Cast your mind back to the 30th of June 2016. Sure it was hardly an idealistic time of promise and national unity, what with Brexit’s narrow victory the week prior setting into motion over two years of hapless political bumbling that we’re somehow yet to escape from, but there was one small crumb of comfort to be had – at least Boris Johnson wouldn’t be our Prime Minister.
Having just about thrown his considerable weight behind Leave, a move which by this point is now almost universally accepted as one motivated entirely by self interest, Boris’ master-plan was oh so spectacularly undone by a move straight out of his own playbook, with Michael Gove publicly plunging a knife into the spine of his longtime confidant. That’s just how friends treat each other in the Tory party apparently.
The naively optimistic amongst us may have thought such a spectacular capitulation would spell the end of Johnson’s leadership ambitions, finally vanquishing the lingering threat of our supposedly proud nation inexplicably opting to be lead by a man who seemingly revels in his carefully crafted persona of an odious clod.
However if you’ve spent the past two years existing in blissful exile underneath the most hospitable rock you could find, this morning’s headlines will most certainly have jolted you from your slumber and back into the increasingly disconcerting reality we now occupy.
Yes, Boris is indeed back in the spotlight – though in actuality he never really went away. While it’s true that he maintained a comparatively low profile upon the demise of his pseudo Churchillian dreams, he remained a familiar face in Theresa May’s cabinet; lingering in remission while maintaining an altogether disquieting facade of dutiful obedience – save for the odd not so accidental slip from the party line.
Not that anyone with even the slightest morsel of insight into the mind of Boris Johnson was especially convinced however. Boris wants to be the nation’s head honcho with the same obsessive desperation a man lost in the desert would have for a glass of water. So when the painstakingly calculated moment came to eject himself from the cabinet, with it came a feeling of freedom that, while undoubtedly bringing a great amount of relief to Boris himself, regrettably brought about a dark sense of foreboding for those with sufficient vigilance to see where this is all heading.
Sadly for Boris, the human mind has the capability for remembering events that occurred prior to the previous ten minutes. He can no longer play the fool, swanning around with the same effervescent buffoonery as before – the stage managed Benny Hill tribute simply doesn’t wash anymore and Boris is acutely aware of this.
So he’s had to change tactics. A leopard may be unable to change its spots, but that’s not a problem when said spots were painted on in the first place – and, providing the artist in question whispers enough promises of personal glory into Bojo’s ear, he’s more than happy to rent out his repulsive hide as a canvas for the highest bidder to doodle upon.
For all his internal delusions of being the next Churchill, leading our country to victory through times of unimaginable strife, Boris is ultimately a moral blank. The surrounding pantomime brought about by his purportedly chucklesome antics has never been anything more than a vehicle by which to gain access to Number 10 – even if that means ram-raiding his way through the front door. He wants to be Prime Minister and if that means claiming the highest office in the land without a single scruple in his pocket, then so be it.
It is subsequently of little wonder that Boris hasn’t shown the slightest resistance to becoming Leave.EU’s would be leader of choice – a propagandist group with so little regard for the very notion of integrity itself, they’ll happily sit in front of a parliamentary select committee and smugly confirm that they routinely lie to everyone. Ultimately it’s of mutual benefit to both parties – Boris gets the unwavering support of a prominent social influencer while Banks and chums get themselves a media puppet with access to the highest reaches of government and beyond.
Though it’s not with this symbiotic relationship where the real problem lies, however ghastly a tag team they may be. For reasons beyond the understanding of my relatively modest intellect, Boris remains inexplicably credible to a significantly large demographic of voters. While his absurdly jingoistic twaddle may attract scorn from many corners, there remains a substantial base who see the appeal in such belligerence – still resolute in their belief that Boris Johnson is the political maverick who speaks for them and it is only through incendiary rhetoric that they’ll get the fantastical Brexit they’ve always craved. Fanciful perhaps, but the frankly astonishing power of self persuasion that comes with deep seated faith is not to be underestimated.
Those who, in spite of his galling ideological transience, continue to back Boris to the ends of the Earth are unlikely to find many arguments that sufficiently resonate in order to puncture their bubble of subservience. It’s the ‘feelings over facts’ situation all over again. Nevertheless, irrespective of its almost inevitable futility, there is one tiny question I consider worth posing to them – once Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister, what then?
There’d likely be unbridled joy amongst his disciples at first, but this is likely to be swiftly extinguished by the practical implications of their triumph. After all, what can a man who is effectively a mouthpiece for hire really stand for?
And given that Steve Bannon is the one currently pulling his strings, we can only hope we’re never to find out.Follow @grahamlithgow