Partygate in the UK has dominated the news this week with the hashtag #Borisout and other tags like it trending on twitter for a number of days.
Whatever your individual view on this, historians of British politics in future decades will note that during this era defined by pandemic, a Prime Minister was embroiled in a scandal brought about by a BYOB party.
It seems that the once immensely popular Prime Minister who won the landslide at the last election on the back of getting Brexit done, who has seemed unassailable at times, no matter the crisis, might be brought low by underestimating quite how important and valuable trust is.
At root of the outrage is the sense that many people made genuine sacrifice during the heaviest of the lockdowns. People experienced loneliness, and isolation. Mental health suffered. Businesses suffered. There were many who never got to say goodbye to loved ones.
One sustaining factor amongst it all was the trust that everybody was in it together. People made genuine sacrifices as part of a group effort to prevent further infection rates and to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. Everybody was locked down. Key workers were allowed out to work, to keep the infrastructure of society running. But anything that wasn’t essential was shutdown, and everybody had to trust everybody else to maintain the status quo.
Whatever the ongoing investigation unearths, trust once lost is incredibly hard to recover. This will be something that members of Johnson’s own party know perfectly well.
Trust and confidence are related. We are likely to maintain trust in somebody if we think a failure is down to simple incompetence which could be overcome with further effort, rather than dishonesty, or even malevolence of some kind.
Being trustworthy is a valuable commodity. At times like this the values of trust and honesty have a raw, almost brutal power. When these values are compromised the consequences can be immense even for the most elite figures in society.