On the off-chance you had better things to do than spend all of last weekend on Twitter, you may have missed the shenanigans. Allow me to bring you up to speed.
Last week, in these pages, The New European’s James Ball (a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist of immaculate standing and reputation) reported Boris Johnson had remarked to guests at a Daily Telegraph Garrick Club dinner that he was suffering from “buyer’s remorse” in his married life.
Whether it was a joke or not, we commented that it demonstrated appalling judgment.
The night of publication, at 10.30pm, I was called by a man who introduced himself as being from the Downing Street press office, but whose name I did not catch.
His opening gambit was that the story was untrue and Boris Johnson was suing The New European for defamation. Had I been sharper of brain, I would have asked him what a public servant was doing spending time on what is clearly a personal legal matter between Johnson and a newspaper. But it was very late, so I merely laughed and told him we stood by the story.
This seemed to irritate him, and after a few more minutes back and forth, he told me: “you just crack on then, mate,” and put the phone down. All very odd.
I texted the mobile number he had called me on to ask him to confirm the threat of legal action, and to send over the Downing Street denial, which he texted across.
I also asked him, twice, to tell me his name. He refused, instructing me instead to phone the Downing Street press office, who would confirm the mobile line was indeed his.
“What’s your name tho?” I texted back. Again, he refused to say.
I phoned the Downing Street press office and spoke to a woman who said it was all very irregular, but she would speak to a colleague and come back to me. That was the last I heard from them.
The following morning, I asked a few political journalist friends if they recognised the phone number the caller used. They confirmed for me it belonged to the Downing Street director of communications Jack Doyle.
I was also told by a number of people that Doyle had spoken to a number of other journalists that previous day, informing them Boris Johnson was taking legal action against The New European, presumably to stop the spread of James’s story.
So, naturally, we reported the story that Boris Johnson was suing The New European.
Within half an hour, this newspaper had received numerous and serious promises of both financial support and legal assistance in our defence.
As a small, independent organisation, this was gratefully received, although I must admit the prospect of getting Boris Johnson into a witness box to defend his, ahem, reputation was mouthwatering.
Disappointingly, I soon began receiving calls from journalists telling me that Downing Street was now denying legal action had been threatened. This is, categorically, a lie, but in the great scheme of things #remorsegate is a very small hill to die on.
Not to downplay the consequence of one’s own scoop, but the story didn’t tell us anything we don’t already know. Boris Johnson is a philanderer, a liar, he is loose-lipped and he’s a bully.
That you can say all of these things of a serving prime minister without even thinking to trouble a lawyer for advice, tells you all you need to know about the man Britain elected to the highest office in the land. Shame on us all.
Whether or not he’s experiencing buyer’s remorse in his union with Carrie is immaterial. What really matters is the buyer’s remorse the entire United Kingdom is experiencing under his government.
According to Wikipedia, buyer’s remorse is characterised in terms of anxiety over the terms of the deal just struck. Have I been fooled? Did they spin me a lie? Is there something wrong with the deal I got?
If there’s a soul in the country who hasn’t asked themselves these questions in the context of Brexit, then his name is Mark Francois.
For the rest of us, the sensation of having been well and truly had is burning hot upon our cheeks.
Boris Johnson may be unravelling before our eyes, but so too are the promises he and his acolytes made in 2016. That’s the real story.