There are a great many awful things about Brexit.

The interminable arguments that have divided politics, communities and families.

The shambolic way that parliament has failed to get a grip on a genuine constitutional crisis.

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The lies that have been made up, sold and swallowed.

Brexit’s dominance has also made it possible for equally awful things to fly under the radar: the real impact of universal credit’s introduction; the rising number of homeless people on Britain’s streets; the many other bleak effects of austerity. All discussed, from time to time, but forgotten when the next Brexit furore hits.

Maybe the same will happen with Boris Johnson’s latest outrage, which was largely buried by the avalanche of dramatic Brexit awfulness yesterday.

The incident came during an LBC radio phone-in (obviously the perfect preparation for a man who was about to take part in a vital parliamentary debate on the key issue facing the country).

Taking a brief Brexit break, the man who would like to be prime minister got onto the subject of police resources, arguing that “an awful lot of money and an awful lot of police time now goes into these historic offences and all this malarkey.”

“You know,” he went on, “£60m I saw was being spaffed up the wall on some investigation into historic child abuse and all this kind of thing. What on earth is that going to do to protect the public now?”

Putting aside the unbelievably crass choice of language, given the context, this must rank as perhaps the most appalling, insensitive and facile comment ever made by this bumptious brat of a politician – and there are a few to choose from.

For one thing, justice does not rely wholly on being done immediately. Justice delayed is not (per se) justice denied, at least for victims, many of whom have for years been ignored, disregarded and silenced.

Johnson’s friends have told the media in the aftermath of the interview that he was referring only to investigations into crimes allegedly committed by people who are dead. But if we apply Johnson’s logic more broadly, as to whether the public is still in danger, we might as well forget about Hillsborough, forget about Bloody Sunday – and hell, perhaps in a few years we’ll forget about Grenfell too.

In any event, the contention that investigations into historic abuse can do nothing to protect the public now is hokum: a typical Johnsonian assertion, elevating his opinion to the status of fact.

In fact, the entire purpose of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (to which it is presumed Johnson was referring) is to consider whether public bodies and other UK institutions took seriously their duty of care towards children who became victims of abuse. If this shines a light on failings that are ongoing, then it is self-evident that it will help to protect others in the future.

In addition, Boris’s comments are premised on the idea that law enforcement is an either/or situation – that we can either have more police on the streets, dealing with the crimes of today; or more resources directed at ensuring we learn lessons from the crimes of yesterday.

Nobody could dispute that the police must have a budget to work from and that it might not stretch every which way. But it is noticeable that the government can find a billion quid when it needs to buy off the DUP to secure its parliamentary majority; or an extra £467m to sort out Chris Grayling’s botched effort to part-privatise the probation service.

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Come to think of it, how much has so far been spent on the bonkers Brexit mess which we have been landed in by people like Boris Johnson? Cash which might, in an alternative universe, have been handed to the police to tackle knife crime.

If Boris wants to talk about money being “spaffed up the wall”, then he need look no further than the Brexit fantasy which has left Britain facing an impoverished future.


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