News has been filtering through this week that Boris Johnson is poised to try to become prime minister once more. To which I can only say: please don’t; I haven’t recovered from the last infection yet. I think I must be suffering from ‘Long Boris’. (Not ‘Long Johnson’. That would be something else entirely.)
Who would have thought that prime ministers were like Covid and we could keep being reinfected? Despite repeated vaccinations, it seems we’re still not immune. The partygate scandal, the Owen Paterson affair, the wallpaper nonsense, the Dominic Cummings debacle, the Chris Pincher fiasco. Is there nothing provides protection against another Johnson variant?
Another dose of Boris?
But no: he has recently declared a million-pound donation from one backer to help fund his latest comeback. This occurred shortly after “a crowd-pleasing pitch”, reported the Telegraph, “at an event to mark the unveiling of a new portrait of himself”. But OF COURSE it was. He might not be bothered about turning up in parliament or his constituency anymore, but nothing says you’re a man of the people devoting yourself to a life of public service more than unveiling a portrait of yourself.
“Oh dear”, commented NatWest chairman Sir Howard Davies to the news of the purported comeback, neatly summing up my own thoughts, only with fewer expletives.
“Unfortunately, running the country is not quite the same as running his own finances”, Davies went on, “where it seems that there are mysterious people prepared to fill any budget gaps”. This was a reference to the accompanying news that Johnson had access, while prime minister, to an £800,000 ‘credit facility’ from Canadian multi-millionaire Sam Blyth. This had apparently not needed to be declared at the time because – according to Johnson – Blyth was “family”.
Ah yes, we all think of our second cousins once-removed as close family, don’t we? It’s like the Cosa Nostra – just one big happy family. And if our, ahem, ‘family’ offered several hundred thousand pounds to us, we’d all think that was perfectly normal, I’m sure.
Do you remember that generous Russian lady – coincidentally married to one of Vladimir Putin’s ministers – who kindly donated £160,000 so that she could play a tennis match with Johnson? It’s SO nice that there are such a large number of philanthropists and humanitarians willing to help poor, destitute politicians like Johnson, wanting nothing in return.
Lucrative bids to rewrite history
It’s ironic that Johnson is trying to portray himself as the only person capable of leading the Tories to victory at the next election, while at the same time also manoeuvring to switch constituencies as he doesn’t have confidence to win the one he’s currently in. He apparently wants to get himself a ‘safe seat’, one of those depressing terms that shouldn’t exist in a functioning democracy.
Johnson has also managed to get himself on the front pages with the promise of a book detailing his experience as prime minister during the pandemic. We have been told that it will be a “memoir like no other”. Really? Matt Hancock has already produced his own memoir of self-serving justifications and half-truths, and I can’t see that this would be any different.
I will look forward to the reviews, however, if they are half as good as the ones he got for his Churchill biography. In the New Statesman, for instance, It was described as a biography of “‘One man who made history’ by another who just makes it up”. It is “like being cornered in the Drones Club and harangued for hours by Bertie Wooster”, it continued. Another reviewer in the Evening Standard said that the book “bears about as much relation to a history book as an episode of Doctor Who does to a BBC4 documentary”. Hmm. I expect Johnson’s new memoir may not entirely be ‘like no other’ after all.
With Johnson on manoeuvres and even Liz Truss attempting to drum up support again, I started wondering: is the Tory party the inspiration for The Traitors TV show? It’s all there when you think about it. Most of the MPs insist they are ‘100% faithful’ to the prime minister, yet behind the scenes an unknown number of traitors are secretly working to take the prize. Ministers meanwhile have to undertake a series of random challenges: negotiate a pay settlement with the nursing unions, put on a seat belt, use a contactless payment card, show some empathy towards a holocaust victim, that sort of thing.
At the same time, there is a regular banishment of anyone normal from the party – like Rory Stewart or Ken Clarke – in an attempt to leave only those sufficiently out of touch with normality to appeal to the Tory faithful. And like The Traitors, the game will finally end when the Tories think there are no more traitors remaining amongst them. So that should be about never.
Still, when a faithful prime minister is finally stabbed in the back by the traitors, they can still look forward to taking their share of the prize pot. The shocking news emerged recently that Theresa May has earned £2.5mn since stepping down as PM, mostly from speeches. Really – have you heard her speak? Being paid millions for that is sure proof that there is no such thing as meritocracy.
Downing Street Jenga
I didn’t think anyone could be more robotic than May – that is, until I saw the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in a new Treasury video chansplaining inflation using coffee cups. It looked like Hunt had got one of those ‘experience’ Christmas presents, a gift where he gets to spend a day doing My First Acting Lesson, trying to nail the role of ‘Normal Human Being Who Is Absolutely, Definitely Not A Robot’. Let’s just say it didn’t go well. Even the Downing Street ‘Jenga’ lectern is less wooden.
The Metro ridiculed Hunt on its front page, likening him to Mr Bean. This was quite unfair, as Mr Bean is usually far more relaxed and coherent.
Hunt set out the reasons for inflation in the video, with a coffee cup for each one: Covid, the Ukraine invasion, and the subsequent high energy prices. Oddly, there was no cup to represent Brexit (it Got Done, remember?). Nor was there a cup for The Unpleasantness with the financial markets where the previous back-stabbed PM trashed the economy.
Sadly, Hunt had forgotten to be environmentally friendly and had employed single-use coffee cups for the video, though at least that’s better than a no-use chancellor. Based on the last year, however, most Tory chancellors and prime ministers are rapidly rinsed and disposed of. It’s when they start being recycled that we really have to worry.