Why Boris Johnson should be put in charge of Brexit in a cabinet reshuffle

A softer version of Brexit would be the very thing to hold his party together and further his own ambition 

Tuesday 02 January 2018 12:44 GMT
What is Article 50?

One of the consequences of eating too much rich food and consuming too much booze is, for me, unusually vivid dreams. These aren’t unwelcome, frightening as they can be, because they’re more like being in an immersive and totally realistic horror movie experience, which I enjoy. So when I find myself getting into a fight in a stationery cupboard or being chased down a Tube train naked or discovering that Leicester City have sold Riyad Mahrez to Arsenal, I am really terrified but afterwards it’s like emerging from the local multiplex following the latest Saw movie, and you look back and think how much you enjoyed it. Well, not the Mahrez bit.

The other night I dreamt that they’d put Boris Johnson in charge of Brexit. I know, ridiculous. All sorts of phantasmagoria filled my fevered imagination. There was Boris lumbering naked down a Brussels corridor pursued by Jean-Claude Juncker, also starkers apart from his impressive girthsome cigar. There was Boris grinning with a watermelon smile outside the negotiations, waving a little scrap of paper, which bears his signature and that of Donald Tusk, in the air, followed up with a rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in the original German. There too is Boris, whistling insouciantly and wheeling a pushchair into the chamber of the House of Commons with a tiny-but-plump blonde-haired infant in its seat, chewing messily on a mythological straight banana (the baby, not Boris). He (the baby, not Boris) rises to quote Prospero in The Tempest: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”

Then I woke up. But instead of a merely entertaining hallucination with plentiful scope for Freudian analysis, I soon realised that yes indeed Boris Johnson was going to be appointed Brexit supremo any minute now. I notice, which I had no premonition of, that Boris has also said that he would “resist” such an offer, but I think we all know how susceptible the old chap is to the many temptations that have passed his way over the years. De facto Deputy Prime Minister? Too tempting.

In fact it is a much better idea than it sounds. First, Boris has got a brain. I have watched him for years and wondered whether his “genius-playing-a-buffoon” shtick might actually have been a double bluff, so that Boris has been, all along, in fact, a “buffoon-playing-a-genius-playing-a-buffoon”, albeit one who disguises his idiocy by speaking in Latin. He’s lazy, and would rather busk than do his homework, as Michael Gove told us when he parted company with him in the post-Cameron chaos in 2016. But he is still more intelligent than anyone else around that cabinet table.

Boris would, then, be bolstering a rather intellectually underpowered team on the British side. As we witnessed with the surprise success of phase one of the talks, the very mention of Boris’s name is sufficient to make the Europeans capitulate, for fear that he would replace Theresa May. How much easier it will be, then, for him to intimidate them face to face.

It would also be very smart to put Boris in charge of all this because he wouldn’t have anyone to blame when the inevitable compromises have to be agreed. After cash is handed over, and humiliating U-turns are executed, he cannot go around Westminster saying that it’d all be all right if he was in charge, because he would be in charge. He can’t resign over a deal that he himself has negotiated. Can he? The chances are that it would be a better deal than his colleagues could secure anyway, whatever it turns out to be.

In such a circumstance we may find a softer, gentler Boris emerging from that familiar Eurosceptic carapace. Not quite a butterfly in Union Jack livery, but a more matured, more seasoned politician who understands more fully that, with Brexit more than most issues, politics really is the art of the possible. Like his great hero Winston Churchill, he may find that a certain flexibility of outlook and approach is required, as well as all the echoing rhetorical flourishes and dramatic poses. It might even be that his most recent bout of Euroscepticism has, in the main, been a mere vehicle for his own ambitions – and that he discovers, to further that ambition and hold his party together, a softer version of Brexit is the best that can be had in all the circumstances.

In which case Boris will become a national hero, uniting his party and nation, confounding his critics, and vanquishing his political enemies, and leave Bozza well set to take over at No 10 and lead a newly invigorated global Britain into its buccaneering future. Having done more than anyone to launch Britain into its hard Brexit nightmare, could Boris, more happily, lead us out of it too?

Or am I dreaming?

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