WATCHING Boris Johnson make even saying sorry arrogant and somehow bring Jimmy Saville into his apology I couldn’t help but think just one thing.
What does the UK think it looks like to the rest of the world?
How does Britain think it is now perceived by those of us looking in from outside?
Sitting on this side of the Irish Sea and listening to Johnson insist Britannia still rules the waves and was the only thing standing between Russia and the rest of Europe I couldn’t help but feel bewildered.
After all, didn’t the fishermen of Cork and Kerry and Waterford get the Russians to change course? Why then, of all possible people, of all possible characters would you need, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson?
Indeed, if we stick with the personality politics for a while, the personal brand being Boris’s one principle, what is Britain’s Prime Minister to those outside of Brexit Britain looking in?
Perhaps a comparison would serve in this instance.
Our Taoiseach Mícheál Martin is not someone I agree with politically in any way.
I think his political legacy as a doyenne of Fianna Fáil in the vacuous disaster of the Celtic Tiger years leaves him forever tainted.
I think his party’s catch-all philosophy meaningless. I think Fianna Fáil has been serially riddled with unprincipled chancers.
But I suspect Mícheál Martin is a genuinely decent person.
I think, as the son of a bus driver, that he has a very real empathy and understanding of ordinary lives as lived by the majority of Irish people.
Someone who can relate to the loss wrought by the pandemic having experienced the loss of two of his own children.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not someone I agree with politically in any way.
I think the political legacy of the Conservative Party a tainted and regressive thing.
I think the political philosophy of the Conservative Party deeply negative.
I think the Conservative Party has serially harboured bigots and snobs and is riddled with class prejudice.
I do, though, think there have also been Conservatives who are genuinely decent people.
But I do not suspect Boris Johnson is for one second a genuinely decent person.
We can leave aside his personal life.
Sticking simply to the context of his disregard for his own stringent Covid rules, Johnson’s apology was layered with superiority and tomfoolery.
What it did not contain was any sense of the British Prime Minister being sorry.
He is clearly the kind of person who is above sorry, above explanations.
What pained him was having to do just that.
What we see looking in from afar is the British aligning themselves with that modern post-Trumpian philosophy of alternative facts.
A party isn’t a party if you say it isn’t. Booze, food, people chatting and laughing, music, isn’t a social get together if you say it isn’t. It’s work.
A gross failure of leadership isn’t the failure of the leader if he says it isn’t and insists instead that with the speed of vaccine rollouts Britain somehow won the pandemic.
Covid as a sport on the playing fields of Eton.
All those avoidable British deaths, I suppose, being an inconvenience better not mentioned.
The general image of Britain outside of Britain, certainly in terms of politics, used to be of a staid, somewhat dull, mainly honest people, very grown-up, sticklers for law and regulations, class bound, somewhat superior.
Now all we see is the class and the superiority.
Are the British now a laughing stock to those of us outside of Britain?
Quite truthfully, yes.
And it is not the laughter of generosity or warmth. It is the bitter laughter of despair.
How did you bring yourselves to this?
Having a drink when you shouldn’t and bending the rules aren’t the biggest of crimes.
In the context of other people not drinking, not bending the rules, and not hugging their dying loved ones, they are pretty big though.
Do you understand what it looks like to the rest of us?
It looks like you are governed by people who really don’t care about you and think they are both better than you and above you.
What could only make it worse is if you accept that.
Because from here your Prime Minister is not only degrading you he is degrading your old democracy and all the good things Britain might have stood for.
We won’t mention the stunning silence of the DUP on the matter because, although they could learn a lot from their Scottish and Welsh cousins in standing up for British values, this is not about Irish concerns.
The concern, truly, deeply, should be all yours.