Tony Blair was widely derided for his wish to call his autobiography The Journey, but the real crime is that the title is now off-limits for model-dumping former Liberal Democrat Ukip leader Henry Bolton.
There are journeys and then there are journeys, and in Bolton’s epic world Odysseus looks like some bloke who’s popped out to Londis in his Tracky Bs for an ounce of Amber Leaf.
Let us start somewhere near the beginning. It’s 2005 and our hero is standing for election to Parliament as a Liberal Democrat. Now let us flash forward 12 and half years, and here he is again, Ukip leader now, and dumping his 25-year-old mistress via the medium of John Humphrys and the waking nation on Radio 4’s Today programme, for sending not just racist text messages, but the worst kind of racist text messages: ones about the Royal Family.
We will not stop long to ponder on the sheer scale of the distance covered, because all great journeys of this nature are measured not in metaphorical miles but in the change these tests deliver upon our hero.
And what future students of the Bolton Odyssey will quickly alight on at that this critical juncture is that the character remains conflicted.
His lover has sent text messages suggesting Prince Harry’s fiancee, the daughter of an African American mother, has “a tiny brain”, will “taint” the Royal Family with her “seed” and lead to a “Black King.”
She is now exposed to the world as a total and utter racist, yet this has afflicted upon our hero, according to his own statement to Sky News, “hours of difficult conversation.”
It is just possible that other human beings, even leaders of Ukip, would not find themselves in such torturous conflict upon discovering their new squeeze was a total and utter racist. They would not find themselves choosing, as John Humphrys rather insanely put it, “between the girl and the job”. The “girl” might have been immediately subject to reappraisal in light of her suddenly being revealed as an utterly abhorrent individual.
Yet here is our hero, on a bleak Sunday night in January, wrestling with whether or not there might be some way he can carry on his dalliance.
The academia on this subject will have to consider whether this man, the leader of a party packed to the rafters with total and utter racists, might secretly find these views attractive.
They will have to weigh this evidence against other considerations. Could it merely be that a 54-year-old bald, estranged, political non-entity has taken the view that there may not be more 25-year-old former models waiting down the line for him?
Could it be the “hours of difficult conversation” were spent in a doomed search for some line, some angle, some precious piece of spin that might allow our hero to carry on as Ukip leader and not have to wave a sad farewell to his newly acquired girlfriend 29 years his junior? “Oh Jo. My sweet little Jo. Why Jo why? Why couldn’t they have just been ordinary racist messages? Why did they have to be about the Royal Family? You can’t get away with that. Not even in Ukip.”
Oh, the torturous interplay of the personal and the political. That will be a major theme of the scholarly work on the subject for years to come.
Indeed the Bolton-Odyssey carries within it the capacity to upend the entire classical tradition. Until now, it has always been young, attractive women who have tempted naive old men towards their sad fate.
But we must not rush to the easy conclusions. Could it in fact be that middle-aged near anonymous ex-Lib Dems are the sirens now?
Could it be indeed Bolton who has done the luring? Could poor Marney be the victim, tempted away from the quotidian humdrum with promises of a glamorous new life of downing pints of bitter and photocalls on tanks and fist fights in the Strasbourg Parliament and, who knows, possibly even her own new lingerie line in tweed?
And yet now, Bolton lives. Still leader of Ukip, generously promising to stand by Poor Jo long enough to “help her put her life back together.”
It is she who will have had to listen to her now former lover telling the world of the end of the “romantic element” of their relationship. No more trips to Frankie & Beny’s, no more EE Wednesday two-for-ones to The Darkest Hour at Clacton Vue. But at least the possibility remains open of Bolton again answering the door of her mother’s house in his slippers – just so long as it’s not done romantically.
No, those giddy early days are over. When, and yes Bolton really did say this on Radio 4 this morning, they “discussed integration issues, immigration,” as star-crossed lovers always do.
Indeed, the scholars will have to ponder whether our hero really is a hero at all. He will think himself one, for taking the fight in her honour to the terrifying beasts of the morning media round. “I can’t describe to you how appalled she is at the fact that these have become public,” he told Humphrys.
As Homer himself once said: “Marge, I swear, I never thought you’d find out.”
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