• Thursday, July 25, 2024


Johnson ‘may yet have another scene to play

In his 1,000-word resignation statement, he said he was leaving parliament “at least for now”, so it safe to assume he will be on the lookout for a safe Tory seat

Boris Johnson (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

By: Amit Roy

Enoch Powell once said: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”

This is sadly true for Boris Johnson, who, to give him due credit, brought in the most diverse cabinet in British history. But his career is ending in failure. To be sure, Boris accused the Commons privileges committee of behaving like a ‘kangaroo court’, but the real reason why he has quit parliament is because he was in danger of losing Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the next general election. His majority is “only” 7,210.

In his 1,000-word resignation statement, he said he was leaving parliament “at least for now”, so it safe to assume he will be on the lookout for a safe Tory seat with a majority of at least 20,000. Whether he finds one or not remains to be seen.

According to Jacob-Rees Mogg, who has been rewarded with a knighthood in Boris’s resignation honours list, “in the pantheon of prime ministers, Boris ranks with Chatham, Palmerston and Thatcher, and is only really outgunned by Walpole because of longevity or Pitt and Churchill because of war.” “His extraordinary achievements in his brief spell as prime minister include campaigning for a successful Brexit vote and then getting it done.”

He added: “This, though, is most definitely not the end of Boris in the politics of our nation. In fact, his dramatic move – and his own hint that he will seek another parliamentary berth – puts him in pole position to return as Conservative leader if a vacancy should arise.“ “On that note, I would most strongly warn Conservative party managers against any attempt to block Boris if he seeks the party nomination in another seat. Any attempt to do so would shatter our fragile party unity and plunge the Conservatives into civil war.”

He went on: “He remains extremely popular with the party’s grassroots and in any constituency selection contest, he would be almost impossible to beat.“ When people backed Boris in 2019, it was because of his charisma and electoral appeal – both of which remain. They gave him a five-year mandate – he has served only three. Furthermore, the succession to him has only been moderately successful, which leaves a potential future opening for the job.

“The master of the unexpected may yet have another scene to play.” The former home secretary, Priti Patel, who was made a Dame by Boris, called him “a political titan whose legacy will stand the test of time”. But the respected historian Sir Anthony Seldon, who has written biographies of several British prime ministers, including Boris, summed up: “Britain has been left weaker by a prime minister who demeaned its institutions and sullied all those who came into his orbit.

“Boris Johnson’s latest protestations of foul play, calumny and dastardly scheming are all of a piece with his actions throughout his life. All are the product of his deep character flaws.“ All the living prime ministers before him – John Major, [Tony] Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May – left office surrounded by friends and admirers of substance. Johnson left with no friends. He never has had them in politics. He was finally ejected from No 10 in July last year, not because of a coup, but because no one would work with him. Those who had hitched their fortunes to his wagon had come to see him as a total liability.

“By the end of his premiership, only a tiny cabal consisting of his wife, Carrie, the 30-year-old aide Ross Kempsell, and fellow politicians such as Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams believed in the cause.“ His extraordinary recent act of blaming everyone bar himself for his downfall, like his flawed resignation honours list, comes solely from him.

“No prime minister in history has been so shunned by his fellow premiers. In this regard he resembles Donald Trump, whose behaviour disgusts all living presidents. Major reserves a special contempt for Johnson, who went on to betray Cameron and May. After he fell, Johnson set out to undermine his successors, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

“I have never known a prime minister and his court to have so much fury about a predecessor as the present regime hold for him.“ The damage that Johnson has done to the country is beyond measure. Again, no prime minister has done so much harm. Covid-19 was the most serious crisis to hit Britain since the Second World War. He ran the government as if he were the wayward manager of an amateur theatre company, full of histrionics, changes of mind and cliques.

“Johnson’s legacy is a pale shadow of what it might have been. Two ethics advisers departed because of him, and he changed the rules governing ethics in public life. He demeaned the civil service, parliament, government, universities, the judiciary and the media. He left the country weaker economically and in its standing abroad, and with the Union weaker. He made Brexit happen, but did nothing significant to achieve any benefits. It was all piffle and bluster.” “Still he wants to return to power and do yet more damage in the process. His vanity will not let him realise what is clear to all: his moral and psychological failings have already inflicted enough.”

Boris has declared war on Rishi, the man he holds responsible for his downfall. He intended to sack Rishi as chancellor. However, the latter moved first. Not all Tories want a Boris comeback. Lord Michael Heseltine, who was deputy prime minister under Major, said in a piece for the Guardian: “His character flaws have been well documented. Max Hastings, his former editor at the Daily Telegraph, commented just before Johnson became prime minister: ‘There is room for debate about whether he is a scoundrel or mere rogue, but not much about his moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth.’ “

Even before the Brexit referendum and Johnson’s ascent to the cabinet and Downing St, Matthew Parris, a former Conservative MP, warned: ‘There’s a pattern to Boris’s life … It’s the casual dishonesty, the cruelty, the betrayal; and, beneath the betrayal, the emptiness of real ambition: the ambition to do anything useful with office once it is attained.’ The party did not listen.

“I have worked for the Conservative party for the last 70 years. I have followed the inspiration of Churchill, Macmillan, Heath and Thatcher, who gave Britain a leading position in one of the power blocks of the 21st century. I have seen that overturned on a cynical exploitative combination of promises led by Boris Johnson. He won a large majority on the slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’. Yet here we are, years later, when the criticism, even from its most fanatical supporters like Nigel Farage, is that Brexit has failed.”

To me, it is inconceivable that, in these circumstances, Johnson could stand as a Conservative member of parliament again. It is up to Conservative central office to affirm an official candidate. No doubt he will go out into the world and make huge sums of money, writing history as he thinks it was conducted. But it will have little to do with the reality of the mess he left behind.

“He can continue to cause damage to the party as he has done so conspicuously in recent years, because he retains a following in the country. That will be exploited by his friends in the popular press. But his real legacy is Brexit, the biggest historic mistake this country has made in peacetime.”

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