FORGOTTEN in all of the commentary about the supposedly imminent demise of Boris Johnson is his dismissal 18 years ago as vice-chairman of the Conservative Party and shadow arts minister by Tory leader Michael Howard. In 2004, Johnson denied an extra-marital affair – on that occasion with Spectator journalist Petronella Wyatt – which resulted in an abortion. With what is now seen to be his signature exuberance as a breezy fabulist, Johnson had mocked reports about their fling as an “inverted pyramid of piffle.” That is, until Wyatt’s mother confirmed the relationship and the tragedy. Not that being party to killing an inconvenient child should be regarded as merely private for a public figure anyway but Howard was utterly sincere when he insisted Johnson wasn’t sacked for his private life but for dishonesty. Recognising the growing popularity of ‘Boris’, it was Howard who appointed him to the shadow ministry and to high Tory office. That decision was as ill-fated as the hiring of Johnson as a graduate trainee at The Times in 1987. He was sacked that same year for lying in an article he wrote for the paper.
The Wyatt affair’s brutal denouement rhymes with the secret 1990 recording of Johnson agreeing to provide the address of News of The World reporter Stuart Collier to his posh longtime friend – now convicted criminal and wife-basher – Darius Guppy. The latter’s intention was to have Collier professionally assaulted for investigating his activities. The affected ‘eccentricity’ and meticulously dishevelled appearance have always been useful to Johnson when he needed to extricate himself from a situation of his own idiotic making; situations that would have ruined the career of a man with council estate manners and a cockney accent. Not quite Vincent Gigante acting bonkers in his pyjamas to throw off the FBI but close. In the early 1960s, a well-briefed Malcolm Muggeridge told a shocked B.A. Santamaria that the lovable new President of the United States had “the morals of an alley-cat.” The same could be said of Johnson.
Like John F. Kennedy, he parleyed a cosmopolitan upbringing – seasoned with an aristocratically impractical education and rounded off with dilettante journalism – into a reputation as ‘brilliant’ man of the hour. Like the Richard Rich counseled by Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, he might have done more good as the teacher he once was at Timbertop rather than as a corruptible man at court. His historical legacy as Prime Minister will be Brexit – no small achievement – but nothing else Johnson has presided over at Number 10 will rattle and hum in the chronicles. That includes his alleged ‘leadership’ in the pretense of saving Ukraine. The very sight of Johnson, Joe Biden and Justin Trudeau at the G20 as The Big Three embodying “Western values” over against Vladimir Putin would be laughable if it wasn’t so sickening.
The war in Ukraine is lost, for all intents and purposes. Still, Boris and the same maniacal zero-ists now shooting at Dutch farmers (sentenced by diktat to a Sri Lankan fate) are as willing to destroy the lives of their citizens in its tawdry name as they were in their equally insane ‘war’ on covid-19. A substantive leader would by now have admitted NATO’s folly in provoking military conflict in the East and encouraged the combatants to come to terms. Like his degenerate North American allies, however, Johnson ravenously seized the low hanging geopolitical fruit of proxy war as a way out of man-made pandemic chaos instead. There is only one genuinely tragic thing about the decline and possible fall of Boris: that British commentators believe Partygate (leaving aside the bum rap over Chris Pincher) is the big scandal. Rather than, say, Whitehall – and themselves – causing the worst levelling of the country since The Blitz. If nobody is ever held accountable for lockdowns, BoGo is likely to become not democracy’s vindication but tyranny’s great escape.