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Boris Johnson’s Ponzi scheme of promises comes crashing down

There are, just about, enough Tory MPs who aren’t too stupid to understand the precise question that’s in front of them: is it worth it?

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Wednesday 02 February 2022 15:30 GMT
‘Here we go again’: PM refuses to say if he was at lockdown ABBA party in own flat

The startled welp that went up when with the Big Dog walked in fooled absolutely no one. Wherever Boris Johnson goes these days, he finds panicked people engaged in very ostentatious conversation about a nearby inanimate object they appear to have just laid their eyes on.

His life is a cliched sitcom in which everyone he meets has just changed the subject, and nowhere more so than in the House of Commons. “Have you done your letter? I’ve done my letter. Not gonna wait for the police but it’s only a matter of ti...  WWWWWRREEEEEEEEYYYYYYYY!”

The noontime braying was loud but it didn’t mask the truth, and nor did the half hour that followed. There are, just about, enough Tory MPs who aren’t too stupid to understand the precise question that’s in front of them in these seemingly neverending hours of utter shame. And it’s this: Is it worth it? Or more accurately: Is he worth it?

Is he worth the humiliation? What are we getting out of it exactly? For a while, it was a Tory article of faith that Boris is invaluable just for being Boris. That the pantomime clown act just wins them elections that they otherwise can’t. It’s not entirely untrue but it’s not as true as they think it is either.

They love to point out that he won Labour-loving London twice, which he did, but on both occasions he beat Ken Livingstone, who’d already done two full terms and had come to look a tiny bit rough around the edges.

They obviously love to mention the EU referendum, which was a stunning victory, but it’s a statement of fact that it wasn’t a personal victory for Johnson, and that his personal contribution is not altogether easy to quantify.

And more than anything, they love their huge majority, but they love it so much they possibly don’t see the fact that he was very personally unpopular even going into it, and it was an election just as much about Brexit and Corbyn as it was about him.

So, well, is he helping? Very unfortunately for him, his personal popularity has always depended on people never actually knowing who he really is. But the neverending saga has very publicly killed off the clown act at the worst possible time – when absolutely everybody is watching.

That he doubled down on his Jimmy Savile slander at PMQs will have surprised no one. That is the level to which he has been reduced. But what will surely have worried the Conservatives more are the other accusations Starmer was able to level at him, which ring more than a little bit true.

It’s not normal for a Labour leader to be able to stand there and tell a Conservative prime minister that his is the party of high taxes and low growth. To point out that he’s been writing frankly insane opinion pieces in the Sunday papers, talking of the “tax-cutting Tories”. They’re not tax cutters, they’re tax risers. And he did this on a day when the front pages of the Daily Mail and the never knowingly critical Daily Express have gone a little bit apoplectic on their front pages about the £12bn that’s been squandered on PPE that turned out not to work.

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They will have to ponder whether they’re really going to get as much payback as they thought from this guy whose most recent budget was mourned on the front of The Daily Telegraph as the “death of Conservatism”. Are they absolutely sure the guy who’ll promise absolutely anything to anyone if it gets him through the next 20 minutes won’t, by the time of the next election, be juggling too many plates, spinning too many lies, that the whole Ponzi scheme of bulls*** promises just comes crashing down.

It won’t have escaped their attention either that he’s already halfway through his first full term, and yes, there’s been a pandemic but he’s only now getting round to publishing the details for his big “levelling up” plans and there really isn’t very much there.

And it might just be that enough of them have worked out that, actually, it’s not merely that being under criminal investigation for parties in your own flat and very obviously lying to the House of Commons about it is enough to get rid of you purely for its own merit. It might also be a chance they’ll regret not taking.

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