Patrick Timms is Editor of the Wolves of Westminster.
We saw at this week’s PMQs a Boris Johnson who was more contrite than he has ever been, and yet somewhat less contrite than he should have been. Various former partners of his may know the feeling.
This was a Prime Minister who, fundamentally, did not (and still does not) believe he has done anything that is all that wrong, but has been forced to accept that he may have done something a bit wrong.
But that either way, really, the whole business of the Downing Street parties had all been stirred up just to have a go at him. To be fair to him, though, his instinct is probably quite right on that score.
There is a plot to remove the democratically-elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and/or his wife – who, of course, now that they have children, can only be removed by the vector of him. There – I said it.
I have suspected this for some months now. The key to understanding it is the way in which it is being undertaken. This is an old trick in Westminster, and it’s an old one because it’s a good one.
When you really want to get rid of someone, you do it by dredging up stuff from the past – long beyond the point at which it could have been dealt with sensibly – and then drip-feed it to the press.
Normally, were the matter a one-off affair for which either the target themselves was responsible, or else someone for whom the target must take the rap, the whistle would be blown and whatever had happened would come out relatively quickly. It would then be dealt with, and we move on.
There would be – as I now rather fondly recall from English lessons in my primary school days, before I had anything to do with the wearying business of politics – ‘a beginning, a middle and an end’.
But that is not the way this affair is proceeding. It had a beginning, yes, but its middle is designed to be inherently interminable. Its only logical end can be written either by the target, or by those who then rally and ‘target’ him – just like poor Simon in The Lord of the Flies.
The methodology is typical of its genre. You drip the first bit out, and the media goes crazy – especially in a frenetic scenario like this one, in which people who have had far less to do than they ought to have had in the past few months suddenly release all of their fury.
All of the typically pro-target commentators will then write articles saying ‘do shape up, Boris’… ‘do sort it out, Boris’… ‘you can carry on if you’ll just get a grip on your Government, Prime Minister’ – as, indeed, they since have.
But even if he does – today, tomorrow or yesterday – that will not matter, because the stories will just keep dripping out regardless. This will be done bit by bit, and over time, so he cannot escape their fallout, even if he does suddenly ‘shape up’.
Drip… drip… drip…
Someone has clearly been sitting on a cache of material for over a year and a half, as is evident from the various dates in play.
This brings us to the central question: why is it that we are only just finding out about all this now? The answer to that question is: because someone, somewhere, wants us to find out about it now. But who, and why?
I am no fervent supporter of the Prime Minister, although I have only limited confidence in the Conservative Party to produce a credible alternative leader at this juncture.
But if you wish to remove a Prime Minister, or perhaps his entire party, then there is one – and only one – proper time and place to do so. That is at the ballot box, at the time of the next election.
To all those who would desert the Prime Minister now, I can say only this: it is entirely possible that you are being deliberately manipulated. It is wholly plausible that you are being caught up in someone else’s agenda – that of a person who wishes to force a change of leadership in this country by sleight of hand. And you do not even know who they are, or what they want, you are potentially playing into their hands regardless.
For the record: no, I don’t think it’s Dominic Cummings. But such a person would seek to do so by playing upon your own righteous anger at the notion that those who set the rules now appear to have subsequently broken them, and thus far with impunity – if, indeed, they actually did.
I do note on that score, however, that it is, as ever, the shrillest voices that are most likely those who know perfectly well that they were hardly saints during the pandemic themselves. Dear Reader, if you are entirely honest with yourself here, I imagine you can relate.
And so we come to what the alternative would be, if not only the Prime Minister, but in fact his entire party, is ultimately ousted from office. Enter Sir Keir Starmer.
It has been evident from plenty of interviews and profile pieces on Starmer that he views himself as quite literally the antithesis of Boris Johnson. The latter, to his mind, is a man who has never followed the rules and has always thought himself quite above them. A man whose sheer moral decadence – in his view – is reason enough for him to be forced from office by any means necessary.
“I’m nothing like Boris Johnson”, the former forensic prosecutor – who, like most of that sort, is utterly convinced that it is for men like him to define the moral high ground – said recently. The Prime Minister is “the worst possible leader at the worst possible time”, he told the BBC.
Recent events have played entirely into his own worldview that he is just the man to see off this sleazy bunch of incompetents – as he would, no doubt, refer to them – slung out on their ear.
But herein we see that Starmer has now become that most dangerous of men: the Deliverer.
For, in the most desperate hour, the Deliverer shall surely attend thee. His coming shall herald the dawn of a new era, in which the Forces of Darkness shall be cast out, and the world evermore bathed in a renewed light of hope and optimism. After all, a Deliverer arrives at a time of great need in order to wash away the degenerate Old Order. How, then, in his own eyes, could he ever be doing anything wrong?
Things, surely, can only get better…?
But my generation grew up under another such man who was to be a Deliverer, and I remember the very great damage to the fabric of our society (and one other in particular, elsewhere in the world) that his governance of our nation ultimately wrought
This was due, in equal measure, to the men and women he gathered around him, who were entirely unable to see how whatever they were doing could ever be anything other than, in the purest terms, The Right Thing To Doּ™.
Be very careful what you no longer wish for.