Incompetent Captain Johnson is steering the British state to disaster – but there is no one capable to take the leadership
Cynog Dafis, former Plaid Cymru AM and MP for Ceredigion
Elderly observers of the current catastrophic state of the UK Government may recall Herman Wouk’s prize-winning second world war novel The Caine Mutiny (1951) and the subsequent film in which Humphrey Bogart starred as the hapless Captain Queeg.
Queeg is given the command of the Caine, a clapped-out destroyer turned minesweeper with a crew of roughnecks, despite his lack of experience in running such a ship and his record of repeatedly failing to acknowledge his frequent mistakes.
The Caine having put to sea, Queeg’s subordinate officers become increasingly uneasy at the poor quality of his leadership, to the point of considering his removal. The duplicitous Lieutenant Keefer however, while recognising Queeg’s dangerous incompetence, has cold feet and withdraws his support for such a move.
When the Caine finds itself at the heart of Typhoon Cobra, Queeg is utterly incapable of taking the decisions necessary to save the ship. In extremis therefore a Lieutenant Maryk, supported by some junior officers, displaces Queeg, takes charge of the Caine, turns its head into the wind and saves the situation.
In the subsequent trial of Maryk for mutiny, Queeg is exposed as the arrogant incompetent that he is and Maryk is exonerated. Keefer is regarded with contempt by his fellow officers.
The parallels hardly need spelling out. The clapped-out former destroyer is the British state. Boris Johnson is elected to lead it for all the worst reasons, having twice failed to turn up for the interviews. He refuses to acknowledge his errors (a poor trade deal with the EU and an unsustainable Northern Ireland protocol are just two examples). When typhoon pandemic arrives he is incapable of decisive leadership.
Unfortunately, this is where the parallels break down. True, a lage part of the crew are insubordinates but the officer class is full of Keefers and there is no honourable and courageous Lieutenant Maryk to do his duty, remove the incapable captain and assume the leadership.
While our British Caine has not actually sunk in the typhoon it is headed for the breakers’ yard where it belongs.
In this miserable situation what we can look forward to is the equivalent of the trial. Johnson-Queeg will blame everyone else for what went wrong but the court of history will find him guilty of gross negligence and conclude that he was entirely unfit for leadership from the outset.
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