IT'S well known that Boris Johnson has a casual disregard for the laws, norms and standards of behaviour which apply to everyone else.

Just in the course of the past couple of weeks we have seen him ignore the mask mandate while on an official visit to a hospital, where he seemed to think it's OK to cough on health workers and vulnerable patients as long as it's him who's doing it. Possibly Johnson believes that old Etonian and Oxford-educated germs are far too rarified to infect common people. More likely he just doesn't care about anyone except himself.

Following that episode and the furore and public anger it generated, Johnson demonstrated that he had learned nothing and still didn't care by refusing to wear a mask while attending a London theatre for a performance of a Shakespearean play. The bard didn't actually write a play entitled The Twelfth Night That Thou Hast Forsaken A Face Masque, but if he had done it would have been about a selfish and self-regarding tyrant who didn't care about infecting his subjects during an outbreak of the plague.

We are currently having our collective intelligence insulted as Downing Street both refuses to deny that Johnson held a staff Christmas party at a time when Covid regulations expressly forbade it, and insists that no rules were broken. As always Johnson approaches every rule and law as though at the bottom of the page it contained a proviso written in invisible ink saying: “Does not apply to Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson if he finds it inconvenient.”

Such a proviso is of course entirely imaginary, and exists solely in Boris Johnson's head. However, in a show of shamelessness which is breathtaking even by the standards of a government which lied to the head of state in order to get Parliament unlawfully prorogued in an attempt to avoid scrutiny of Johnson's Brexit deal, Johnson has now announced a plan to insert an actual proviso in black and white in the real world which would allow him and his ministers to ignore any court ruling which they found inconvenient.

Johnson has ordered Justice Secretary Dominic Raab to toughen plans to reform judges’ powers to rule on the legality of ministerial decisions via judicial reviews. According to reports, Johnson wants MPs to pass an annual "Interpretation Bill" which would allow ministers to strike out findings from judicial reviews with which the government does not agree. It is a shocking development which would effectively neuter the ability of the courts to hold the Government to account and to ensure it acted within the law. What Johnson is proposing is that he is given the power to change the law retrospectively.

Even if the courts did rule that Johnson or his ministers had acted unlawfully, he would just nullify the court ruling. This plan gives Johnson a literal Get Out of Jail Free card. This is an extremely alarming development in a state like the UK where there is no written constitution and only a weakly protected separation of powers. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the sort of behaviour to be expected of an autocrat, not the prime minister of a democracy.

Together with the Conservative plan to introduce voter suppression tactics in their Elections Bill, and the reports that the Johnson regime is seeking to scrap the Human Rights Act, it's a further worrying sign that democracy can no longer be said to be secure in the UK. The UK is en route to becoming a banana republic without the republic and without the bananas, just empty supermarket shelves and exhortations to back Britain and back Brexit.

This piece is an extract from today's REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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