Rather rashly, Boris Johnson published The Churchill factor: How one man made history in 2015. It was without historical merit, or intellectual insight, but Johnson did not intend readers to learn about Churchill. The biography was not a Churchill biography but a Johnson campaign biography, where we were invited to see our hero as Winston redux.
Both ignored party discipline and conventional routes of advancement, after all. Both were great company. Churchill stayed in the wilderness for years making a fortune from journalism, and so has Johnson. Churchill was a man of principle and so is…
Hold on. That doesn’t work. It doesn’t work at all. For when we talk of principle, the elaborate scaffolding Johnson has erected around himself, the scenery and props, the spotlights and the cameras, fall with a thundering crash. All that remains on stage is a jobbing actor who can play any part convincingly except himself.
The cult of Churchill can be remarkably selective. Certainly, Churchill and others fought appeasement. But he was also the most implacable of diehard imperialists. But I will give him this: Churchill meant what he said – and was prepared to suffer when his beliefs were out of fashion.
Johnson believes in the advance of Johnson. That’s all there is. There’s nothing else. Most politicians, and many of the rest of us, are ambitious, of course. But politicians normally hope to advance a cause as they advance themselves. Johnson would have you believe that he is breaking with the establishment, risking all, because of his sincere conviction that we must advance the cause of saving Britain from the European Union.
His colleagues do not believe him. Nicholas Soames has called him a liar on Twitter. Jerry Hayes called him a ‘copper-bottomed, hypocritical little shit.’ The wonder of it is that they may have been understating the case for the prosecution.
After the Times fired him for making up stories, Johnson ended up as the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent.