Boris Johnson is often talked about as the luckiest politician on earth — and in a sense he has been. Outrageous fortune powered his ascent. A child of privilege, he always seemed to get away with it, no matter what it might be. In elections, his timing has been almost miraculously perfect, culminating in his big win over the hapless Jeremy Corbyn in 2019.
But Lady Luck turns out to be the cruellest mistress Boris ever had. She built him up to tear him down. And if this ‘Jubilee Coup’ — and tonight’s vote of no confidence — end up removing him from power, he may be looked back on as one of Britain’s unluckiest Prime Ministers. Many will feel delight at his demise. Many will be relieved. Those feelings won’t last. They hate him now. They’d miss him soon after he’s gone. Jeremy Hunt? Liz Truss? Ben Wallace? Tom Tugendhat? Come on.
It will be Covid that kills Johnson’s premiership in the end — having nearly killed him outright in April 2020. He never really recovered. The virus fogged up everything. The pandemic’s impact on the economy is arguably the biggest factor in the cost-of-living crisis that now subterraneously drives Boris’s demise. And without Covid, you wouldn’t have had lockdowns. Without lockdowns, you wouldn’t have partygate.
Historians may look back and marvel at how, as inflation ripped up the British economy and possible world war rattled Eastern Europe, the British press managed for several months to sustain its fixation on a series of boring parties in Number 10. Because it will be hard to understand the post-pandemic bitterness towards the people in power.
I have a childhood memory of the hatred many people felt towards Thatcher. The mass loathing of Boris — the booing this weekend — is different. Thatcher didn’t mind being hated because she had fixed beliefs: an ideology, for better or worse.
Boris’s political philosophy has always been far looser. And that’s why the popular rage against him is more like contempt: people hate him for not believing in anything. It’s still psychotic, though, and contagious: a TikTok video this weekend joked with strange seriousness about boarding up Number 10 and burning it down with the residents still inside. Lol!
British people bond by hating things or people together. In Boris, Brexit-loving and lockdown-hating libertarians and lockdown-loving and Brexit-hating socialists have found a common foe. And as more and more Tories turn on the Prime Minister, the power of Boris-hate grows as it festers. But it won’t be long before these people remember they can’t stand each other: And then what? Keir Starmer?