Voices: What the planet absolutely does not need is Boris Johnson thinking he can save it

For a moment, back there, all of two weeks ago, it really did seem like the Tory party was going to return, dog-like to its own vomit (the vomit being Boris Johnson), and force the rest of us to eat it too.

So it was, if nothing else, an act of great public service of the last-but-one prime minister to fly all the way to Sharm el-Sheikh and remind us all of exactly what we absolutely have not been missing.

He’s gone to the big climate change conference in Egypt mainly because for a while, Rishi Sunak wasn’t going to, except now he is. His not-even-thinly-veiled manoeuvrings are a reminder that, at least for three years we, as a nation, had a respite from Boris Johnson’s prime ministerial ambitions, even if it did come at the cost of having to have him as prime minister. Now he’s back on manoeuvres, we may eventually conclude it was all less painful when he actually had the job.

Johnson has no international reputation whatsoever, and now he is no longer prime minister, his steps onto the world stage serve no purpose beyond humiliating us all yet further – a reminder to other countries of a terrible mistake that we desperately require the world to forget, but which Johnson certainly will not allow.

Conveniently, there are precious easier ways through which to see the truly nanoscopic measure of the man than his having rebranded himself as some kind of climate activist.

It is boring to have to repeat his old Daily Telegraph columns, which were the usual brainless pamphlets of climate change denial, right up until the point at which he decided it was no longer in his interest for them to be so. “I can’t stand this December heat but it has nothing to do with global warming,” he wrote, all the way back in the barely remembered past of 2015, when the evidence against this sort of gently microwaved anti-intellectual garbage was already entirely overwhelming.

Among his first words to the gathered international masses was to say, “I am the spirit of Glasgow.” That’s the last summit, last year, from which he left early, by private jet, to attend a dinner at The Garrick, in order to discuss how he might take down the parliamentary standards commissioner to protect his friend Owen Paterson, and to kill off the awkward questions about his £840-a-roll wallpaper. Awkward questions, specifically, about his corrupt intentions to send the bill for said wallpaper to the same Tory donor who he would later get to fund for his wedding. He is, after all, only 58 years old.

Johnson on the subject of climate change is an especially depressing listen. It’s not merely that if, 20 years ago, people like him had not been the people they always have been and always will be, it wouldn’t already be too late to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, though that is a big part of it.

He also, in front of a watching world, had to take one of his old advisers to task: Lord David Frost, who has described wind power as “medieval”. Johnson told him that if wind power were medieval, then fossil fuels were “palaeolithic”. This, in some quarters, has already been typed up as some kind of act of bravery. That he has slammed his old adviser, etc. There are other countries which are not run by baboons throwing their own excrement at one another in public.

That the until-nine-weeks-ago prime minister has to stand up in public and correct his own very senior advisers’ staggering stupidity isn’t brave or commendable, it’s straightforwardly humiliating.

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It also hardly needs stating that what the world doesn’t need, at this point, is columnists turned prime ministers turned columnists again, thinking they can save the world by the power of the latest pithy phrase they’ve dreamt up. They need a plan for action. They need things that can actually be measured, quantified. And naturally, everybody knows you get none of that with Johnson, just some dreary waffle about the markets and the private sector and yadah yadah yadah blah blah while the world continues to burn.

Over the next few days in Egypt, leader after leader will take it in turns to tell us all to act now, and that time is running out. It will be done far more in a spirit of desperate hope than actual optimism. It may be a message that Johnson will enjoy hearing. He too is in desperate need of self-delusion.

The alternative is to face reality – that his time is most definitely up. It went on far longer than it ever should have, and precisely zero good came from any of it.