For the best/worst (delete as applicable) part of three years now this Eton mess effigy, this sentient scarecrow possessed by the restless soul of a Habsburg-jawed toddler, has done an admirable job of confusing the Conservative Party with a self-styled cult of personality, complete with parrot-like disciples and an aversion to truth so robust and frequent that it would have Pinocchio (did I spell it right, Stanley?) sniffing out what’s for dinner on the International Space Station.
The Prime Minister seemingly has a similarly distorted relationship with what constitutes work too - such is his proclivity for vanishing acts when the going gets tough - so in many respects his latest white-knuckled adherence to a particularly novel script of threadbare excuses, rote and predictable like the prerecorded utterances of a pull-string action figure, also checks out.
Unless you have the cognisance of, say, the most prominent elected official in the country, you will be aware by now that in May 2020, while the cold, vice-like grip of the pandemic was throttling the morale out of an exhausted nation, an email chain did the rounds in Downing Street inviting 100 people or so to a bit of a get-together in Johnson’s very own back garden.
The instruction was to Bring Your Own Bottle - advice that might actually hold some weight were it applied to certain recipients’ political inclinations - and in the end around 30 guests attended, proving once and for all that the Tories never ever need a majority of approval to plough on with a bloody terrible idea.
It was Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds who prodded a doughy digit into the return key and pressed send, but understandably, the outrage in the days since news of the revelry was leaked to ITV has been laser-focused on the Prime Minister.
Was he in attendance? Did he know about the event prior to it happening on his own patio? What even is a party anyways? Well, for the answers to all of those questions, and probably the meaning of life itself, we have to refer to the oracle Sue Gray. Not since Jackie Weaver’s Zoom call Machiavellianism has one woman risen to the forefront of dull political nitpicking with such rapidity.
In fact, given Johnson’s insistence that absolutely every minor detail of his prior transgressions have to be run past the civil servant before he can confirm or deny them, it’s becoming increasingly plausible that she may actually be the evil genius in operation of the man himself, kind of like the rat from Ratatouille, nestling in the depths of the Prime Minister’s bird’s nest and yanking on his follicles. At least it would explain the haircut. And the bumbling.
Eventually, Johnson conceded that he spent 25 minutes in his own garden on that fateful day in May, but only on the understanding that he was actually in some kind of meeting, presumably meaning that he went to bed that night and scribbled in his diary: “Dear Diary, today I put in the longest shift of my life”.
Aside from the perfectly-normal-for-a-governmental-summit self-supplied alcohol, eye witness reports have also claimed that there was a bountiful mound of picnic food on offer, all laid out across various tables.
Again, not to make excuses on the Prime Minister’s behalf, but if he walks up to something resembling a desk and sees a row of crudely fashioned lumps of mincemeat with flaky exteriors, it must be hard for him to tell if he’s looking at a plate of sausage rolls or a cabinet meeting. Zing. Here all week. No really, please save your applause - there are nurses who could use those claps to pay their rent.
If only this government showed the same passion for providing free school meals at the height of a pandemic as they do for providing free Twiglets for their own staff at the height of lockdown. In the end, the downfall of Johnson’s omnishambles could end up being death by a thousand nibbles, and what a fittingly petty way for things to unravel if it is.
But what possesses a Prime Minister to profess one thing from his flag-toting lectern one minute and then do the complete flaming opposite just hours later?
It is, of course - and say it with me, folks - the unerring belief that he is above his own rules because he is fundamentally better than the rest of us. It’s the barefaced conviction that a couple of swift bevs with his mates is more important than solidarity with the nurses, doctors, and other key workers who have suffered untold trauma over the past two years. It’s the Divine Right of Pimms.
And this is what Johnson will never understand. Great leadership is not about spouting Latin proverbs and espousing the virtues of Churchillian spirit. It’s about compassion, and integrity, and above all else, empathy.
There have been dreadful Prime Ministers before. There will almost certainly be dreadful Prime Ministers again. As the vultures begin to circle above Johnson’s premiership, the queue to become the next one has arguably already started snaking round the block. But few, if any, of his predecessors have possessed Boris’ pathological disregard for the truth.
This self-obsessed charlatan wants to be revered with the awestruck majesty and unbridled adoration of a Lord Nelson, and instead he addresses every challenge he meets with the heavy-handed, guffawing cruelty of a Nelson Muntz.
Nonetheless, he will try to hang on - obstinate and arrogant in the face of a dawning reality - but whatever happens over the coming days and weeks, much like he does when he sees an invite to an illegal gathering in his own back garden, Johnson simply has to go.
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