Voices: Boris Johnson’s latest outburst is a reminder of what we always knew
A reminder, then, of just how mad an idea it would be to “Bring back Boris”; an idea that arrives, as these things so often do, from his very own incontinent gob.
Sotto voce in the Commons – away from the chamber itself and the Hansard radar, but audible to some – Boris Johnson replied to a plea by the mild-mannered Robert Buckland to back Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal with: “F*** the Americans”.
Buckland, a lawyer by trade and someone who served in Johnson’s government, was making the perfectly reasonable – and valuable – point that bringing the agonies of the Northern Ireland protocol to an end would also boost British-American relations.
Joe Biden has made it clear that he won’t tolerate anything that puts peace in Ireland in jeopardy, and implied that, should such an outcome eventuate, America will be unhelpful to the UK in everything from a trade deal (remote anyway) to economic diplomatic support. He is even believed to be planning to make a state visit to the UK in April to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. We really cannot afford to “f*** the Americans” – or anyone else, for that matter.
Like the overgrown spoilt kid that Johnson has shown himself to be too many times, his response to any criticism is to throw a little foul-mouthed tantrum. Things are obviously even worse for him these days, because the successor he despises – a “snake” who betrayed him, in Johnson’s ever-puerile worldview – is succeeding where he himself failed.
The imminent breakthrough on the Northern Ireland protocol should bolster Sunak’s credentials as a statesman; someone who will stand up for what he feels is the right thing to do in the national interest, and face down his critics. It will be Sunak, not Johnson, who “got Brexit done” and sorted out the flaws in the protocol Johnson hurriedly concluded in 2019 (and, reportedly, neither read nor properly understood).
In fact, by the sound of it, Sunak’s critics won’t have much to moan about. The rebellion may well fade away. The prospect of another tilt at the leadership and a rapid return to No 10 seems to slipping away from Johnson.
But more than that, the unwarranted outburst highlights just why his party finally ousted him last year: he is simply intolerable. More than most politicians, everything really is about him, and so his decisions are rarely made in the national interest.
He only backed Brexit in the first place, not because he actually believed in it (he didn’t, whereas the likes of Sunak and Michael Gove did), but because he thought the Leave campaign wouldn’t win and thus he’d be better placed to succeed David Cameron. That miscalculation, driven by vaulting ambition, was the genesis of our current national crisis. It has cost us dearly, but Johnson got three years in Downing Street out of it.
The truth is, we can see that this is Johnson’s attitude to everything: “I don’t give a f*** about anything – except me.” It’s not just that Johnson is boorish, uncouth, and dreadfully spoilt: it’s that his latest outburst is yet another example of an all-embracing mindset. A personal manifesto, if you like.
He has lied to and betrayed every Tory leader and editor he’s served, along with his families, his friends and his allies – always temporary arrangements. He has done the same to his party, the unionists of Northern Ireland, the voters who placed faith in him in 2019, the late Queen over the unlawful prorogation of parliament, and the national interest. That demonstrates some considerable ego, but it’s only to be expected from a man who lives by such a motto.
He has already published two parts of his manifesto: “F*** business!” and now “F*** the Americans!” To that can be added: “F*** the Tory party!”; “F*** Sunak!”; “F*** British trade!”, and a few more expletives to boot.
For those remaining few who still hold a sentimental view of Johnson, they should be aware that he would f*** them over just as soon as look at them, too.