OPINION - How fitting that the Boris Johnson I know went down in a blazing shoot-out

Petronella Wyatt
Petronella Wyatt

There was something film noirish about Boris Johnson’s position. The film noir hero, usually played by Robert Mitchum or Fred MacMurray, is often a man of apprehension and talent, not, as is usually supposed, an illiterate mug. He knows from the beginning that his actions are self-destructive and will lead to his eventual demise, but he continues on his path with a sort of buccaneering determination that is almost awe-inspiring,

I could never get Boris to watch noir classics like Double Indemnity or Out of the Past, but he would have found them instructive. The hero, like Johnson, is a loner who believes the world to be unaware of his greatness. In his attempts to correct this, he becomes convinced he has god-like qualities and can always beat the rap. The other night I was enthralled by 1951’s The Prowler, in which Van Heflin’s Webb Garwood, who has committed murder, hides out from the LAPD on a patch of wasteland.

Similarly, those hoping that Boris would turn himself in to the 1922 Committee, the political equivalent of the LAPD, were destined to be disappointed. The Prime Minister intended to hide out in the wasteland of Downing Street, firing his greatness and political achievements on hostile Cabinet ministers, MPs and members of the press. Like Webb Garwood, he thought he could bluff it out, even though his friends implored him, “Don’t do it! You’ll never get away with it.”

The gods gave Boris much, but the wicked fairy at his christening withheld the virtues of humility and wisdom. Boris is undoubtedly clever. His intellect has the gaudy allure of a prancing animal. But he has never learned to be wise. He has no appreciation of the nature of modern democracy, and believes he has a divine right to rule. In the universe of Boris, as in the universe of James Cagney in White Heat, he is king of the world.

Disliking Cabinet government, and pathologically intolerant of competition, from the very beginning, he appointed nodding marionettes to the highest  offices of state. Had Boris possessed a political strategy, or any beliefs beyond the conviction he should be “world king”, he might have got away with it, but he has preferred to rely on charisma alone.

Boris is the greatest liar we have ever had as Prime Minister (or to put it more kindly, he relies less on his memory than his imagination), but that isn’t quite enough. The other problem is more personal. The noir hero muddles along, providing his failings are kept in check by the sound advice of his chums, and the girl next door. Tragically, he is always seduced by the fast blonde and her questionable circle of friends. It would ill behove me to suggest that Nadine Dorries is a fast blonde, but she and that well-known, gun-toting hoodlum Jacob Rees-Mogg, exert an influence over Boris that is hardly steadying. They urged him to shoot it out. The end was not pretty. For his own sake, Boris had to surrender now.

In other news...

When I was 21, I worked on the Peterborough column of the Daily Telegraph. According to my boss, Robert Hardman, my Hungarian mother used to telephone him with baroque excuses for my not attending work, even though I was often sitting next to Robert when she rang.

On one occasion, she claimed I was absent because it was too windy. On another, because I was traumatised by the theft of our garden furniture. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there had been no such robbery. Last Sunday, however, my garden furniture was indeed stolen. According to the police, garden furniture is the most stolen item in the UK. It is comforting to think that after more than two decades, my mother has finally been vindicated.