Perhaps only to be contrarian, and perhaps entirely incorrectly, I have always taken a dim view of the achievements of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
His great voyage across Antarctica set off three years after the South Pole had already been reached. His boat was crushed by sea ice long before Antarctica had managed to raise itself above the horizon. Miracle. Nevertheless, he somehow compelled his men to paddle their way to safety at South Georgia Island, in tiny lifeboats, 720 miles across freezing ocean.
To which the correct response is: so what? Why should we be expected to find heroism in taking oneself and others deliberately, and pointlessly into the jaws of danger, but managing to escape unscathed? It is little more than the 21st-century equivalent of the YouTuber, seeking fame and fortune by pointing his GoPro at himself whilst hanging one handed from the 18th floor of a half built skyscraper. Who, frankly, cares?
And thus we turn to Boris Johnson, and the breathless reports from Biarritz, from “well-placed sources” that there is “movement”. Paris is moving. Berlin is moving. Brussels is moving. The ground beneath the backstop is starting to shift. A “deal” could yet happen. EU officials, we are told, are talking of seeing a “serious politician”, a man “trying to find a solution to a problem”.
This, of course, is the story Johnson seeks to write himself. The hero who saved his nation in its hour of need. Johnson is a straightforward narcissist. He has delivered a crisis for himself to solve. The little lives of others are merely the pages on which he believes himself entitled to write the Boris Johnson story. The needless man of the pointless hour.
He has joked and japed his way around Biarritz, jabbing his finger, smirking at the television cameras, as ever, unable to compute that, 34 years on, he is not still in the Oxford Union. He has swum around a rock, and told the EU, it has a hole in it, “but you won’t see it if you stay on the beach”.
He is, as ever, his own tragic Churchill tribute act. There was, to his great regret, no darkest hour waiting for him, so he switched off the lights himself.
The “backstop” is not a serious problem. It is one that has been invented to ameliorate the vandalism of Brexit – Johnson’s personal vandalism, done because he is too straightforwardly execrable to understand the nation is not the back room of an Oxfordshire pub, for him to smash up for fun.
The Troubles in Northern Ireland were a serious problem. Hundreds of people died. They were brought to an end, 20 years ago, through the dedicated efforts of actual, great men, of the type Johnson is just too narcissistic to understand that he is not. He has imperilled his nation for no greater reason than to seek to augment his own personal place within it.
Should any kind of deal be forthcoming, Remainers will cling to it as a semi-salvation. There will be no fuel shortages, no food shortages, no medicine shortages. The pound will plummet slower than it otherwise would have done. A week in Spain for the family will remain, just about, a realistic possibility.
We will, like Shackleton’s men, have made it to South Georgia Island. There will be a celebration of sorts. But it will still have been an expedition of profound pointlessness. We will, all of us, be worse off. The weeks ahead are uncertain, and pointless to predict, but there is every chance of Johnson emerging, as the beaming face of the greatest con that’s ever been pulled. The man who saved his country from himself.
But he will not be a hero in the long run. There is no chance of that. He is already beyond salvation.
Brexit became official Friday at 11 p.m. in London and midnight in Brussels, where the EU is headquartered.
British politics is being reconfigured – if there were any doubt about this, just look at what has happened in the Conservative Party this last week. It is a party that is unrecognisable
Boris Johnson lost his working majority in parliament on Tuesday when one of his Conservative lawmakers defected to the pro-European Union Liberal Democrats.
Swedish palaeogeneticist Svante Paabo won the 2022 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for his work on sequencing the genome of the Neanderthal, the species that preceded the emergence of the modern human being, homo sapiens. The director of the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology has opened new vistas about
“You chose a good time to come back,” the Waitrose cashier said ironically when I told her this was my first week living in the UK since 1990. And that was before the Queen died and the pound collapsed to a record low.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy last month unveiled the Commitment to America, a summary of the agenda for what he hopes will be a new Republican majority in 2023. The policy goals it outlines are a mix of traditional Republican positions (pro-life, pro-gun, pro-military spending) and relatively new priorities, such as promising
During a recent campaign event in Harford County, Maryland, a woman asked Heather Mizeur, the 1st District Democratic candidate for Congress, about keeping guns away from dangerous people. While she agreed with Mizeur that more could be done legislatively to ensure public safety in legal gun purchases, the woman expressed