Boris Bounced

What’s that Skippy? A judgment from the House of Commons Privileges Committee?

Outback in Westminster a strange court assembles, attended by hopping marsupials. Stern they are on the bench, carefully chosen impartially from across a spectrum of political opinion – Tories who hate Boris, Socialists who hate Boris and a Snoopy, who hate everyone but themselves.

‘Bonzer turn-out, guys. Now, let’s get on with what we’re fer – to chuck Boris out o’ the House. Now, before we get on with sentencing the politically deceased, I mean the accused, how to do we this?  Eh, Bernard, didn’t your mate write a trial scene for the telly we could copy for all due and proper procedure?  If it’s good enough for General Melchett, it’ll do for me.

I tweeted the result a month ago, so we just have to fill in the bumph to make it look as if we thought about it.

I must remind you of the seriousness of our proceedings: that this is not a court of law – that would require boring evidence. No, this is a court of politics, and we know our duty, to whack a smug bastard the way the public demands for what they imagine he’s done.

Let’s face it the facts wouldn’t convict Boris of so much as farting in a bar.

So, first up, who here on the blue team expects to get re-elected next year? Carter, Costa, Walker – you’re all out, so you  you’ve no need to worry about being deselected, and need something to your names to make a mark on an otherwise pointless career. What’s that in your hand, Walker?  A note from Boris by the look – καὶ σύ, τέκνον: dunno what it means, but stick another month on the ban as a result.

Here comes Skippy with the Report in her pouch. I took the lib’ of writing it for you, so just add your names.

Strewth Jenkin – put yer didgeridoo away, mate! We know yer career’s over so knife the boss good ‘n proper will yer? While yer here though, tell us what would have happened in Number 10, from your experience of lockdown parties. That wild, eh?

Boris wants to put in a defence?  It’s a bit late, mate. It’s all irrelevant anyway:  we are not interested in what happened – just in what the news headlines said had happened.

So, while he’s talking, let’s vote on the ban.  I’ll start the bidding at 10 days – do I hear 20? I have 20, do I hear 40?…

Where did it all go wrong for Boris?

And then he was gone. The memory fading like that of a glorious dream in the dawn; that is modern politics. He has withdrawn to the meadows from which he may look up at the Chiltern Hundreds, his last public office. This was a pre-emptive departure, thumbing a nose at pursuing persecutors, with a passing shot along the lines ‘Now see if you can do without me.’  (‘Without whom?’ came the reply, for within the bubble, memory is shorter than that of a goldfish.)

I have a good idea of what the voters of Uxbridge think, and ultimately our electoral system works constituency-by-constituency.  Boris though is a national figure, not just a brilliant comic turn with a long-term residency in western Middlesex. Rumours there are aplenty and temptations, and unsought-for advice from all quarters. Yet the evening comes as he looks out from his moated grange –

And day and night I am left alone
To live forgotten, and love forlorn.

How did he get here? He on whose word the nation hung?

There is no question that he has had enemies throughout his political career, who hate him with every fibre they can summon. There are plenty who believe he has no place at the top as he is no gentleman, but that is not enough. When Brexit became not an economic balancing exercise but a class-based chasm, he became a sworn enemy to all the wrongheaded biens-pensants of the land. That was not enough, but it produced a large group of influencers ready to turn any story into a flood to wash him away.  It was still not enough though.

The process of Brexit was an immense success, due largely to Boris Johnson and the team he put together.  There would have been no chance of the Civil Service machine obtaining the exit deal and the trade deal which Boris achieved – it was as good as we could ever have dreamed, because of his determination, his solid majority, and apparent refusal to walk away up to the last minute. The panicked reactions of the commentariat every day was defied and the result is there to see. Eventually, on 31 January 2020, we left, with an almost complete, tariff-free trade and co-operation treaty. However even at that moment the fatal reckoning was approaching from the East.

Fear of the plague from China began at the end of the year from which it is named, 2019. I remember it during the Christmas General  Election that year, but it was only a whisper from the East. On the day that Brexit was consummated, the disease was found in Italy. Two months later, Boris shut the economy down.

He appeared statesmanlike, and can do a good impression of that. The voters loved it, for a time. They liked being able to sit at the kitchen table all day with a mouse in one hand and a slice of cake in the other, and did not miss the daily commute.  The results though – those they do not like. When the world economy shuts down by government fiat, we become poorer.

The lockdown was nominally supported by most voters according to polls, but restrictions are resented at first, then hated.  The big blow to Boris in the polls was ‘Partygate’. Why, logically, should this have bothered anyone? If someone else evades the restrictions should not affect the rest of us, but there was no doubt from the voices on the street: this burst the Boris bubble. Partying while the rest of us were locked away?  (Never mind that the restrictions were never so harsh anyway – I was able largely to ignore them and still be within the law.) No, whatever happened in Downing Street did not affect us, but there was resentment that we had been made to suffer. Those opinion polls saying the lockdown was popular did not tell a true story:  the lockdown was hated with a passion.

Added to the headwater of Remainiac opponents, were Conservatives who opposed the lockdowns, and who were frustrated that with a stonking majority, nothing had been achieved since Brexit. (I would challenge you to read the Conservative Manifesto of 2019 and find a thing thing else which has been done that was promised.) Eventually the dam had to burst.

The woes of the party go beyond feelings about Boris. The economy has tumbled and real-terms wage have shrunk in a way they have not since the last Labour government.  The Ukrainian War is one major cause – the lockdowns are the other; and the man making most hay with it is one who wanted to make the lockdowns harder and more destructive.

Boris will welcome the quiet of his withdrawal to Brightwell, to his own Colombey-aux-Champs with a keyboard and a book contract and a column in the paper. He may ponder that in politics it is all right to make many enemies, as long as you are with the voters. The moment you shut the pubs and emptying their pockets, you should start writing your memoirs.

See also



When our politicians are forced out, these days they stay out (and journalists ensure that they are remembered for the ignominy that finally drove them out, not their achievements). It was not always so, but is now. There is outrage at the suggestion that an ousted PM may be to biding his or her time in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, awaiting the call to the nation’s aid.

In former days, a Prime Minister voted out might bide his time and be restored. Churchill stayed at the helm of his party and came back after six years to save the nation; Harold Wilson did to, in order to ruin it. Before Churchill it happened all the time; it was expected that a party leader would keep at his post. Gladstone, Disraeli and Salisbury swapped like the figures on a Victorian town hall clock. Some went, but then came back in other positions: Arthur Balfour was three years in Number 10, following his uncle, and was decisively voted out, but during the Great War he was appointed Foreign Secretary, in time to sign the Balfour Declaration (and have a town in Galilee named after him).

A  Conservative or Labour party leader who loses a General Election will resign: this is accepted without question, but it is a very modern custom. It is a form of hara-kiri, accepting personal responsibility for a failure. In a media-driven age of personality politics, that is to be expected. There is no constitutional reason for it, nor a philosophical one. It is a custom though, which may explain the loudness of outrage when a recently expelled Prime Minister is touted as the once-and-future leader, and narratives are rewritten to excuse the faults of the departed one.

Why not? Churchill bounced between high office and disgrace his whole career; Baldwin came back to Number 10 twice; Gladstone came back three times. They of course were not expelled for disasters, and had not led our impossibly unstable ship of state. (If the state were shrunk back to the size it was before the Great War, so it did not constantly reel like a drunken elephant against the economy on all sides, there would be fewer disasters for Prime Ministers to set off.)

Now though?  We have a media narrative that forces time to move on. A politician out of office at once become “the old days”, and the idea of their return is made to sound as ridiculous as bringing back bakelite telephones. For some reason that does not apply to bringing back dead political ideas: socialism is the vampire that has had stake after stake in its heart only to rise as in the old Hammer Horror films, if with more deathly effect.

Even so, we hear whispers. Tony Blair (remember him?) keeps piping up  and I wake in sweat in the night that he might try to return, before I doze again reassured that it is impossible. The occasional Miliband reappears frequently; and then there is Boris, who is not cold yet.

Boris might be like Balfour – a three-year PM who could return in a different high office. However he is one of those who by the nature of his temperament can only be a private or commander-in-chief.

The main thing that keeps past senior politicians from pushing their way back into office is not their ultimate failure in office but their ultimate success out of it: speaking tours can pay more than a Prime Minister’s salary, and book deals to keep them guarding what remains of their legacy.

There may be a politician who bides his time in his private Colombey, who could be called from retirement to save the nation. It is doubtful that there any worthy  to do so.

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From Boris to Liz

The phenomenon that was Boris Johnson is moving into the background. A new face will take his position, but never his place, for he is a force of nature. A return to ordinary politics is a disappointment.

His tenure was shorter than we could have imagined, though average for a Prime Minister, over the ages.  At least he outlasted Theresa May, whom I had though of as ‘May-fly’. Another two weeks and he would have beaten Henry Addington – now that puts me in mind of something.

We need PMs with character. That is not to say that Boris was always a good thing – his chaotic nature enabled him to achieve many things that others would have been unable to do from their own, constricted outlooks, but it also prevented him from getting a grip when that was needed. (Often it needed a grip on the throats of his spads, if truth be told.)  The abilities of the new face are unknown but I can predict that if she is too soft, the staff will run rings around her and bring her down, and if hard enough, she will be accused of bullying. (Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman, Dolly assures us.)

All this is to come, and the clock is running to a general election likely to be held on 2 May 2024.

If it is Liz Truss as we expect, she has come a long way since her childhood in Renfrewshire.  I believe she would be the first Norfolk MP to become Prime Minster since Robert Walpole himself, the first Prime Minister of all. I know her constituency – I used to have family there – and it is a charming area, in an eccentric county. Norwich I know well too – once second only to London amongst the cities of the land, it is the only town of any size in the county. I have drowsed in the Norfolk towns like Diss (not in Liz’s constituency) with its lake and lost-in-time appearance: such tiny towns as Diss are the stuff of Norfolk.

It would still have been nice to overhaul Henry Addington, a history lesson in himself.  He succeeded William Pit the Younger: Pitt who bestrode his age, who restored the confidence of a depressed kingdom, made us ready for the challenge of the generation and mended the country’s finances to do so. Boris with his boundless enthusiasm was doing the same in his own way, apart from the finances, which he has inadvertently wrecked. Then Pitt retired and handed over to Addington, and the wits wrote:

“Pitt is to Addington, as London is to Paddington”

(This was long before trains, stations or loquacious bears – Paddington was an insignificant village outside London, and Addington could no more aspire to replace Pitt than Paddington village could equal London.)

To be fair to Addington, he had his own abilities, amongst which he readied the country’s defences and finances for the war which Napoleon was preparing. But he was not Pitt.

The next year and a half have many challenges, many of which will bring failures, but many successes, we trust, if the government machine yields to the directions given to it (not always a given). There are also opportunities for failure. Mrs O’Leary, or Mr Sunak, whichever wins through, will be busy, and may succeed, and if it is the lady in question, good for Norfolk. It is not normal for Norfolk to propel one to such high office, but in the Paisley schoolgirl it may have provided a force for success.

Even so, I keep worrying that:

Boris is to Liz, as London is to Diss.

I would like be wrong.

Henry Addington served for three years, until overwhelmed by criticism of his perceived failure so secure good terms in a treaty with our European neighbour. When he resigned, Pitt returned.

See also


The Borisiad

For there is not any vertue that disposeth a man, either to the service of God, or to the service of his Country, to Civill Society, or private Friendship, that did not manifestly appear in his conversation, not as acquired by necessity, or affected upon occasion, but inhaerent, and shining in a generous constitution of his nature. Therefore in honour and gratitude to him, and with devotion to your selfe, I humbly Dedicate unto you this my discourse of Common-wealth. I know not how the world will receive it, nor how it may reflect on those that shall seem to favour it. For in a way beset with those that contend on one side for too great Liberty, and on the other side for too much Authority, ’tis hard to passe between the points of both unwounded.

This then a tribute to Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Rarely has any man been so beguiling in public life that so much has been written, whether in anticipation of his attaining office, or in examining the minutiae of his action when in such office. He has become a character in his own drama, or his own comedy, known by his single praenomen, ‘Boris’, as a trademark  as much as a name; the persona behind which presumably a real man lives. Who that man is, we many never know: just that all men and women in politics these last years have lived in his shadow. And some resented it with a deadly passion.

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.

It was not with aforethought intent that so much was written about Boris, but as so much was, it makes a volume in itself, written in fits and starts, with no plan, no structure, no determined journey to Ithaka – nor even to 7 Eccles Street – but written as inspiration struck, on the topics or musings of the day.  It is a measure of the fascination or loathing he has inspired that so much has been written with Boris at the centre of it, even without the commentator’s meaning to, and this just on direct references, not the events set in motion by him and carried forth by others.

The man himself is still here and still as brimful with energy, perhaps more so with responsibilities lifted from him. (Responsibilities he always wore lightly, which was most of the trouble.)  It may be he shall reach the Happy Isles, or will stroll to the farm of Cincinnatus or to Colombey.  We cannot tell.

Of what was written on this blog, random and unplanned,  is recorded here as our own Borisiad.