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All Over Bar the Pouting …?

Anything but, it seems. For a start, Boris Johnson hasn’t, technically, resigned as PM. And won’t have till he’s asked Her Madge, which he doesn’t plan to do until the Tories choose a new leader. Could take months, if neither they nor the opposition manage to speed things up. If not, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, we’re following Alice through the looking glass.

‘If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.’

Except that it won’t be, if he carries on strutting his PM stuff through the summer.

He says he’ll more or less tread water till he goes. But if that were possible, for that length of time, you wonder what’s the point in having a leader.

In reality that’s not what’ll happen. He’s been called many things in his time, but shrinking violet isn’t one of them.

Not like there’s nothing going on. Russia’s ever-shifting war, for a start. He’ll say his bit and try and do it. The Ukrainian people deserve nothing less.

Then there’s the cost of living crisis/onslaught of protests and strikes. Also looming legal battles over Northern Ireland’s trade arrangements.

Johnson will just keep shtum? Hardly. After all, when asked as recently as last Tuesday if he’d quit he’s said to have replied: ‘F*ck that.’

Indeed, when he did finally accept he’d run out of road, and cited the Tories’ herd instinct, this was widely seen as his way of saying: ‘F*ck you.’

And for now he’ll carry on looking like he’s the man to shoulder responsibility. For better, or for worse, according to taste.

Welcome to the world of talking flowers, crazy royals, weird chess games and Humpty Dumpty.

Of course it will end. Possibly quite soon. Though as one-time Labour PM Harold Wilson remarked: ‘A week is a long time in politics.’

Nonetheless, after the surreal comings and goings of last week the old Brexit slogan has finally come back to bite Boris. Leave means leave.

Innumerable falsehoods were bandied around, and endorsed by Johnson, to achieve that end.

But his cynical manoeuvring at that time, riding on the back of getting Britain out to get himself in, was not blatant enough to estrange the electorate.

Hence the Tories’ eighty-strong majority in parliament.

But last week there was much blurring of edges, particularly by Johnson’s dwindling band of backers.

Our system is not presidential. At the last election he personally chalked up some twenty-five thousand votes. Hardly the fourteen million the party got.

And his burgeoning band of detractors has been wondering if he’s been in a Trumpian dither about who the hell he thinks he is.

He did, after all, seem as delusional about losing the premiership as The Donald was about the presidency.

Hence the farcical scenes last week in Downing Street. And the hiring and firing of ministers, some of whom managed a matter of hours in office.

Johnson’s demise put on its head Shakespeare’s line in Macbeth about the execution of the Thane of Cawdor.

‘Nothing in his life became him, like the leaving it.’ Not.

Sounds pompous to use words like unseemly and undignified. But it looks like they resonate with the British public.

The latest YouGov poll put the Tories eleven points behind Labour. And only half of Conservative voters at the last election would back them right now.

Those figures may well tilt that bit further in Keir Starmer’s direction now that he’s in the clear over his alleged lockdown-busting meal break.

The so-called ‘beergate’ scandal was a right-wing stitch-up from the start. The only question is how come Mr Plod took so long to see through it.

There is, however, a grisly certainty about how beastly the runners and riders in the Tory leadership race will be to one another in the coming weeks.

Cue the old saying that the other side is the opposition, while the enemy is your own lot.

Enjoy the bitch-fest, if that’s what floats your boat.

Political pointy-heads too will have fun weighing up the chances of various candidates most people outside Westminster haven’t even heard of.

There are, however, one or two names, and sets of odds, worth considering.

JL Partners, run by a former Downing Street pollster, found that British voters prefer the Labour leader to all candidates except Rishi Sunak.

His slightly sketchy tax arrangements have been widely seen as ruling him out of the running for the top job.

Besides, he’s so ridiculously rich he’s not exactly a man of the people.

But he doesn’t come across as arrogant. Also, Johnson’s Eton/Oxbridge posh boy background didn’t stop him slithering up the greasy pole. For a while.

Another Sunak plus point is his Covid furlough scheme. For sure, some people slipped through the net, but it kept millions off the breadline.

The next most popular figure is the other top bod who opened the floodgates last week, Sajid Javid.

As Health Secretary he played his part in steering us through tricky bits of the pandemic, and that too won’t go unremembered.

Other surveys give other candidates a fair wind. But, when the contest finally whittles down to just two, Tory members will have an eye for the main chance.

As to what triggered all this in the first place, it’s worth remembering there’s a second significant difference between the British and American systems.

They have a written constitution. We don’t. Hence the emphasis this side of The Pond on simple, plain, truth-telling.

All very well when one-time Labour Deputy PM John Prescott bopped a punter on the nose for Downing Street to say: ‘Oh well, that’s John.’

He only did it once. The inferred ‘oh well, that’s Boris’ wore thinner and thinner as his nose grew longer and longer.

Still, it’s ironic after he’s been so economical with the actualité, as one former Tory fibber-fox memorably put it, what a relatively trivial thing did for him.

So what the stonking whoppers, from implying Brexit would save the NHS right through to claiming he didn’t know about parties he was actually at?

But a tacky little episode, his chum getting so bladdered he forgot where he ended and everyone else began, and he was fingered. Pardon language.

And the upshot? Potentially months with anarchy at the top. A fine mess Johnson’s leaving the rest of us.

As one minister put it, sadly: ‘He can’t run a piss-up in a brewery and hasn’t been able to run one for six months.’

To paraphrase more politely, never mind a government, this man would need emergency plumbers on hand if he even tried to run a bath.

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


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