patten136_Stefan Rousseau- WPA PoolGetty Images_johnson Stefan Rousseau- WPA PoolGetty Images

Boris Johnson and the Virtue of Accountability

A central advantage of genuinely democratic societies is that their leaders cannot get away indefinitely with bad, corrupt, or self-serving behavior. At long last, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson now seems to be finding that out.

LONDON – As 2021 draws to a close, the greeting “Happy New Year!” may sound implausibly optimistic. Russian President Vladimir Putin is massing troops near his country’s border with Ukraine. Chinese President Xi Jinping broods threateningly about whether now is the right time to invade Taiwan. And the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the lives and well-being of people around the world, with the new Omicron variant reminding us of the danger of large populations remaining unvaccinated – especially in the poorest countries.

US President Joe Biden has tried to breathe a little optimism into global politics by holding a virtual summit of the world’s actual and purported democracies. The gathering has elicited predictable hostility from China and Russia, as well as criticism within the United States about the choice of invitees. Some, understandably, have emphasized the overwhelming importance of the democracies in attendance setting an example through their behavior, rather than simply preaching (sometimes a little hypocritically).

But, away from the summit, a tawdry political scandal in Britain – concerning parties held in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence and office during lockdowns late last year – has recently highlighted one of the central virtues of genuinely democratic societies: their leaders cannot get away indefinitely with bad, corrupt, or self-serving behavior. At long last, Johnson now seems to be finding that out.

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