Voices: Boris Johnson finished? We should be so lucky

Sorry, what’s this? A brand new portrait of Boris Johnson has been unveiled at the Carlton Club?

Hang on, what’s that? A million-pound donation to Boris Johnson from a single donor – the largest such donation of any kind ever?

Woah woah woah, you what now? “Allies” of Boris Johnson are claiming he’s going to some sort of deal with Rishi Sunak – a safe seat at the next election in return for promising “not to challenge” him before then?

If you really thought you’d seen the last of Boris Johnson, this has been a troubling week. The great used condom in the toilet bowl of British politics remains as stubbornly unflushed as ever. If you’ve not got the stomach for it then look away now, because its swollen tip really would appear to be floating back around the U-bend, back into our lives to taunt us a while longer.

I have lost count of the number of times Boris Johnson has been finished. If I search my Google calendar for “Boris Johnson resignation speech”, I would need to block out an afternoon just to go through the results. He was finished in 2016, he was finished again in 2018, and last year he really was absolutely finished, as long as you’re prepared to ignore the fact that he’s not.

It is somewhat difficult to get to grips with the terms of any deal he might do with Rishi Sunak. The premise appears to be: give me a safe seat and I won’t get rid of you. Just give me one more chance and in return I promise not to take it. Give me the gun Rishi, and I definitely won’t shoot you.

This, presumably, is how Johnson imagines the scenario plays out. We’re six months or so out from the next election, the country is in utter disarray, Sunak is 20 points or more behind, the Tories panic, as they like to, and decide that only Johnson can save them. If Sunak wants to save himself from such a humiliation, he must do a deal with Johnson now, give him a safe seat and trust him to be true to his word. That he’ll let him lose the election, rather than double-cross him and lose it for him.

Self-evidently, Johnson still thinks he is different from everybody else, that he and he alone can turn things around. It is not true, but there is frustratingly little evidence for it. He still imagines himself to be the great election-winning machine, though the claim does not bear a great deal of scrutiny.

He won London twice, but on both occasions against Ken Livingstone, who had already done two terms by that point and was very much on the slide. He won the 2019 election, though even before Dominic Cummings had turned against him, he would point out that Johnson was personally extremely unpopular, and that the huge result had as much to do with the threat of Jeremy Corbyn and the promise of getting Brexit done (not that it is done). The EU referendum is of course the big one, but that was nevertheless a referendum. Nobody voted for Boris Johnson.

Trouble is, none of that will matter. Johnson still believes there is enough pseudo-evidence there to cajole Rishi Sunak into believing that the party may yet again break glass in case of emergency and reach for him a second time. That they will be in such a state of panic that they won’t consider exactly how it ended the last time.

And he’s probably right. They probably will. Of course, before rushing into any kind of deal, he may wish to consider that the House of Commons privileges committee investigation into Boris Johnson is just about to get underway. It will hear fresh evidence about Partygate, and it will likely end with the former prime minister even more disgraced than he was before. But what will it matter? We will still not be rid of him.