What strange times we live in. If the Prime Minister decides to hang up his fright wig for a money making wheeze on the lecture circuit, Fleet Street scribbling, snorterinos de luxe and chasing top Tory totty, it won’t be because he has been the most disastrous Conservative leader in living memory and is too lazy, too stupid or too ill to cope. It will be because he can’t stand being stuck in a small flat in Downing Street, has to pay for his meals and can’t survive on 150 thousand spundulaks a year. Well, that’s according to a fascinating piece in the Times where that ever diminishing band of ‘friends’ spill the beans. The poor fellow has money worries. Nanny may have to go. Somehow, I am not entirely sure that the nation will be crying into its collective, socially distanced beer. It these ‘friends’ think that they have done him a favour by giving us the onion then they are sadly lacking in judgement. And there lies the problem. The ‘friends’ have been supplying him with the most appalling judgment since he was elected. No, I apologise. Since time immemorial.
The trouble with Johnson is that he has lived the dream at other people’s expense. Newspapers, publishers and wealthy lickspittles hoping to make a buck or grab a gong have always come up with the dosh. He is renowned for only putting his hand in his pocket to scratch his dick. I imagine that he thought that being PM would be one round of junkets, adulation and a few cheeky shags on the side. I doubt that he expected to actually do anything, just delegate to his worshippers, throwing dissenters under one of his home made model buses, and hoovering up the glory when something accidentally goes well. Come to think of it, has anyone actually seen one of his model buses?
The question is what does the Conservative party do about him? Clearly the unthinkable is being thought. Seriously. Now, I suspect it is not a question of whether he goes but when. He has managed to offend all wings of the party, all angles on Brexit and is not considered to be remotely up to the the job. But he has always managed to survive with a mixture of luck, guile, charm, betrayal and ruthlessness. So he is not to be written off just yet.
All politicians strive for a legacy and Johnson will want to be remembered for getting Brexit done. He still can. There is still some wriggle room. The sticking points are fisheries and state subsidy. Compromises can be made on both sides. And if he does.....he will live another day.
In fact, getting a deal that doesn’t cripple the economy any more than it is at the moment could be sold as a victory. The purists won’t be happy, but they never will be. The red wallers will be a little happier and the threat of a destructive referendum on Scottish independence will not be so acute. A week after a deal would be the time for the reshuffle. He would be in a stronger position and he wouldn’t have to worry about the Brexit loyalty litmus test. They would have served their purpose and he could afford to throw them under a bus. Patel has been a disaster. Her bite is worse than even her bark. Encouraging curtain twitchers to snitch on their neighbours is neither British nor Conservative. Attacking judges, activist lawyers and the jury system (you wait) and being prepared to treat the rule of law as an optional extra is neither British nor Conservative either. It is not without significance that Sir Graham Brady, the most powerful chair of the 22 in living memory, wants parliament to be consulted on measures that many consider reminiscent of East Germany. And he is the custodian of the pearl handled revolver and the bottle of whisky.
I would imagine that Downing Street is very nervous of Keir Starmer. If they aren’t then they should be. He is playing a very long and, so far, clever game. He has skilfully skipped over the elephant traps set by strategists. Of course nothing is beyond party politics for party politicians. But the electorate like them to at least mouth the words. Starmer does a little more. He, as we are in the grip of a national crisis, will back the government. All he wants is the government to be competent, transparent and give clear messages. The hand of friendship is in fact a gloved first. Competence, transparency and clear messaging is not something that the government does well. Or at all.