OPINION - Boris can’t stop lying any more than he can stop blinking. It’s involuntary

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Petronella Wyatt  (Dave Benett)
Petronella Wyatt (Dave Benett)

Boris Johnson’s predicament is as inevitable as the asp at Cleopatra’s breast. Boris, who is an old friend of mine, has a penchant for the classics and one only wishes he had paid them more heed. His career has a symmetry with the plotlines of Oedipus and the Iliad. The very moment he became Prime Minister, Johnson was destined to fail.

Human beings are sort of one-lunged animals. If they show one valuable quality, it is almost unheard of for them to show another. Give someone a head, and they lack a heart. The artist, nine times out of 10, is a deadbeat given to debauchery. The professional patriot is a bigot, and the man of physical bravery is often on a level, intellectually, with a glow worm.

It occurs to me that the qualities Boris possesses, and which allowed him to reach the summit, sowed the seeds of his own near destruction in Monday’s confidence vote. The gods gave him brains, geniality, boundless self-confidence and a sort of acquaintance with the truth. These characteristics stood him in good stead as a journalist and media personality. As Mayor of London, they were a stalking horse under the cover of which he hid his tendency to be lazy and tell fibs. Leading the Brexit campaign, his peculiar qualities enabled him to emerge like an English William Jennings Bryan. Boris has been the most sedulous and successful fly-catcher in recent political history, but his quarry was Homo Neanderthalensis.

Wherever the bilge of nostalgia and ignorance ran in the veins, he set his traps. But inside Westminster, his attributes began to seem less desirable. During Boris’s tenure as foreign secretary, there were complaints he didn’t read briefs, and that his hatred of confrontation and the resultant broken promises were little better than dishonesty. When he pulled out of the leadership election that saw Theresa May emerge triumphant, I advised him to leave politics and go back to journalism. He agreed with me, typically, and proceeded to do the opposite. His luck still held.

Because he was a proven campaigner, Tory MPs held their noses the second time around and gave him the premiership. Up against an unformidable foe in Jeremy Corbyn, he delivered. But his days were numbered the moment he entered No 10. It’s the misprision thing. I should point out that Boris never intends to lie or conceal. It is involuntary, and he can no more help it than he can help blinking. But in a Prime Minister, this eventually becomes a handicap.

He is not the first to do it, to be fair. Anthony Eden, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair were duplicitous men, but their duplicity wasn’t habitual and they were considerably better at it. Boris lies very badly, and this is the rock on which he was always going to flounder; his Gotterdammerung, his Death in Venice.

Can anything save him now? There are rumours in No 10 that Rishi is not long for the Exchequer, and that his replacement will be instructed to deliver the political Viagra of low taxation. Boris will probably tell Rishi that he will bring him back soon. Only this time, no one will believe it. The 148 MPs stand as a grim testimony.

In other news...

Maxi (Petronella Wyatt)
Maxi (Petronella Wyatt)

I have been no-confidenced by my Papillon dog, Maxi. As he has only been under my ministry for a year, this is a blow. It began last week, with the jubilee celebrations. Papillons are a proud breed from Central Europe. They grace the court paintings of the Habsburgs, and Maxi is named after Emperor Maximillian of Mexico.

This is not to say he wasn’t up for some hard partying, especially as my local deli, Panzers, put on a street party with tables groaning with Pimms and tucker, including oysters and truffle arancini. The problems began when I tied a Platinum Jubilee scarf around his neck. While he likes the Queen, he regards the House of Windsor as common parvenus. His Habsburg blood was up, and he gave me the look of a gangland hitman, before removing his scarf and treating it to the indignity of being rolled on.

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