Boris Johnson is the author of his own downfall - GulfToday

Boris Johnson is the author of his own downfall

Sean O'Grady


Associate Editor of the Independent.

Boris Johnson gestures as he attends a media briefing on a Covid-19 update in the Downing Street briefing room in central London.  File/Agence France-Presse

Boris Johnson gestures as he attends a media briefing on a Covid-19 update in the Downing Street briefing room in central London. File/Agence France-Presse

Nothing befits Boris Johnson more than the manner of his own departure. Just as he did in office, and all too shamefully and literally during the dismal Partygate phase, he’s trashing the place on the way out.

With no care for the future of his party or the government, he implies, vindictively, that Rishi Sunak isn’t leading a “proper” Conservative government. He thinks Sunak is responsible for (soon) losing the majority that he, Johnson, won in 2019, even though it was Johnson’s own mistakes and misjudgements that were the beginning of the end for the Tories’ long spell in power — though the decline was massively accelerated during the brief interlude of Liz Truss’s premiership.

Not content with all that, he disgracefully dismisses a legitimate parliamentary inquiry into his behaviour as a “kangaroo court”. The resignation honours he has sought to bestow debase the system. His scornful valedictory remarks escalate the Tory civil war, and exacerbate the divisions over Brexit in the country he leaves behind: “I am not alone in thinking that there is a witch-hunt under way, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result.”

He’s given us all two fingers. His faithful confidante, Nadine Dorries, has given us the bird. And with that, he’s flown to Africa.

Still, finally, they caught the albino greased piglet. He hasn’t got away with lying to the country and to parliament. His own party is ready — indeed anxious — to move on, and has little further use for him. We’ve had enough of the liar.

The end of an era, then. Or end of an error, if you happen to think that Johnson took his party and his country on a merry, clownish dance down a politically, culturally and economic dead end. The draft report of the privileges committee must have been truly damning. A proud man to the point of vanity, Johnson could not endure what he would have regarded as a humiliation at the hands of his inferiors — effectively being expelled from the House of Commons with the connivance of those he believes usurped him, and not four years after he led his party to the famous victory of December 2019.

He knew Sunak wouldn’t lift a finger to save him (and rightly so). So he was doomed, and he wasn’t going to give his enemies the satisfaction of defenestrating him a second time. Really, he’s quit in a fit of pique, like a spoilt kid who’s finally been found out and refused to take his punishment, so runs away.

Now the work of myth-making begins. In a truly Trumpian manner — and he does increasingly resemble his American twin — Johnson is cultivating a story of a “witch-hunt”, a betrayal, the notion that he was stabbed in the abdomen by the jealous and the unworthy. He claims, wrongly, that he was relatively popular when he was forced to resign. He believes — or purports to believe — that the Commons privileges committee, with its Tory-majority membership, was engaged in a conspiracy to destroy him, and that, like Trump, he is an innocent man.

He smears the chair, Harriet Harman, and Sue Gray, with no grounds for his grievances. He makes the absurd assertion that “I did not lie, and I believe that in their hearts the committee know it. But they have wilfully chosen to ignore the truth, because from the outset their purpose has not been to discover the truth.”

It’s too much to expect, but nowhere has he ever acknowledged the terrible truth that he was the author of his own downfall. It was he who broke lockdown rules and was responsible for the Partygate scandal, which enraged the public. The anger that was provoked by his behaviour broke the spell of the charming rogue. It was he who went on to mislead parliament about that same unedifying episode, and now the truth has finally caught up with him.

It was Johnson who tried to fix the rules to rescue the career of Owen Paterson. He then tried to do the same for Chris Pincher, an alleged sex pest whom he appointed deputy chief whip while knowing his reputation, and then sent his cabinet ministers out to spin for.

With bare-faced cheek, Johnson is now constructing a policy platform — lower taxes, a “proper Conservative government”, a UK-USA free trade agreement — all things that he failed to achieve while in office. He makes out that Brexit is still full of potential. In reality it has been a flop. He never even believed in it himself.

There was no “levelling up”, little building back better. He did drive the Covid vaccine rollout, but he was revealed to be the ultimate Covid hypocrite. He became a vote-loser. It was Johnson who lost a series of real by-elections and local elections, and so disastrously that his party chair, Oliver Letwin, quit.

Johnson did win a vote of confidence among MPs, but a year ago, his government disintegrated beneath his feet. So many had gone that he couldn’t any longer acquit his duty to form a government in the name of the Queen. He had to go because his party had had enough of him, and the electoral asset of 2016 and 2019 had transformed into an increasing liability — electorally and to the national interest.

No doubt Sunak, Sajid Javid and others talked about the state of the party and the government, and so they should. But there was no plot, in the sense of a wilful conspiracy; they’d just had enough. So had the country.

Is this the end of Johnson? For now, certainly. He hints that he’d come back as an MP, but for now he faces the unrelenting hostility of Conservative HQ. Outside the Commons, he lacks a voice and a platform. He may find himself increasingly irrelevant. Churchill, Johnson’s hero, knew he had to have a base in parliament during his wilderness years.

Johnson’s praetorian guard, comprising the likes of fellow refugee from sanity Nadine Dorries along with the ones who foment the “Bring Back Boris” movement, are fading, out of office, and have no immediate prospect of taking back control. Neither has he.

We are, for good or ill, decisively entering a new era – a post-Brexit, post-Boris era. In such a changed set of circumstances, and with everything gone wrong, at long last, the moment has come when the albino greased piglet hasn’t been able to save his own bacon. That won’t, however, stop him from squealing.

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