Boris Johnson's resignation speech was a fitting end to a man who has never believed in anything but himself

Boris Johnson said 'a fog of self doubt' had descended since Theresa May's Lancaster House speech. What actually has descended since then is a lost election

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Wednesday 18 July 2018 17:57
Boris Johnson encourages government to aim to 'glorious vision of Lancaster House'

So tragic is Boris Johnson’s attempt to curate his own little place in history that, like the office leper who organises his own birthday cake, it has almost become endearing.

Last week, he bunked off the Russian chemical attack cobra meeting because he was too busy, with a press photographer he’d booked himself, having his picture taken pretending to sign a resignation letter that turned out to be mainly lies.

And this week, on Wednesday afternoon to be exact, as he rose to give his “resignation statement” in the same spot of the House of Commons from where Geoffrey Howe once launched the soft assassination of Margaret Thatcher, it was clear he was doing his utmost to confer upon himself and the occasion a greatness that wasn’t there.

Nobody had gathered to hear him. Not a member of the cabinet was present, not a significant member of the Labour Party, though, to be fair, there’s not many of them to be found these days. The Liberal Democrats offered no one more significant than Tom Brake.

In a four fifths empty chamber, his hard Brexit acolytes had gathered around him in a doughnut, a now well established ruse for the benefit of the TV cameras. It gave, if nothing else, a clear window in to the calibre of people on whom Boris Johnson now depends.

To his immediate left was Nadine Dorries, nodding vociferously, emitting curious sotto voce whoops, each time Johnson said that staying in the single market and the customs union would mark a betrayal of Brexit.

On 27 June 2016, just after the referendum, as the country debated the way ahead, Ms Dorries said on Twitter that “the Norway model is always my preference”, linking to a news article that explained in great depth what the the “Norway model” is. It involves staying in the single market, the continued free movement of people and abiding by the rules of the European Court of Justice long after the power to influence the making of those rules will be over.

And here she was, cheering on Boris Johnson for bravely walking out of the government over these precise issues.

It is so totally stupid, so unfathomably cretinous, so far beyond the realm of reason as to be impossible even to discuss.

In front sat Andrea Jenkyns, who before becoming the Hype Boy for Hard Brexit in recent weeks, was someone who’s name was only ever heard in Westminster when pub tables or lunch tables turned occasionally to the topic of who is the actual, stupidest MP in the House of Commons. When this happens, stories told by former members of her staff about her deep belief in the power of horoscopes tend to emerge.

It was her who, a few weeks ago, took a member of her staff out on to the streets outside the Houses of Parliament so they could film her telling pro-EU protesters that they “don’t believe in democracy.” That’s people protesting, people exercising their democratic right to protest, not just being told, by an MP, that they don’t believe in democracy, but that MP filming her own act of quite breathtaking ridiculousness then putting it on social media herself.

Behind him sat Ben Bradley, a man whose contribution to public life since becoming MP for Mansfield last year has been accusing Jeremy Corbyn of passing secrets to Soviet spies then being forced into a hilariously grovelling apology for what was a clear libel or face legal action.

And in the middle, the flower grown from the pot of soil, stood Boris Johnson who explained how nothing was his fault, he’d do it all much better, and, with weeks to spare, it “wasn’t too late” for him to win an argument he has spent the last two years comprehensively losing.

What we witnessed was not the death of a salesman. The salesman gave his best impression of a man in full health, but he could not have made any clearer that the dream he’d brought with him was dead.

He spoke of the old days, of Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech, in which she’d proudly promised to take Britain out of the customs union and out of the single market. “The pound soared,” he recalled. (The pound rose from $1.23 to $1.24, and had descended from these soaring heights within a month. They had not, of course, returned to anything like the roughly $.140 mark it was at on June 23rd 2016, before he crashed it in the middle of the night, further enriching some already billionaire hedge fund managers and ruining normal people’s summer holidays).

Since then, he said, “a fog of self doubt has descended...We never turned that vision into a negotiating position.”

It is so very boring to have to point out that that “vision” was never turned into a negotiating position because it was first put to the British people in a general election, who took one look at it and said “absolutely not.”

We learned that if the Prime Minister could just return to this position she would “unite the party and the country,” an opinion entirely unencumbered by the reality that the party and the country are as bitterly divided as they’ve ever been, and they could not have been abundantly clearer in rejecting this position outright.

Naturally, it had the cadence if not the content of a leadership bid, though the mechanics of that are baffling to see. The only way Boris Johnson can become leader of the Conservative Party is if the Conservative Party first topples Theresa May, and the circumstances in which that would happen would necessarily be more toxic even than they currently are. At that point, first the MPs and second the members would have to survey the radioactive wasteland all around them and decide the person to get them out of this mess is the one whose utter shamelessness, moral vacuity and general sociopathic delinquency had caused it in the first place. They will also have to look at his two, unprecedentedly abysmal years in the Foreign Office and take from them that the man has what it takes for the top job. All of which is to say that, in fact, it probably will happen.

There are many who will have hoped to view Johnson’s resignation as the last Bullingdon boy to finally leave the smashed up restaurant. But this time it was slightly different.

Rather it was the biggest degenerate of the lot, picking up the last fragments of already smashed plate and throwing them through the already smashed windows, smearing the already spilt claret yet further into the wallpaper and claiming that, no, the cheque’s not coming this time but don’t worry, look, I know how to clear it all up.

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