobbying activities and a second job.
Former Attorney General Jeffrey Cox is now on the line of fire on accusations that the British Virgin Islands paid him high legal fees instead of wasting time as a constituency MP.
Johnson did not want to go into the Cox case, stating that it was inappropriate to talk about people without explaining the reasons for his silence. But he said that any MP who broke the rules should face sanctions and “be punished.”
This question is especially awkward for Johnson. He has been the subject of multiple accusations for shady deals, from financing his own vacation to financing the renovation of his Downing Street apartment. On Wednesday, he again insisted that all of his records and external interest statements be completed in accordance with the correct procedures.
But in reality, he was never a supporter of the rules or the usual politician, and this is part of his appeal to voters. They do not want or expect him to be the same dexterous operator that his predecessors aspired to be. Therefore, their tolerance for his misdeeds is high.
The biggest risk for Johnson in all of this is that he becomes involved in a wave of other accusations and scandals as the head of the party and government, leading a common culture of political “meanness”. After all, other people can do more harm to Johnson than himself.