It’s no secret that there is generally a gap of at least two days or so between me writing these columns and these columns appearing in print. This can sometimes be a bit of a pain, as you can imagine, particularly if I’ve got my satirical hat on. It’s difficult to make up-to-the-minute pithy barbs about whatever is in the news, when you know that by the time anybody gets to read said barbs, everything might have changed and the barbs will end up landing somewhat less barbishly than you’d hoped.
On this occasion, however, it is my dearest wish that everything I’m about to address will be irrelevant by the time you read this, because, at time of writing, the political situation in this country is so bizarrely, ridiculously, mind-meltingly untenable that if it has not in fact changed by the time you read this, we could all be in a lot of trouble.
Right now, the progressive side of British politics is celebrating (and, indeed, the less reality-based fringe of the Conservative side is bewailing) the fact that Boris Johnson is “gone”. Having given a “resignation speech” last Thursday in which he accepted no blame for anything and managed to avoid all mention of resigning, Mr Johnson is currently blithely declaring his intention to remain in place as Conservative leader and prime minister until a successor can be appointed “in the autumn”.
In other words, Boris Johnson is not, at the moment, “gone” in any meaningful application of the word. He is now the political equivalent of the deadbeat boyfriend, who, even after you finally pluck up the courage to dump him, refuses to pack his bags and says things like: “Okay, so we’re not a thing anymore, but we can still like do sex and stuff, right?”
Those of us who have actually been awake for some of the last three years are now worrying that Mr Johnson is hoping that some circumstance will arise in the next three months which will give him an excuse to rescind his resignation and stay on, or indeed, that should no such circumstance arise, he will try to engineer one.
With this in mind, here are:
SOME THINGS BORIS JOHNSON MAY YET DO TO GET OUT OF RESIGNING
DECLARE A STATE OF EMERGENCY
This is, after all, what would-be authoritarian leaders typically do when they realise the jig is up. Seize upon, or indeed create, some national crisis or other and insist that all normal democratic processes must be put on hold until the situation is resolved (knowing that it never will be).
The only trouble with this idea in Boris Johnson’s case is that this is basically what he has been doing the whole time. He was appointed by the party (and then elected by the country) principally in order to “get Brexit done”. In other words, to find a way out of the quagmire that he himself had done more to bury the country in than anyone else.
So, in order to find an excuse to stay on, Boris Johnson would have to cause an even bigger emergency than the one he created in order to become prime minister in the first place.
It’s not easy being a satirist in 2022, you know…
Given that he has shown himself to be a more dedicated and enthusiastic gaslighter than a cartload of 19th-century civil engineers (think about it), Mr Johnson might well be tempted, once the autumn rolls around, to simply deny all memory of ever having said he was going to resign in the first place. And indeed, if confronted with the newsreel footage of his “resignation speech” he could point out that the words “I resign“ were not actually used at any point, and that the whole thing has been a big misunderstanding which we should now move on from and not worry our silly little heads about.
WAR WITH UKRAINE
Yeah, you read that right, I said “with”.
Boris has been extracting so much mileage from his “friendship” with Zelenskyy that, if the Ukrainian Premier doesn’t in some way try to intercede on his behalf right now, things could easily escalate from a besties’ tiff into outright hostility. Mr Johnson has already been using the war as cover even while we haven’t been involved directly; if we pile in, this might be all the justification he needs to stay in place. Besides, if he owes any favours to powerful Russians (and I did say IF) this could be a good way of settling up.
POEM OF THE WEEK
Mr Pincher, what have you done?
Drank too much and had some fun
With people who weren’t up for it
And now the PM’s had to quit
Mr Pincher, what a shame
You never rose above your name
This then, is how a leader falls
In the end, it all came down to balls