A Gothic gloom has descended over my once green and pleasant party. Dark shadows are cast over constituency meetings. The horror of deselection haunts the early hours of MP’s attempts at slumber. Number 10, always a pressure pot of intrigue garnished with stress, has become a Black Lubyanka of terror. This is not an exaggeration nor journalistic licence. This Charlie McCarthy administration now has unmistakable resonances of Joe.
Loyalty is an important weapon in any Prime Ministerial survival kit. It comes in a number of varieties. The most potent is personal. Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair had people who would have taken a bullet for them. That’s really useful, but what is more desirable is for them to surround themselves with friends whom they trust and whom they can rely on to say unpalatable truths. So who does Johnson rely on? Which friend can sit him down and tell him what he doesn’t want to hear? Most important of all does he have any real friends at all? Have a think about this. Name me one person whom he can really, really trust. Tricky isn’t it? He has plenty of admirers, hangers on, courtiers, those who would (and have) sold their souls for a cabinet job. But who can he really rely on when the really tough gets going? Where is his Dennis, Norma, Cherie, Samantha or Philip? Where is his Stephen Sherborne, Alastair Campbell or Gus O’Donnell? Who is in his inner sanctum? The Saj? He could have been but certainly not now. Gove? They despise each other. Raab? A child out of his depth. Mogg? The love child of Jeeves and Beria. Whom then? Nobody. All his relationships are purely transactional on a one way street which leads to Johnson. It is of prostitute and client. They tell him how wonderful he is and he gives them a job. Being friendless in the loneliest job in Britain probably doesn’t worry him at all. He has built up an impenetrable armour of self belief since childhood. But he ought to read a bit of Donne,
“No man is an island
entire of itself;
everyman is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main”.
I am sure that he has read lots of Donne, but probably only for shagging purposes. Johnson is the self made man with an unshakeable belief in his creator.
He now faces a number of crises. In his asset locker he has the advantage of an opinion poll lead and a devoted (ish) party faithful. Ask Harold Wilson and Theresa May about opinion poll leads and any former leader about the fickleness of the party faithful. They tend to be faithful only so long as they are winning.
In his rather full unexploded, but ticking bomb locker, he has one major problem. Events, dear boy, events. Most people when they are warned not to press that big red button tend to be cautious. Johnson will do it just to see what happens. And he has. Soon we will know what will happen. It will be like peeling an onion. The Courts, Standing Order 24, a no confidence vote and finally the terrifying, unexpected unexpected. And that begins with John Major, ending with a flotilla of former cabinet sectraries. One day he might just bother to read that brief on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem The Charge of the Light Brigade. If he ever does he will note that the quote is “ours is but to do and die”, the ‘or’ is a Johnson invention. Prescient, eh?
The press and even Johnson probably think that Cummings is the real problem. He isn’t, he’s just an irritation becoming the story which will eventually be his problem. He will, whether it is true or not, be portrayed by the press as our own Dr. Strangelove. In the meantime we will all delight at his carpet biting antics with the SPADS. I would be amazed if Miss Khan doesn’t grace the Sunday papers with her own version of events in preparation for the employment tribunal and eventually, The Book. No doubt the Sunday Telegraph will give us the full grisly details of her UnBorisian Activities. If we don’t hear a word from her then a deal is being grubbed.
It is imperative that some form of working relationship is restored with the Saj. If a PM and his Chancellor are not joined at the hip both tend to fall. Lack of trust is the story not the bribes. This is not going to be easy. Javid is able, personable and bright. Not the sort of man you want as an enemy. Particularly at the moment. I suspect he will be treated to the to the full Johnson charm offensive. They will be seen to have a good public ‘nosebag’. “It’s just Dom being Dom......will have word....a bit highly strung....best leave him squatting in his broom cupboard with his charts eh?” But Javid would be foolish not to demand a price for the semblance of loyalty. It will be the reinstatement of Khan. “Terrible cock up old horse....Um, water under the bridge and all that eh?....ah, here’s Carrie with the pud”. And how will Cummings react? I really don’t know. But it will be dramatic. Perhaps stage a dirty protest in the cabinet room. He seems to believe in the Nixon strategy of MAD. Mutual Assured Destruction. Just the sort of chap who should be running Number 10.