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I was flicking through news channels as the witching hour approached when it came to me: this is almost as much fun as watching Game of Thrones. Except the slow slaughter of Boris Johnson’s premiership is a bloody real life drama.
In its next episode, we’ll get to see the contest of barons and bannermen and churls and con artists, all furiously stabbing at each other in pursuit of the famous chair. Sorry, I’m mixing up the two. The famous address: Number 10.
The swords were out in the open for Johnson at the end – no knives twisted via snide, off the record briefings to favoured political hacks. It was the red wedding, with, perhaps Nadhim Zahawi playing the role of Walder Frey, the treacherous monarch of the twins; the holder of the key to a crucial strategic bridge in the show.
It was arguably Zahawi, a Johnson protegé whom he’d brought into the cabinet and then installed in one of the great offices of state, who delivered the death blow. He didn’t resign, but instead wrote a letter on Treasury-headed notepaper, telling his boss to go. He was daring Johnson to sack him like the prime minister did to that “snake” (I’m quoting the words of Downing Street sources) Michael Gove.
But it’s open to debate because by then, Johnson was bleeding from a thousand cuts, as each resignation letter emerged on Twitter, each public statement of no confidence was voiced. At the end, he had only a handful of rusty blades behind him, wielded by a crew of nonentities and nobodies, cluelessly slashing at the air, hoping their inept swings wouldn’t hit their leader. When Peter Bone is the best you can find to defend you in front of Kirsty Wark on Newsnight then you know you’re done.
Of course, where this falls apart is that while the treacherous, amoral and despised Freys are a fine analogue for the treacherous, amoral and despised Tory party, which has been laying waste to a Britain it thinks it has the divine right to rule, Boris Johnson is no betrayed Stark.
The Starks were the victims of said “Red Wedding”, an infamously bloody episode during season three, when Game of Thrones was at still at its best, before its reputation was bashed by its final season and the subsequent debates over its dubious sexual politics. They actually look rather mild by Tory party standards.
What distinguishes the Starks from Johnson and his pals, is that they were mostly honourable. In a show with no real heroes, no one without blemish, they were the nearest thing – the ones the audience rooted for (along with maybe Tyrion).
True Robb Stark was an oath breaker, but he was following his heart rather than keeping a dynastic promise, which had been forced upon him. He was otherwise one of the more decent characters the show presented us with.
Oath breaking is certainly in Boris Johnson’s makeup – but decency is not. Nor is honour. The succession of tawdry scandals that led to this sad, sorry state of affairs, which has left Britain looking a bit like the poverty stricken, half-starved Westeros depicted in the show, prove that.
No, Boris Johnson is a Lannister, through and through. He even has the hair for it. The character he best resembles, if we’re gaming this out, is that petulant martinet King Joffrey.
There is on YouTube a “Game of Thrones: Roast Joffrey Recap” put up by the show’s makers, HBO. It’s only 57 seconds long, but give it a whirl and then try a thought experiment. Imagine Johnson in each of the scenes. It works remarkably well.
Slightly chilling, if you think about it, because this is real life, and we live in a real country, where real people are suffering. It isn’t just the peasants of George RR Martin’s imagination who are searching for scraps as the cost of living crisis bites.
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“You can’t insult meh,” snarls Joffrey, like a toddler in the middle of a tantrum. Well, we can, and we will carry on doing so. Is it Joffrey that’s High Valerian for douchebag? Or is it Johnson? I can’t remember. Anyone got a dictionary handy?
It’s easy to imagine a senior minister walking into Downing Street and saying: “Killed a few puppies today?” I bet one or two of them were thinking that. Johnson filled his cabinets with patsies so they’d none of them actually say it – and let’s be honest, none of them have Tyrion’s wit. But I’ll bet one or two of them were thinking about it on occasion.
Theresa May didn’t really deserve our sympathy when she departed, but people felt it for her all the same. They talked about her sense of responsibility and duty, old fashioned virtues which are all but impossible to find in today’s government. Or what’s left of it. But that’s often the way of things when prime ministers depart. We see their good points, even if they’ve tried hard to keep them hidden.
I doubt that happens with Johnson. There were cheers when Joffrey finally got his on Game of Thrones, and there will be cheers when Johnson finally leaves the stage, bathed in the blood – not his own – but of his party and his country. That sonorous music as the end credits roll really can’t come soon enough.