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 He has withdrawn to the meadows from which he may look up at the Chiltern Hundreds, his last public office.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 –
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.
- The Borisiad
- Boris Unleashed
- Hebdomas horribilis
- Measures, four Measures
- By Boris Johnson:
- The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History
- The Dream of Rome
- Have I Got Views For You
- The Spirit of London
- Johnson’s Life of London: The People Who Made the City That Made the World
- By others:
- The Liberal Delusion by John Marsh
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Woke: A Guide to Social Justice by Titania McGrath