The situation couldn’t have been more odd. Walt Disney World in Florida.

Outdoors the theatre Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck had been performing their acquainted routines earlier than the laughing crowds of holidaymakers.

Inside, onstage probably the most highly effective man on the planet: the President of the US Richard Nixon.

His viewers: a bunch of political journalists, together with me, who thought we’d seen all of it.

Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions on November 3. Now, Johnson has invited us to believe that this country might be corrupt

Boris Johnson talking throughout Prime Minister’s Questions on November 3. Now, Johnson has invited us to consider that this nation may be corrupt

We had been about to study we hadn’t.

It was November 17, 1973, and Nixon was being questioned about his function within the Watergate scandal.

He supplied the standard well-rehearsed replies to his questioners — however then went dramatically off-script.

‘Individuals have gotten to know,’ he stated, ‘whether or not or not their President is a criminal. Properly, I’m not a criminal’.

There was, for a second, a surprised silence. 

Had he actually simply stated that? Had he actually denied he was a criminal when nobody had steered he was?

Ten months later, I stood on the garden of the White Home watching him board the presidential helicopter that will fly him to political oblivion.

Like many others who reported on Watergate from begin to end, I’ve little question that he had sealed his destiny in these few unguarded seconds in that Disney theatre.

I recalled it just a few days in the past once we heard Boris Johnson inform journalists in Glasgow, ‘the UK just isn’t remotely a corrupt nation’.

Identical to Nixon, Johnson was answering a query that had not been requested.

Identical to Nixon, he should have felt he needed to as a result of political sleaze is again within the headlines — certainly, it has develop into the undercurrent to the nationwide dialog.

And identical to Nixon, an terrible lot of individuals are blaming him for it.

Nixon had disastrously invited the American folks to consider that he may be a criminal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks towards the fountains at the Polish Air Force Memorial on November 12 in his constituency of Uxbridge

Prime Minister Boris Johnson seems in direction of the fountains on the Polish Air Power Memorial on November 12 in his constituency of Uxbridge

Now, Johnson has invited us to consider that this nation may be corrupt.

A rustic of which he occurs to be Prime Minister. Does he protest an excessive amount of? Properly no, not for those who consider the statistics.

There are indexes that measure this stuff. The newest Corruption Perceptions Index has Denmark and New Zealand because the least corrupt nations on the earth.

We are available in at a decent eleventh.

The French, our shut allies and neighbours (once we’re not threatening to go to warfare with one another) are twenty third.

Inside dwelling reminiscence two French presidents and one prime minister have been convicted of offences that come underneath the broad heading of corruption. The 2 former presidents have been given jail sentences.

Main British politicians aren’t even in the identical league.

So, on the face of it, Mr Johnson is completely entitled to say that Britain just isn’t ‘remotely’ corrupt.

And there’s a motive for that — but it surely’s not essentially that our flesh pressers are uniquely virtuous.

Over the centuries we’ve saved a really beady eye on the highly effective who may be tempted to make use of public workplace to line their very own pockets.

John Humphrys: Within living memory two French presidents and one prime minister have been convicted of offences that come under the broad heading of corruption. The two former presidents have been given jail sentences. Leading British politicians aren’t even in the same league

John Humphrys: Inside dwelling reminiscence two French presidents and one prime minister have been convicted of offences that come underneath the broad heading of corruption. The 2 former presidents have been given jail sentences. Main British politicians aren’t even in the identical league

We’ve constructed up a system of neutral scrutiny. We’ve an unbiased judiciary. We’ve particular regulatory our bodies that lay down the foundations and police them rigorously.

And, after all, we’ve the fourth property.

The nice Thomas Jefferson put it completely when he stated if he had to decide on between dwelling in a rustic with out authorities or one with out newspapers he’d go for the previous.

‘Our liberty,’ he stated, ‘will depend on the liberty of the Press and that can’t be restricted with out being misplaced.’

He was proper and the Press on this nation have been doing precisely what they’re meant to do.

What this newspaper and others have been uncovering over the previous weeks proves how badly we want sufficient scrutiny.

Jonathan (now Lord) Evans is aware of a factor or two about scrutiny. He ran MI5 for six years and now chairs the Committee on Requirements in Public Life. And he’s a anxious man.

He informed Radio 4’s In the present day programme this week ‘we might slip into being a corrupt nation’.

On the prime of his fear checklist is the way in which the Prime Minister handled the previous cupboard minister Owen Paterson.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Requirements discovered Paterson had dedicated ‘critical breaches’ of the foundations by lobbying for firms in return for hefty funds. They stated he needs to be suspended from parliament for a month.

That was dangerous sufficient. Johnson’s extraordinary response made it infinitely worse. He ordered his MPs to avoid wasting his previous good friend’s bacon by voting to alter the foundations.

The response was immediate and damning. Johnson was compelled into some of the humiliating U-turns in parliamentary historical past.

He had managed to show a humiliation right into a full-blown disaster.

And it didn’t finish there. The dam of public outrage had burst. It wasn’t simply Johnson’s appalling political judgment being known as into query. It was his complete profession — each as journalist and politician.

A profession characterised by his cavalier perspective to the reality and his careless disregard for accepted requirements of respectable behaviour.

One newspaper ran a column likening him to a dodgy character strolling down the road checking automobile door handles simply in case one was unlocked.

And this was not the lefty Guardian however the august Monetary Occasions.

The previous Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Main, his voice shaking with anger on the radio, used that deadly phrase: corrupt.

When the court docket of the folks delivered its verdict it was damning.

For the primary time in a yr opinion polls have been displaying Labour within the lead. Polling for this newspaper every week in the past had given the Tories a lead of three factors. Yesterday it gave Labour a lead of 5.

A nine-point collapse in every week isn’t just a slap on the wrist for Johnson from voters: it’s a punch within the kidneys.

Members of the House of Lords take their seats in the chamber for the State Opening of Parliament by Queen Elizabeth II,

Members of the Home of Lords take their seats within the chamber for the State Opening of Parliament by Queen Elizabeth II,

So what? If he’s proved something in his political profession it’s that he can attraction his manner out of bother.

He makes us giggle. He makes us be ok with ourselves. He ruffles his unruly hair, offers us that rueful smile that claims: ‘I do know I’m a little bit of a naughty boy generally, however you possibly can belief me in relation to the massive issues that actually matter.

And anyway, aren’t I making an important job of Brexit? Didn’t I steer us by way of the worst pandemic we’ve ever skilled? Aren’t I “levelling up” the nation so the very poorest will profit?’

And there’s one thing else that he may also be pondering: I’ve acquired a stonking majority in parliament. I can do what I like.

However that’s now not true. Even in parliament he’s now skating on very skinny ice. He wouldn’t have that stonking majority had it not been for the so-called ‘crimson wall’ seats.

In 2019 he managed to influence northern voters, a lot of whom had faithfully voted Labour for generations, that they’d be higher off underneath the Tories as a result of he would lower their taxes.

The promise was repeated relentlessly, day in and day trip: ‘We’re reducing your taxes so that you could preserve extra of what you earn.’

Two years on from that marketing campaign, the polls now inform us folks affiliate the Tories with excessive taxes.

As Andrew Pierce brilliantly illustrated in these pages yesterday, there’s a deep divide between the previous guard in parliament, described by one Tory because the ‘toffs’, and the newcomers.

He known as them the ‘oiks’. If that’s true, they’re oiks with a conscience. They don’t just like the ‘toffs’ spending their time lining their pockets exterior parliament when they need to be serving their constituents.

They don’t like ministers signing off contracts throughout a pandemic with firms which have extra pals in excessive locations than technical competence.

Greater than 100 of them refused to vote for his or her chief’s preposterous movement final week despite the fact that they had been ordered to assist it.

As one in all them, Mark Fletcher, put it: ‘I do know the distinction between proper and incorrect.’

And so they take be aware when even the Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivers a blatant rebuke to his chief. Nobody doubted who his goal was when he stated ‘we have to do higher and we all know that’.

However I ponder if Boris Johnson actually does ‘know that’.

We’re all accustomed to the previous saying that the fish rots from the pinnacle.

Clearly it’s not biologically true. The rot begins within the intestine. However in politics? If I had been a Tory MP I feel I’d be anxious.