The Great Hangover
Here we are, in the morning after the night before. As I write¹, Boris Johnson has announced that he is to resign. But for now he plans to cling to office for some time yet, trying to stay on over summer. At this point even that seems too much to ask. Right now, urgent questions are being asked in the Commons about how Government can function when, just for example, there are no minsters at all in the Department of Education. There is seemingly no enthusiasm for Johnson to remain even for a matter of hours. Whatever he thinks, the decision about how long to wheeze on is no longer in his gift.
But the manner of his leaving was long foretold. We knew what he’d be like at the job. We all knew what kind of a man he was; many of us have known for many years, and nothing quite shows the dignity of one who holds office than the leaving of it. For a man who wanted to emulate Churchill, it’s faintly ironic he has effectively lasted only as long as Chamberlain. One of his last acts is to fill cabinet gaps. At this point it feels like it may be a final, enormous turd curled out on the Conservative Party’s croquet lawn before he shambles off into the (hopefully) far distance.
His apologists and revisionists in general are trying to rewrite history, to limit the damage to a party that has gleefully engaged in an ongoing campaign of being determined to constantly publicly soil itself in the very messiest ways. They keep rolling out the tired old lines: “got the big calls right”, “got Brexit done”. Brexit is still ongoing. In fact, it’s barely even started. As a direct result of the Brexit deal he loudly proclaimed as a victory, we are still looking at the possibility of the UK breaking International Law to wriggle out of a treaty agreement he committed us to. His so-called “Oven Ready Brexit” is a charred, irradiated turkey, and one of the principal reasons why the escalating cost of living crisis is hitting worse here than in mainland Europe. His response to the COVID pandemic was slapdash, and parlously behind the curve. Because of him, many more people died than should have done. He has allowed the stripping away of so many of our rights, including restricting the right to protest, and the introduction of a Bill of Rights that tries to place the executive beyond the rule of law. It is a Bill which makes things like deportation to Rwanda so much easier for a government to get with without awkward questions from judges. His attitude towards Scotland has been frankly insulting, and has only served to antagonise more. There’a a raging bin fire of policy malfeasance that he has presided over, with too many things to list comfortably here, and the people who claim he has achieved “great things” are very hard pressed to name a single one.
He has squatted atop a midden of corruption and patronage, underpinned by some very questionable backers. Looking through the list of ministerial resignations over the last couple of days, you see exactly who he promoted, and why. This was not a government of talents, it was a government of supine placemen designed primarily to prop up a single lazy, monstrous ego, pushing through to fill their own pockets with cash. He has modelled the Conservative Party in his own image, and it will possibly take years to recover, if it recovers at all. Why do I say that? The party Johnson leaves behind is a mess, a charred wreck. Whoever finds themselves surveying that wreckage after what is likely to be a very nasty contest is going to be drinking from a very poisoned chalice.
There are already some of the creatures who have lurked in the dark, manoeuvring. willing to push themselves forward to drink from that chalice. Steve Baker, was particularly hilarious earlier this morning, sounding like he’d just consumed heroic quantities of ‘shrooms. But what it means is we get yet another leadership contest. As we all know, Conservative leadership contests always go well. It’s clear that whoever throws a hat into the ring will enter a contest that is likely to be hugely bruising. None of the potential runners are hugely edifying, but some are very much worse prospects than others. We all know who they likely to be.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Our problems, many of them directly able to be laid at Johnson’s feet, aren’t going to go away when there’s another new face grinning inanely at the door of Number 10². Johnson has spent the last few years on a monstrous political bender, and now we’re all going to have to suffer the mother of all hangovers. The only question that is important is this: how long will it last?
¹ I stared writing at around 1045 in the morning.
² If that face is Liz Truss, then inane is exactly the correct word.