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You only lie twice? Never say never again…

The name’s Johnson, Boris Johnson. Licenced to kill propriety, decency and sincerity...

Montage: The New European


All last week it tortured me – just what precisely was it that Britain’s political predicament reminded me of? Liz Truss was out as prime minister after an almost hilariously disastrous six weeks in office, confusion as to what to do next reigned and the previous incumbent was angling for a rematch. It seemed completely unprecedented, until I realised I’d seen it all before.

It was a rerun of James Bond. Or rather, James Bond 50 years ago.

The cinephiles and Bond nerds among you will recall that OG 007 Sean Connery, visibly bored of the role after making five movies in as many years, quit after 1967’s You Only Live Twice. After apparently screen-testing every decent-looking actor in the English-speaking world, the franchise’s producers startled everyone by casting George Lazenby, a 28-year-old Australian male model with virtually no acting experience (he’d been in a chocolate advert and that was about it).

The resulting movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, has divided critics and Bond fans ever since – it’s some people’s favourite movie in the series, it’s others’ least favourite – but consensus that young George was at best an inadequate successor to The Other Fella was more or less universal (although if you rewatch the movie, he’s surprisingly OK considering his inexperience).

In any event, Lazenby was one and done as far as Bond movies were concerned – even before the tepid critical reception, he’d fallen out with the film’s producers (and spectacularly so with his leading lady Diana Rigg, or so legend has it), further enraging them by rocking up to the premiere sporting decidedly unBondian flowing locks and beard (he was a guy in his 20s in 1969, after all).

Bondless once more and utterly adrift, the producers turned in desperation to Connery, begging him to name his price to reprise the role. Sean demanded – and got – $1.25m (which, to his credit, he used to found the Scottish International Education Trust) and returned for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.

Now I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you why this series of events has been on my mind of late – the star player leaves, a barely competent newbie gets the gig, dies on his arse and is duly dismissed, a desperate organisation looks to the star player to come back and save them… the DIFFERENCE, of course, is that Sean Connery quit of his own accord in 1967; he hadn’t been hounded out of the job for being permanently mired in scandal and impossible to work with. And unlike Boris Johnson, Connery actually did come back (although when it comes to Johnson, never say never again).

Meanwhile, whether Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer will turn out to be Roger Moore in this analogy remains to be seen…


The most bewildering spectacle of these times (which consist, after all, largely of bewildering spectacles) was those same Tory politicians who, only three months ago, drove Boris Johnson out of office, including some of those ex-ministers who published excoriating letters of resignation, singing his praises and clamouring for his return before deciding that on balance, Rishi Sunak was the man after all.

But how could they back a Johnson restoration? How did they manage to clear from their minds the fact that this golden-haired saviour, this whitest of Great White Hopes, was literally the exact same guy they decried as mendacious and debauched (and, perhaps more relevantly, recognised as an electoral liability) just one short summer ago? Some sort of hypno-therapy, perhaps? Powerful psychoactive medication? Severe head trauma?

I’m sure the therapeutic industry is dying to know just how an entire political party managed to expunge years of painful memories in just a few short weeks. The possibilities for new treatments for PTSD…

Unless of course they’re all just a bunch of moral cowards, liars and utter hypocrites with no thought for anything except their own immediate career prospects.


Spare a thought, if you will, for the late George Canning (1770-1827). Not only was his political career compromised by scandal in 1807 when he was wounded in a duel (and while we’re here, wouldn’t you LOVE to see a return to the time-honoured tradition of political rivals setting their differences with swords and pistols instead of endlessly anonymously briefing against each other?); not only was he hampered by the personal animosity of King George IV; not ONLY was he, having finally achieved his ambition of becoming prime minister, struck down by tuberculosis just 118 days into his tenure… but thanks to the spectacular incompetence of Liz Truss, he will now no longer even be remembered as Britain’s shortest-serving PM.

This, indeed, may be the last time his name appears in print anywhere. Guy just can’t catch a break.


You poor exhausted Tories
Defending your position
Wouldn’t you like a few relaxing
Years in opposition?
Just think! No more excuses
Obfuscation or reflection
Just bite your lip, resign the whip
And call the damned election

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See inside the “I will make Brexit work” edition

Credit: Tim Bradford

Is Johnson finished?

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