Jo Johnson last night, sorry not Jo Johnson. Matt Cardy/Getty Images
And now Boris is gone. The man who was going to lie down in front of the bulldozers to prevent construction of a third runway at Heathrow, but then thought, hey-ho, maybe I won’t. The man who said the war-torn Libyan port city of Sirte, close to where Muammar Gaddafi was killed, would make a wonderful resort “once they clear the dead bodies away”. The man who was stopped from reciting Kipling’s colonial epic, The Road to Mandalay in a loud voice during a visit to Myanmar’s most sacred shrine just before the line referring to the Buddha as “a bloomin’ idol made o’mud”. The man who waved miniature Union flags for half an hour after he got stuck on a zip-wire over the Thames. The man who said the EU’s freedom of movement principle was “bollocks”. The man who said that if business got in the way of Brexit, then “fuck business!”
Yes. That man. Gone to join politics’s Undead. The Old Etonian who bullied and screwed his way through Oxford, appropriately as a member of the ultra-posh Bullingdon Club, only to end up with a Second when he was convinced he was destined for a First. The journalist who was sacked from his first job, as a graduate trainee on The Times, for making up a quote, then lying about it. The man who, as Brussels correspondent of The Telegraph, not only made up quotes, but whole Commission regulations, not caring about the impact of his “fake news” on the reputation of Europe, hoping all the time to draw attention to himself and his ready wit.
Ho-ho-ho. He is a one, and no mistake.
“I found I was sort of chucking these rocks over the garden wall,” he later recalled, “and I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door over in England as everything I wrote from Brussels was having this amazing, explosive effect on the Tory party, and it really gave me this I suppose rather weird sense of power.”
Yes. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, aged 54, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. The man who as Foriegn Secretary casually remarked that a British citizen in jail in Iran, falsely charged with training BBC staff in the ways of Western reporting, had, er, “simply gone to Iran to teach journalism”. The man who once condemned the city of Liverpool for wallowing in “victim-status” after the Hillsborough football stadium disaster, in which 96 people died, and, following that, the ritual murder of a locally-born businessman in Iraq. In short, the former mayor of London and now former foreign secretary, who resigned yesterday, hours after he was upstaged by David Davis.
Bojo. The man who wants to be prime minister so badly, it hurts.
If Remain had won the referendum, Boris would have abandoned Leave quicker than you could say knife-in-the-back. I mean, crikey, he had already written alternative apologias for the Telegraph, one for and one against staying in the EU, favouring the latter only at the last moment, on a hunch. He is, it would seem, prepared do just about anything – apart, that is, from lying down in front of a bulldozer – if it keeps him in the running for Number 10. On Friday, at Chequers, he described the Prime Minister’s attempts to keep the Brexit talks alive as “polishing a turd” before adding that he threw his full weight behind it – the turd, that is. Two days later, he was gone.
Now we must wait for his Churchillian pronouncement on why he felt impelled to leave high office in order, ever so humbly, yet proudly, to deliver a death blow to Theresa May. Expect classical allusions, and illusions, as he orates, imagining himself like Cicero excoriating the dictatorship.
I’m guessing that he will not quote the great Roman statesman as saying that a nation can survive its fools, even the ambitious, but cannot survive treason from within. You might think that this would be because he would be cast too obviously as the ambitious fool and traitor. In fact, it would be because he doesn’t see himself as disloyal. For how could he when he is the object of his own veneration, to whom he owes everything? An overweight Narcissus, he gazes compulsively at his own reflected glory, never failing to compliment himself on his appearance, his judgment, above all, his gravitas.
Now that he is gone, we can see him for what he is: a bit of a booby, an empty space within a vacuum. I invite you to picture him in his running gear, sweating profusely, looking like an obese, albino member of the Harlem Globetrotters. He will be hoping, desperately, that his resignation will galvanise the Brexit wing of the Conservative Party and propel him, against all reason, into the leadership. And who knows? It might. Stranger things have happened. But you can be sure also that his mind, like a calculator, will also be adding up his potential earnings as a newly-restored columnist and author. There is his book on Shakespeare to finish, and his “insider” analysis of Brexit Britain (half a million, anyone?). And, of course, the turns on radio and television and the six-figure fees for touring the country making rousing speeches that set Middle England chortling.
He has more backstops than Brexit. And he may not be finished yet, which is the pity of it, if not the tragedy. As David Davis prepares to step into the wilderness, Boris is getting ready to turn up the limelight. He’s like Archie Rice in The Entertainer. He’s all-singing, all-dancing. “But look at these eyes. I’m dead – behind these eyes. I’m dead.”