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Going, going .. ? Watch it, Bojo !

Boris Johnson is fighting on multiple fronts. Same as President Zelensky. And while the intensification of the West’s proxy war against the Russians is leaving the outcome hanging in the balance, the situation at home is looking just as unpredictable, albeit nothing like as heartrending. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, the two men are risking all for the highest possible stakes.

The latest Private Eye cover shows the British and Ukrainian leaders shaking hands, with both saying: ‘Thank you for coming to my rescue!’

No question Johnson has had a good war, so far. Rarely putting a foot wrong and setting a fine example by copiously upping armaments supplies to the embattled country.

But there’s already something faintly historic about the magazine’s take on his fortunes.

While the sinking of Putin’s Black Sea flagship has certainly rocked his boat (sic), the Old Bill has holed Johnson’s credibility dangerously close to the waterline.

He’s got a lot of explaining to do, in parliament, about how he didn’t actually lie through his teeth about that party he went to that he says he didn’t know was a party.

And he may have a whole lot more on his plate, crowding the birthday cake into the bin, if he’s banged to rights over other, er, gatherings, he may or may not have been at.

Comedian Eddie Izzard has a good joke about pears. Because one minute they’re rock hard and the next they’re overripe mush there’s hardly ever a good time to eat them.

So far the same has held true about Tory MP’s moving in for the kill over Johnson’s seemingly flagrant disregard of his own Covid lockdown rules.

But that could change at any moment, even though he’s thrashing around for ways of pushing the punters into thinking about something else. Anything will do.

As one waggish Times commentator put it: ‘I know what will distract the public from government law-breaking. A good old barney about immigration. Over to you Priti.’

Dead on cue, Home Secretary Priti Patel rushed to Rwanda to trumpet the incredibly brilliant wheeze of sending would-be immigrants thousands of miles away.

Yes, there are marked similarities between Putin’s Russia and the former Belgian colony, where press freedom is almost non-existent and human rights not much better.

But Johnson insists it’s an act of compassion – helping to save all those poor exploited folk from getting drowned in the Channel.

The classic definition of chutzpah, the kid who murders his parents then demands clemency because he’s an orphan, might spring to mind here.

Still, it’s got tongues wagging. Right-wing papers say good on yer, mate, while others say the scheme’s cruel, inhumane, unprecedented and illegal.

Be interesting, perhaps depressing, to see how it plays out on the doorsteps in the forthcoming Wakefield by-election.

This has been triggered by the resignation in the red wall constituency of the sitting Tory MP, following his conviction for sexual assault.

The cost of living crisis, however, can be expected to loom large.

While official figures show the huge spike in Covid cases is now past its worst, polls suggest people are more worried about paying their bills than the disease anyway.

Little wonder, as one of the immediate effects of the Ukraine war is a massive hike in inflation over here.

The unprecedented fifty-four per cent leap in energy prices, plus the hit to a host of other everyday necessities, have pushed up price rises to a thirty-year high.

Seems only yesterday Chancellor Rishi ‘Dishy’ Sunak was seen as heir apparent to Boris Johnson.

But now, thanks to revelations about his wife’s tax affairs, not to mention his own considerable wealth, he’s turned into Rishi ‘Filthy Richy’ Sunak.

Which explains, say his critics, the lack of help offered in his mini budget last month for those on benefits. Their argument being he just doesn’t get it.

Pity, really, as the official number crunchers funded by his own department predict the biggest slump in living standards for seventy years.

Word is Johnson’s gunning for him too, because he didn’t give him wholehearted support when the partygate scandal took off back in February.

And now that Sunak himself has also been fined for being in the wrong place at the wrong time a line from Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night heaves into view.

‘Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.’

But it’s fair to say neither of the Downing Street neighbours is a particularly happy bunny at the moment.

For the good reason that the full report into the whole sorry affair by the Whitehall sleazebuster-in-chief Sue Gray could come any day.

What with that, as well as the distinct possibility of at least three more fines coming his way, Johnson’s set to have a really beastly week.

Chances are MP’s won’t just be debating the length of his nose, but also voting on whether to let a commons committee put it under the microscope.

These guys can, if they choose, suspend or even expel any MP judged to have been unforgivably naughty. Either way, their sessions would make for compulsive viewing.

And even if he gets through that little lot, Johnson’s facing next month's town hall elections.

They’re viewed in the Westminster Bubble as a glorified opinion poll. But if lots of voters show signs of taking against them, more Tory MP’s will want a new boss, pronto.

Makes you wonder what drives people like him to sail so close to the wind in the first place.

Obviously, it’s grotesquely unfair to remotely bracket Johnson’s semi-detached relationship with the truth alongside Putin’s hideous indifference to human misery.

But boffins are starting to believe that people who seek power do share certain genetic traits.

A few years back, scientists at University College London went so far as to identify a leadership gene, which they named rs4950.

It is, they claimed, an inherited DNA sequence which seems to be disproportionately present in people in positions of power.

They talked of the dark triad – of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy – that can lead to questionable decision-making and irrational self-confidence.

And, in a recent book, the uni’s Doctor Brian Klaas argued the real question is not whether power corrupts, but why corruptible people are attracted to power.

That said, he is convinced that getting to the top does have its impact:

‘All of the evidence from psychology shows it makes people reckless, and makes them believe they can control outputs when they can’t.

‘I have interviewed a lot of despots who started out as reformists but who were more willing to bend the rules as time goes on,’ he adds.

And Dr Thomas Roulet of the University of Cambridge fleshes out just that point.

‘The more you are locked up in your ivory tower the less you realise the normal of the group .. so you lose touch of the perspective of everyday people.

‘You see that with totalitarian regimes, where leaders completely lose touch with the real world,’ he says.

Engagingly, however, clever folk at the University of Alabama have figured out that gender also comes into play.

Their contention is that while psychopathic traits in men egg them on, they do exactly the opposite in the case of women.

So, they’re convinced, females who get to be in charge are unlikely to have got there thanks to those horrid dark triad characteristics.

Some might say this proves a certain grocer’s daughter from Grantham had an honorary puppy dog’s tail.

But the theory does suggest people like the queen and Angela Merkel actually are sugar and spice. And all things nice.

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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