BACK in 2016 at a campaign rally in Iowa, Donald Trump boasted that support for his presidential campaign would not decline even if he shot someone in the middle of a crowded street.
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, ok? It’s, like, incredible.”
Trump was highlighting the loyalty of his supporters, many of whom would tell reporters and pollsters that almost nothing could make them change their mind about voting for Trump in the presidential race.
Nobody could accuse Boris Johnson of shooting anyone but over the past weeks accusations have been made against the Prime Minister by a range of people from his own ministers, such as Jonny Mercer who resigned in protest at the Government’s broken promises, through to his former adviser Dominic Cummings blogging about the Prime Minister’s untrustworthiness.
Add to this the reported comments that Boris Johnson said he would rather see “bodies pile high in their thousands” than take the country into a third lockdown, the furore about James Dyson’s tax affairs and the Electoral commission investigation into the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s flat.
And yet none of this seems to have harmed the Prime Minister’s electoral prospects in any way. A telephone poll of voters in Hartlepool carried out ahead of Thursday’s elections on who would be the best prime minister found 56 per cent of respondents for Boris Johnson compared to just 33 per cent for Sir Keir Starmer. While polling is never 100 per cent reliable as a guide to the outcome of elections, and this poll was based on a sample of just 517 residents, there is a question as to what Boris Johnson would have to do in order to lose the public’s trust?
Some commentators suggest that voters have already factored in that Boris Johnson is the kind of man who either can’t be trusted or alternatively that voters simply don’t care. Just weeks prior to the fandango of the flat refurbishment came the revelation that the American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri had admitted a four year affair with the Prime Minister from 2012 to 2016. The then Mayor of London spoke at a series of technology events organised by Arcuri who went on to receive £126,000 of taxpayer money in event sponsorships and grants.
None of this seems to have damaged the Prime Minister’s popularity with some arguing that such revelations on play into the caddish image of Boris Johnson as a kind of modern day George Wickham – the charming officer in Pride & Prejudice, a compulsive seducer with a loose association with the truth and always chronically short of money.
All of this seems a world away from the seven principles of public life first set out by Lord Nolan in the first report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life back in May 1995. Does the public care anymore about those principles of selflessness, integrity objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership ?
Or do we now live in a society which values populism over principle, selfies over selflessness and tribalism over togetherness?
Whatever the outcomes on Thursday, these questions will be with us for some time to come.
The Reverend Arun Arora is the vicar of St Nicholas’ Church, in Durham