Posted by Richard on  UTC 2022-07-20 09:43 Updated on UTC 2022-07-20

Boris Notgodunov: a tedious opera with an overcomplicated plot that requires much suspension of disbelief. Will it never end? Not for a while yet, and possibly not the way you think.

My antipathy for Boris Johnson goes back about twenty years, to the time when he was editor of the Spectator.

I had submitted a piece for publication and he had accepted it.

There was silence for a few weeks. I let it ride a while, not wanting to appear pushy – I know, a writer's euphemism for 'desperate'. Yes, it would have cheered me up at that moment in my life to see a piece that had cost me some effort to research and write appear in print.

When I finally contacted him about the silence around the publication of my article he responded with what was patently a fairy story about why it had not been published, concluding with no offer to publish it now. Executive summary: go away.

Well, writers can expect to be able to paper the walls of their hovels with rejection letters, but the mendacity and sociopathy which Johnson revealed in this episode struck me as quite remarkable. In the intervening years I haven't tracked Johnson in any obsessive way – I moved on quickly from that incident – but every now and then some tale or other about him popped up, confirming and strengthening that first impression. Yes, that's Boris, I would think.

Despite it all, despite a character blacker than pitch, he somehow ascended through one bungle after another, from one scandal after another, to become Prime Minister. We have mentioned some of the more egregious cases on this website passim. In my opinion, Boris hasn't emerged tainted from his latest political shambles – he couldn't be more tainted than he already was – but those who elevated him to these heights – politicians, their backers and the media – are now revealed for the shameless, brainless incompetents they are.

These same incompetents are now talking and writing about Boris Johnson's 'resignation'.

The only trouble with this is, he hasn't resigned.

There was a pantomime, of course, which we all saw: the lectern in front of Number Ten, the loved ones and trusty helpers standing gravely to one side as the brave leader did the noble deed and fell on his sword.

But he didn't. Nowhere in his speech did he say 'I resign'. Nor was there a promise to resign at some date in the future. He didn't fall and there was no sword.

There was some waffle about the need for his party to run a leadership contest, something which should be done in time for the party conference. No one can explain why a leader with a comfortable majority of supporters in the parliamentary party needs to be removed. No one can explain what the Conservative party conference has to do with the present situation, unless as an event where Johnson can work his base with bluster and rhetoric. Oh, how we shall miss him, the 'Big Dog'!

Johnson's idiot rivals have now spent several weeks smearing and discrediting each other; but the clever ones – Rees-Mogg, for example, Steve Baker, Gove – are all standing back, waiting for the fat lady to sing. The media love leadership campaigns and have been totally focussed on this treat, just the way junkyard dogs are focussed on the bone that has been tossed over the fence to keep them amused while Johnson nips in and bags the lead and copper.

The 'resignation announcement' was just another piece of Johnsonian theatre for the gullible, just like all the hi-vis jackets and hard hats of his premiership so far.

The plotters failed to unseat him in the recent leadership challenge when, nota bene, two thirds of the parliamentary party supported him. The idiotic rules in this matter have explicitly not been changed; the party's MPs did not change them and make it possible to challenge him again. In the formal procedural sense he is secure for nearly another year. He has not resigned. He cannot be sacked. The votes to do that are not there.

There is currently some muttering about the 'unfairness' of the procedure to elect the Tory party leader. Unfair it certainly is, since on most occasions the party members, who are supposed to decide the issue, are offered at best two candidates (one of whom is traditionally unelectable anyway), but in recent elections one of the two has withdrawn to make way for a coronation of the preferred candidate.

Johnson let it be known that he himself is not a candidate in the leadership contest. Well of course he isn't. Why should he be? He is already leader and will remain so until he chooses to go. But this idea has seeded in the minds of the Johnson faithful.

Let's see if the party faithful ignore the chosen pretenders and instead write in the name of the candidate they themselves want. Who would that be, do you think? But anyway, I repeat: there is no job vacancy to be filled here. The present occupant has not resigned and cannot be removed.

Oh… hang on a moment. 'More than 2,000 Conservative members have written to the party’s chairman to demand a vote on whether Boris Johnson should carry on as leader' the Telegraph tells us today. That's a bit of a straw in the wind, isn't it? Can you remember Conservative party members doing this for May, Cameron or any other failed leader? No, nor can I.

Then there is the small matter of a petition that has now been launched in which members of the party 'demand Boris Johnson be added to the ballot as an option for the members to vote upon in the forthcoming election.'

In the meantime, Johnson's 'interim' government has been cruising nicely through the political doldrums of summer – no resignations, no scandals – how different from the rats in a sack atmosphere of the current leadership charade that has destroyed the reputations of all his challengers.

Boris Johnson once again has kicked the can down the road and waits for 'events' in the form of some crisis or another – there are plenty of them on the way, after all – to come to his aid, when he will present himself to a grateful nation as their saviour in these dark times. For Johnson, it's always 1940. This tedious opera is nowhere near the final act.

And then, even if the 'continuity Boris' plan fails, he has been handed a fully formed Dolchstosslegende for his autobiography – the great leader knifed from behind by the cabal of unsavoury midgets whose slippery manouverings we have all observed.

Update 20.07.2022

Boris Notgodunov could not resist winding up friend and foe at his 'last' Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon. He told the House that his mission had been 'largely accomplished – for now'. For the simpletons who might still be assuming this was his finale he noted that he was appearing at 'probably … certainly' his last PMQs. He closed with thanks all round and the phrase 'hasta la vista, baby'. For the sake of any readers on planets far, far away, the Telegraph explained: 'The phrase "hasta la vista", which means "see you later" in Spanish, was made popular in the film Terminator 2'. Readers may remember that this was one of the two phrases from that film that have passed into legend. The other, left unspoken but now planted subliminally in our minds by Boris, is the even more famous one: 'I'll be back'.

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