The excuse of ‘the king’s evil counsellors’ – Part II

18th July 2021

Over three months ago, his blog had a brief post about ‘the king’s evil counsellors’.

Here it is:

And: he still is – or at least he seems to be.

But: is he?


Here is a tweet today from a news journalist about the latest of many rudderless u-turns:

Yet again: the kings evil counsellors.

The plausible deniability of the ‘kings evil counsellors’ is, of course, a thing as old as kingship.

But with the current prime minister, however, perhaps there is a certain plausibility to this plausible deniability.

It is plain that there is little or no central direction – the only driving force from the prime minister is that he wants to get away with things and he is happy for his ministers to get away with things too.

In a strange and curious way, we now have something like the (supposed) classic model of cabinet government in the United Kingdom: the ‘government of departments’.

Each minster seems to be doing exactly what they want.

And, similarly, each Number 10 adviser seems also to be doing what they want.


The premise of the old notion of the ‘kings evil counsellors’ is that the ruler would be horrified to know what was being done in their name.

The reality, of course, would be that the king knew full well – the counsellors were just being set up to take the blame.

The current prime minister seems to go one step further: he just does not seem to care.


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14 thoughts on “The excuse of ‘the king’s evil counsellors’ – Part II”

    1. I wish I could agree with you. The experience of other countries with manipulated democracies shows that régimes can go on for much longer than some of us might want.

      Brace, brace as DAG would say.

  1. As with the Barnard Castle incident, I suspect the advisors gave the advice they were asked for. That being part of the pilot programme not to self isolate would go down well as the public would be delighted Johnson and Sunak could continue their good work uninhibited by self isolation.

  2. That the PM may claim he was reliant on an adviser’s input on such a black and white issue speaks volumes. Seriously, can the rancid blancmange make a decision on which socks to wear on any given day?

  3. There was originally a quasi-religious reason (“kings rule by divine right”, therefore the King possesses some attributes of the divine) for blaming the King’s counsellors and not the King himself. In 21st century Britain, very few people believe governments or politicians to have ANYTHING of the “divine” about them.

    Maybe us plebs are just trying to make life easier for ourselves? Picking off one or two key middle-ranking politicians, SPADs or civil servants is a less challenging goal – and might effect some positive change – than going after the “head honchos”…

  4. Johnson views advice in the same way he looks at a
    smörgåsbord, picking the bits that he fancies/suit his taste, and pretending the rest isn’t there. This has worked well for him so far, but unfortunately when confronted by a virus that is not remotely fastidious, he would do better to consider carefully what is most likely to be successful/acceptable for everyone, not just convenient/appetising to him.

    Today I found myself agreeing with Isabel Oakeshott on Twitter – something I could barely conceive of happening – but it did indicate that perhaps Johnson’s base is tiring of his antics and sees today’s volte face for what it is.


    On Bullshit is a 2005 book (originally a 1986 essay) by American philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt which presents a theory of bullshit that defines the concept and analyzes the applications of bullshit in the context of communication. Frankfurt determines that bullshit is speech intended to persuade without regard for truth!!! HMG is far beyond normal Lie’s at this point

  6. ‘There is little or no central direction, the only driving force from the Prime Minister is that he wants to get away with things’

    This begs the question of what things? As a narcissist of the highest order it must be anything that benefits him.

    Reminds me of the tale told by Gary Cohn former Goldman Sachs CEO and Chief Economic Adviser to Trump 2017 – 2018. After being fired by Trump he described a chaotic Oval Office where the policy of the President was that of “whoever he had last talked to”!
    Cohn also told how that if worried about any particular new idea of Trump he (and others) learned to slip into the Oval Office when Trump was out and remove memos from his desk so that Trump would forget about whatever it was and move on to the next shiny bauble.

  7. Surely, the “king’s evil counsellor” line is normally used to excuse a decision taken that is uncharacteristic of the king’s general policies and benevolent rule? The problem for Johnson and his administration is that this latest volte face is all of a piece with a litany of their “one rule for them and another for us” approach: from Barnard Castle to Gove’s convenient random choice for a “pilot project” when he was pinged returning from watching a football match in Portugal in May, a “pilot project” which he left as soon as indecently possible. The speed of this particular U Turn does not make it inconsistent, rather the opposite. A child could have advised against the “optics” of this latest debacle. How long Lord, how long, before the wool falls from the eyes of Joe Public?

  8. I remember at one point there was an attempt to attach blame to an advisor for asking the benefactor to pay for the PMs decorating…although how would they even have knowledge of the need? I mean I doubt a simple advisor would have knowledge of the PMs bank balance

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