Comebacks are the last refuge of the desperate and deluded. Bands who were great 20 or 30 years ago reunite and the old fans, as terrified by the encroaching spectre of middle-age as the band members themselves, rejoice while they cling to the nostalgia of recapturing their youth; long-suffering supporters of a once-dominant football club celebrate the return of the manager who masterminded that dominance, convincing themselves a resurrection of the glory days is just around the corner. It rarely works out. Time has moved on, the world has changed, and the Messiah is no longer younger than yesterday. Lightning rarely strikes more than the once. Not that the narcissism, ego and vanity of someone as in love with the sound of his own voice and the prestige of power as Boris Johnson would acknowledge these truisms, nor would those in denial of the man’s multiple faults, the very same faults that contributed to his downfall. No! It was a coup, they claim, a coup led by Rishi Sunak; Boris was blameless, stitched-up by the very backstabbing ingrate now poised to launch a fresh bid for the suddenly-vacant No.10. Only one man can stop him – our hero, our saviour, our Boris!
When the original King Charles was executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649, many believed it was his obstinacy and hubris that had plunged the country into a devastating Civil War spanning the best part of a decade; he was seen as more responsible than any other individual for ripping the country apart and causing untold damage and misery; the blood of the nation was on his hands and his death sentence was utterly justified. Yet, a man who had apparently struggled to convey regal majesty throughout his reign saved the best till last, giving a brilliant performance as he approached the block. The King wore two shirts to combat the January chill and therefore avoided shivering – something which could have been interpreted as fear. The calm composure and dignity with which he confronted his fate altered opinion of Charles amongst the crowd, and his beheading was greeted with shocked silence. Swiftly thereafter, Charles I achieved instant martyr status and a cult grew around him that spread to the point whereby 10 years on from his execution, Charles’s exiled son could be welcomed home as Charles II, the merry monarch who would vanquish the grim Puritan austerity of Cromwell’s Commonwealth.
As befits our 24/7 news age, the cult of Boris has been condensed into just a few weeks rather than a decade, and his dedicated disciples have conveniently forgotten the facts that led to Boris officially exiting Downing Street at the beginning of last month. There’s no point reciting the breathtaking litany of black marks against his name all over again; you hardly need to scroll back that far to revisit them on the Winegum posts I wrote at the time. Besides, some are so deeply in denial that they receive any reports of Boris behaving badly as fake news – just like the man himself. Indeed, it’s now blatantly obvious that the maniacal members of the Boris cult were to blame for what came next: the absolute bloody chaos of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it premiership that beggars belief in its utter, unprecedented incompetence. So desperate were they for the man they saw as the wielder of the dagger with Boris’s name on it not to grab the crown, they pushed a patsy forward who they knew lacked every quality necessary to become a successful Prime Minister. And they knew Liz Truss, with her gormless lust for power, would be the perfect fall girl for the mission.
Liz Truss should never have got within a million miles of Downing Street. In each and every televised debate of the summer’s leadership contest, she failed to impress. Even Rishi Sunak’s bland, double-glazing salesman shtick came across as appealing when placed against the clueless, vapid jargon of a woman incapable of transmitting any confidence in her credentials as a serious contender; she looked and sounded like precisely what she was – a dim, minor league politician totally out of her depth, and one who wouldn’t submit to an Andrew Neil grilling because she knew it would expose her myriad shortcomings for the job she’d been led to believe she could do. But she had a powerful PR machine behind her, the kind that can polish a turd so expertly that its beholders could see the reflection of Margaret Thatcher in it. The Mail and the Express bombarded the Tory membership with promises of the second coming of Maggie, and the behind-the-scenes shit-spreaders successfully removed Penny Mordaunt from the race by subjecting her to a dirty tricks campaign; all that remained was to convince the grass-roots. They did, and look what happened. Liz Truss crashed and burned in the space of 44 days and the Messiah is now flying back from the Caribbean to save the nation like King Arthur en route from Avalon.
The Daily Telegraph claims Boris has already begun to woo backbenchers with a charm offensive, glossing over the reasons for his forced departure and reminding them of 2019. Ah, yes – the Glorious Landslide, aided and abetted by the undemocratic shenanigans of the Remoaner mafia and a Labour leader whose own mystifying cult didn’t stretch beyond his fanatical fan-base. The collapse of the Red Wall, which could probably be attributed as much to Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum as Boris Johnson, gave rise to the persistent myth that Boris’s charisma was solely responsible, yet stats tell a different story. Boris’s popularity amongst the general public was actually at its highest, 29%, when he was hospitalised with Covid and appeared to be suffering along with the people, something that his subsequent lockdown-breaking behaviour quickly dispelled. By the beginning of this year, Boris’s approval ratings had slumped to -52%, lower than either Theresa May or David Cameron ever managed at their worst. Even if Boris can rightly claim he never plunged as low as the -70% achieved by Liz Truss on the eve of her resignation, that’s still like pointing out Reggie Kray was a vicious, sadistic thug but at least he wasn’t as much of a twisted psychopath as Ronnie.
But it is Boris’s triumph in 2019 that is serving as a misguided comforter for Tories staring into the black hole of electoral oblivion; according to some, if a General Election were held tomorrow the Conservative Party could be reduced to as few as 60-70 seats, which would virtually signal the end of the most successful political party in the history of the Western world. Parties don’t come back from that kind of decimation. It happened to the Liberals in 1924, and they never recovered. Ah, but only Boris can win it! And winning it is the Tory obsession; that’s all they want to do. No matter that winning it is followed by having to actually govern, for they’ve completely forgotten how to do that – and nobody embodies this fact better than Boris. Okay, so one can argue that Boris’s hero Churchill as well as Harold Wilson both returned to Downing Street, though neither had been ousted as party leader between their separate stints as PM. In fact, one has to go all the way back to Gladstone to find a party leader who left the job and then returned to lead his party to government again – even if the gap from resignation to return was five whole years.
Many harbour understandable and legitimate concerns about Keir Starmer and the Labour Party, but the fiscal reputation the Tories have always fallen back on has been comprehensively trashed this month and few now trust them with their finances; the likelihood is the Conservative Party could well be kicked out of office with the same overwhelming thumbs-down as Corbyn’s Labour received in 2019 – unless Boris waves his magic wand, of course. At the time of writing, only Penny Mordaunt has thrown her hat in the ring, though Rishi Sunak is expected to follow suit any day now. As for Boris, his supporters have all-but convinced themselves their hero will be back at No.10 by this time next week. No. No. And thrice no. We have suffered enough, haven’t we?
© The Editor