Well, I won’t say I told you so. Sod it, I will. Johnson has tried to memorise a song from the Margaret Thatcher play book but ends up playing the wrong tune. Let me remind you of the history. Nigel Lawson was Chancellor, a brilliant economist and a canny strategist. He wanted to join the ERM as did most city scribblers at the time. Sir Alan Walters (rather a pleasant fellow) used to advise Thatcher on the economy. He disagreed with Lawson. She felt that she had to squash any rumours dominating the press that she was going to sack him and said in an exchange with Neill Kinnock that the Chancellor’s position was ‘unassailable’. Phew. He was safe. But a few weeks later Lawson was on his toes. He took the view that as Chancellor he should be giving the dominant economic advice and not somebody else.
Thatcher’s grip on power started to nose dive when Geoffrey Howe made his famous resignation speech in July 1989. Lawson went in October. Thatcher was gone by November 1990. The reason I want to put this in perspective is because I don’t believe that Thatcher wanted Lawson to go. The party was still in turmoil over Howe’s resignation, the Tories were 14 points behind Labour and she was less popular than her party. It is unlikely she would have won another election.
So Johnson’s wheeze was a distorted fairground image of what happened in 1989. He had promised the CBI that Javid was safe but really wanted him out. How could he keep his word (discuss) and get rid of the man at the same time? Cripes, just publicly humiliate the guy and keep him, in the words of another disgruntled Chancellor, in office but not in power. Not me guv. He walked. Tee hee. But he has made a powerful enemy.
With an eighty majority, it is the popular myth that Johnson can do what he wants. That he is unassailable. Just a gentle reminder to all those who think that history begins on 23 June 2016 that when Thatcher resigned she had a majority of one hundred and two.
Is this the end of Johnson? Of course not. But it is the end of the beginning. One prediction I will make is that the budget will be botched. There will be one little detail that either slams the middle classes or stuffs northerners and no one will notice until Tim Shipman or Robert Peston drops the bomb.
Governments tend to collapse when they are seen to be less than competent. Slogans are great for the hustings, but what people want to see is good management of the economy. So who runs the economy? Johnson? Don’t be daft. He probably thinks that the red book was written by Chairman Mau. Cummings? Perhaps. But he is trying to run everything else. Certainly not the Chancellor. Poor Dilyn must be feeling a little threatened with so many lap dogs competing for attention at Number 10.
In May there will be a new Labour leader. If it’s a Corbyn tribute act it’s game over and Johnson is fairly safe. If it’s a Nandy or a Starmer? Oh dear, there will be proper scrutiny of the government at last. Then there will be the opinion polls, and squeaky bottomed new MPs with slender majorities. And the allure of Johnson may not be so attractive.
But all this is a while away. What so cheering is the creation of a new Disney villain, Suella de Ville, who is on a mission to collect the ermine pelts of the judiciary. Her failure, pique, pig ignorance and eventual downfall is going to keep us all entertained for at least a year.