Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

The Tory party has nothing to run on

These days I think often of Doctor Faustus. Not because I am contemplating selling my soul to Mephistopheles, but rather because I take a moderate interest in the Conservative party, and there is one detail of Doctor Faustus – at least in the Christopher Marlowe version – that arises often in my mind.

That is the detail of what Faustus does after selling his soul. Part of the moral of the play, I suppose, is the disparity between what the Doctor imagines he will do with the time given to him and what he actually ends up doing with it. For, as readers of the play will know, Faustus ends up wasting his time in a pretty big way.

One thinks: you plotted to dislodge your boss and then spent multiple evenings debating Liz Truss – for this?

You would have thought that if you knew you were going to be claimed by the Devil in a few years’ time you would go high on the hog at least. Tick off all the items on your bucket list or the like. But Faustus wastes his time. Indeed he ends up doing bathetic things – like playing schoolboy pranks on the Pope.

This aspect of the play returned to me often during the Boris Johnson years. Here, after all, was a man whose lifetime ambition seemed to be to hold the highest office in the land. After years of japing and jestering, and a certain amount of leadership too, he got there. And then what did he do? A bit of Brexit, admittedly. Then a whole dollop more green. A lot of stupid posts about his dog, and an awful lot of fibs, and then – bang – it was all over. The Devil came for him, and although he was not allowed as much time as Faustus is, it was still possible to look at him and say: ‘What did you do with your time? Why did you waste it? OK – you tweaked some noses.

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