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On Tuesday, November 1, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an exclusive interview on Ukraine to Sky News’s Mark Austin.

The video is here.

Boris gave the interview on the condition that it focused only on Ukraine.

The Daily Mail recapped the interview (emphases mine):

The former premier was speaking to Sky News when he was asked if he would like to return to the top role, and whether he had ‘unfinished business’.

‘You promised this was going to be about Ukraine,’ he said. ‘I harbour hopes of continuing to campaign for Ukraine and that is my priority.

‘There are various other things that I’m doing but that is of course very dear to my heart.’

I’m not as optimistic as Boris is about Putin’s holding back in Ukraine, so let’s hope our former PM is correct:

In the interview, Mr Johnson claimed Russia would be plunged into a ‘cryogenic economic freeze’ if Vladimir Putin launched a ‘crazy’ nuclear strike on Ukraine.

In a warning to the Russian President about the consequences of escalating his barbaric war, the former prime minister insisted Mr Putin would suffer a ‘total disaster’.

Mr Johnson told Sky News that Mr Putin would ‘immediately tender Russia’s resignation from the club of civilised nations’ if he used nuclear weapons.

He insisted the Russian President would be further isolated among global nations by losing the ‘tacit acquiesence’ of countries across Africa, South America and Asia, as well as the ‘patronage of the Chinese’.

The ex-PM also claimed Mr Putin’s launching of a nuclear strike would see ‘an absolutely hysterical reaction’ in Russia itself.

Mark Austin asked Boris if he hadn’t thrown away his most privileged opportunity to help Ukraine. Austin was talking about Partygate, which pressured Boris into resigning as Conservative Party leader and, as such, Prime Minister. Predictably, Boris gave him a bemused ‘What are you talking about?’ look, then said that his successor but one, Rishi Sunak, would carry on supporting the war-torn country. Boris also talked up the American aid being pledged, even if Republicans win the mid-terms this Tuesday.

With Boris on the backbenches now, Austin asked if he thought Rishi would give him a special role, perhaps as an envoy to Ukraine:

During the interview with Sky News, Mr Johnson was asked if he has spoken to Rishi Sunak about a ‘possible role’, with which he said: ‘What I can do and what I will want to do is to continue to champion the cause of Ukrainian freedom, of a free sovereign, independent Ukraine. It is a great cause. I think it is a cause that has mobilised a phenomenal level of support across the UK.’

When pressed as to whether he would like ‘a formal role’, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I think, my job is to talk up what I think are the immediate needs of the Ukrainians,’ adding that he will ‘inevitably’ return to the country.

Mr Johnson was also asked if he feels ‘more appreciated on the world stage than he does domestically’.

Responding, he said: ‘I have an absolute passionate belief that the war in Ukraine, Putin’s act of aggression, is something that we shouldn’t accept, we shouldn’t tolerate.

‘I think that I can continue to campaign for Ukraine out of office and that’s what I’m going to do.’

The Mail has many more quotes from the interview.

One interesting thing is that Boris first became interested in Ukraine when he was Foreign Secretary under Theresa May. He said:

I was Foreign Secretary in 2016 and one of the first things I did was go to Ukraine and I remember talking to Ukrainians who had been fighting in Donbas and I remember going to see this great wall, with pictures of thousands and thousands of Ukrainian soldiers who’ve given their lives for the freedom and independence of their country, and I became very sympathetic to their cause.

I remember standing on that beautiful acropolis in Kyiv and talking about the possibility that Russia might be so insane as to take advantage of the fact that there was no security guarantee to Ukraine, because Ukraine was not given NATO membership and clearly it was a problem, and that is what we now have to fix.

COP27 came up. At the time Boris gave his interview, Rishi said he himself would not be going because he had more pressing business — the cost of living crisis — to resolve.

Boris received an invitation probably because he was the PM during COP26, held last year in Glasgow:

Yes as it happens, but that’s not relevant to Ukraine… I was invited by the Egyptians so I’m very happy to go.

He is in Egypt for the conference as I write.

Boris showed his support for Rishi:

Mr Johnson also gave his backing to Mr Sunak, insisting the PM had ‘a massive amount to do’.

‘We’ve got to sort out a huge agenda – that’s what’s he’s getting on with,’ he said.

As for his own participation at COP27, Boris said:

I was at the Glasgow Cop – although it’s become unfashionable to talk about it, was a fantastic global success.

‘We did a huge amount of good for the planet, I want to talk a little bit about how I see things and how we see things in the UK.’

Rishi Sunak decided to attend COP27 after all and is also there, enjoying fine meat and dairy menu options such as these:

Note the beef on offer.

Remember, COP27 folks want plebs like you and me to eat … BUGS.

Boris has taken the stage at COP27 twice.

In a speech, he said that the United Kingdom’s summer heat wave might have been responsible for was going on at Westminster (video here):

That’s a bit of a stretch.

In that video, he also referred to ‘pharaonic’ climate events, indirectly referring to the Israelites’ captivity in Egypt in the Bible.

Then he was interviewed by a reporter for The New York Times‘s Climate Forward (video here):

Supporting Rishi’s attendance, he said:

Some will go weak and wobbly on zero, we can’t have that…

Boris has his father Stanley whispering in one ear and his wife Carrie in the other about environmental issues. Meanwhile, the British are choosing between food and fuel this winter, but they do not care.

Just before the last Conservative leadership election last month, Boris gave a speech in Colorado. According to the rules owned by the Cabinet Office and administered by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) for former ministers of state and senior civil servants, one must wait at least three months after leaving office to take up an official appointment or employment. Speeches would fall under that category. Boris will have been handsomely paid for his time.

Now he is scheduled to speak for a second time within that three-month period, at Singapore in December:

On November 1, Guido Fawkes reported (emphases his):

The event is scheduled for December 2 in Singapore, where former US Vice President Dick Cheney is also expected to speak. This means Boris is still – by just a couple of days – within the three-month embargoed window of ACoBA’s Business Appointment rules:

The Rules state that a minimum waiting period of three months from the date of leaving office to taking up an appointment or employment will be expected when the former official was a Cabinet Ministers or a Permanent Secretary or equivalent, and may also be applied to other applicants if ACOBA believes this to be warranted by the circumstances of the individual case.

When Guido pointed out Boris’s first post-PM speech could be a potential breach, his team argued that ACoBA does allow for one-off gigs without them being signed off by Lord Pickles. A second, within the three months, doesn’t help Boris’s office’s line of defence…

Well, Boris never thought that rules applied to him, anyway.

One wonders if we will ever see him on the backbenches again.

On October 23, when the latest Conservative leadership contest was going on, Boris’s biographer, the redoubtable Tom Bower, appeared on GB News to say that he could earn a lot of money on the speaking circuit.

We recall that Boris was deeply concerned about money while he was PM, so this route must be appealing.

The Mail on Sunday quoted Bower as saying:

He was on track to earn £5 million this year but if he wins this vote, eventually the sky’s the limit,’ said Mr Bower

Mr Bower said Mr Johnson could easily match the estimated £100 million Tony Blair has made since quitting No 10 in 2007.

Also:

He has lined up a series of US speeches for up to £250,000 a time and signed a £1.5 million deal to write his memoirs, which will be put on hold should he return to No 10.

No wonder Boris decided not to pursue the leadership contest. He’s quids in as it is. Why ruin a great opportunity? For him, as a speaker and a former journalist, this will be money for old rope. He could do this in his sleep.

For anyone wondering, Sir Graham Brady MP, chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers — the man who can make or break a Prime Minister — stated on Friday, November 4, that Boris did have the numbers needed for the contest:

Guido reported:

In news that will only surprise deranged Boris-haters, reamainiacs and conspiracists, Graham Brady has confirmed Boris did have the support to make the final round of the Conservative leadership contest. Speaking to the BBCthe Chairman of the 1922 Committee confirmed Boris had over 100 MP supporters and simply decided not to stand. If Boris had made the ballot, he almost certainly would have won…

As the officer responsible for the contest, and one who remained neutral throughout, Brady is the authoritative source on the matter. This only strengthens Boris’s claims that his decision not to stand was motivated by concerns over party unity.

The coronation of Sunak has caused widespread discontent amongst Tory members, many of whom are now jumping ship to Reform UK. Not the ideal way to establish Conservative unity…

Agreed, but Sir Graham doesn’t care about party unity, nor does Rishi, nor does Boris.

And, finally, just to dispel any lingeringn doubt about Boris’s numbers, The Telegraph gave us Sir Graham’s quote to the BBC:

Speaking to the BBC, Sir Graham – chair of the Tory party’s 1922 Committee – said “two candidates” had reached the threshold, and “one of them decided not to then submit his nomination”.

There you have it.

No doubt Boris will be watching Rishi’s premiership with interest.

My series on Boris Johnson’s downfall continues.

Those who missed them can catch up on Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Also of interest are:

Developing news: how long can Boris last as PM? (July 5-6)

Boris stays as PM for now but stands down as Conservative leader: ‘When the herd moves, it moves’ (July 6-7)

On July 8, Bloomberg had an interesting article: ‘Boris Johnson’s Downfall: The Inside Story of How His Government Collapsed’.

It states:

This account of how the Johnson administration unraveled is based on conversations with senior members of his inner circle, cabinet ministers, political advisers, civil servants and Tory MPs who were present at the key moments and spoke to Bloomberg News on condition of anonymity.

The journalists who wrote it say (emphases mine):

the man that Johnson’s inner circle blame for his downfall is Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, who triggered that final, frantic act that ultimately forced the prime minister to quit.

Boris, being a survivor, stayed true to character. He survived a Conservative MP vote of confidence held the Monday after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations the first weekend in June 2022. Then the Chris Pincher groping scandal broke, but he was not worried. In early July:

Johnson had spent last weekend largely ignoring the latest scandal raging around him.

There was another slew of allegations in the newspapers, this time related to what Johnson had known about the claims of sexual harassment against an MP who the prime minister had promoted to a senior party post. 

But Johnson had grown accustomed to riding out controversy, from his efforts in November to extricate an ally who breached lobbying rules, to the lockdown parties, the investigation into whether he misled Parliament and the resignation of his own ethics adviser.

His judgment, and that of his No. 10 team, was that revelations relating to his former chief whip Chris Pincher, damaging and unseemly though they were, did not pose an existential threat

That Sunday evening, July 3, Boris headed next door:

to Sunak’s flat in No. 11 Downing Street for one of their regular weekend dinners.

Johnson’s team had been wary of a potential leadership challenge from Sunak for months and suspected that he would already have moved against the prime minister if he hadn’t been fined over lockdown parties himself.

That night was businesslike, focused on plans for a new economic strategy and a joint speech. Sunak briefly mentioned his unease at the handling of the Pincher situation, but people close to both men said the meeting was good-natured and there was no hint of the coming storm.

Meanwhile:

Elsewhere in London though, Health Secretary Sajid Javid was discussing his own concerns about the Pincher case with his own advisers and starting to think he might decide to resign.

The week began normally:

No. 10 remained bullish throughout Monday despite the growing furor as Javid watched and waited.

On Tuesday, a Cabinet meeting took place (Bloomberg has a photo of it). There were signs that things could unravel quickly:

… there were ashen faces around the Cabinet table on Tuesday morning as ministers gathered to discuss Sunak’s plans for tackling rampant inflation. Johnson uber-loyalist [and Culture Secretary] Nadine Dorries told the room that the “dogs of hell” would be unleashed if Johnson was removed.

One Cabinet minister who spoke to Bloomberg that day warned that Johnson might be in real trouble. He had had an unspoken contract with the Conservative Party since surviving a confidence vote among his own MPs in early June, the minister said: he could remain in place only if the scandals stopped.

That compact had lasted barely a month.

Later that day:

Around 5 p.m., at a meeting in the prime minister’s office in Parliament, Javid told Johnson he was resigning. Johnson felt the announcement an hour later could be weathered by appointing a strong replacement.

But nine minutes after Javid published his resignation, Sunak also quit. And this blow came without warning.

Suddenly, Johnson was facing a rout.

A person with knowledge of Javid’s plans said that his team had had no meaningful contact with Sunak’s advisers before the double resignation, but they suspect that the then-chancellor got wind of what was coming and accelerated his own plans. A person with knowledge of Sunak’s thinking said there had been no collusion.

Sunak had worked in the Treasury for Javid when the latter was Chancellor from 2019 to February 2020. They were good friends.

The resignations became a game of whack-a-mole:

As the prime minister rushed to replace two key ministers, a wave of more junior officials announced that they too were abandoning his government.

Nadhim Zahawi became the new Chancellor and Steve Barclay succeeded Javid as Health Secretary:

Nadhim Zahawi and Steve Barclay were recruited late on Tuesday to solve the most immediate problem and Johnson’s advisers believed that both men were determined to take their jobs seriously. They understood that they had buy-in from Zahawi, the chancellor, for a new tax-cutting agenda to be announced imminently, though a person close to Zahawi says he made no such commitment.

All the same, as Johnson and his advisers surveyed the damage on Wednesday morning, they could tell that the situation was critical

That’s when [Levelling-Up Secretary Michael] Gove demanded his meeting. To Johnson’s aides, the timing seemed designed to inflict maximum pain.

Boris sacked Gove later on Wednesday, the only firing he made. He did it via a telephone call.

At that point:

the number of officials quitting his government climbed past 50.

That evening must have been a long one for Boris:

He returned to No. 10 after 6 p.m. for a series of meetings with his senior ministers.

Chief Whip Chris Heaton Harris advised Johnson that he no longer had the numbers to prevent Tory MPs from removing him, but that he would remain loyal. Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevalyan and arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg also made clear they would stay supportive. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Johnson he would not resign, changing for a formal white-tie event and then leaving via a side entrance.

Other meetings were more difficult.

Home Secretary Priti Patel had an emotional and teary meeting with the premier where she told him he had to go. A spokesman for Patel wasn’t able to comment on the details of the conversation. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who kept a spreadsheet of Johnson supporters, agreed that the numbers were against them. Policing minister Kit Malthouse delivered a long monologue about how it was over. An exasperated Johnson told Malthouse that if he was going to resign, he should just do it

Malthouse had worked for Boris ever since the latter was Mayor of London.

Also:

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart was the only one who threatened to quit, handing Johnson a resignation letter and telling him that if he was not gone by the morning it would be published.

The most difficult meeting was with Zahawi who looked visibly awkward, according to one witness, as he told the prime minister that he too thought he should quit. The meeting left Johnson’s aides suspecting that Zahawi had simply been preparing for his own tilt at the top job.

Correct. Zahawi did not get far with his campaign.

The meetings lasted into the night:

Towards the end of the night, Johnson gathered his closest aides in his office to assess the damage.

No. 10 policy chief Andrew Griffith was the most determined to battle on, along with Nigel Adams, a minister and old friend of Johnson. Heaton Harris, the party enforcer, had accepted the situation but was staying in the bunker to the end.

Together they rehearsed arguments for and against resigning, as they briefed the media that he would not quit and appoint a new Cabinet. The reality was that no one was accepting jobs.

Political commentators, eager for Boris to go, compared him with Donald Trump:

Johnson told his team that he didn’t want to spark a constitutional crisis by clinging to office.

“I can’t do this,” he told them. “It’s all too ghastly. It’s not me.”

Eventually, he went to the Downing Street flat to see his wife and retire for the night:

As he went up the stairs to his Downing Street flat to see his wife, Carrie, the decision was becoming clear in his mind. Carrie did not advise him either way and insisted it had to be his own decision, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation.

On Thursday, July 7:

Johnson woke early on Thursday and drafted a resignation speech to read out to his staff at their 7.30 a.m. meeting.

He announced his resignation in front of No. 10 early that afternoon.

That evening, The Spectator team held their annual garden party, a major highlight of the political year. Something always happens and this one was no different:

Johnson’s communications chief Guto Harri got into a blazing and public row with Gove adviser Josh Grimstone, who accused Harri of briefing against his boss.

A Sunak aide spotted Harri and went over for a hug. According to people present, a smiling Sunak, standing next to her, asked Harri: “Don’t I get one?”

“You want a hug?” Harri said in disbelief, knowing that the former chancellor had made no contact with Johnson since his shock resignation. Harri had spent his week fighting to save the prime minister, Sunak was aiming to replace him, and in front of London’s political elite, the two men shared an awkward embrace.

Guido Fawkes has more (Guto Harri is on the right and the magazine’s Katy Balls is in the background):

His post says the argument went all the way back to Gove’s desertion of Boris in the 2016 leadership election, leaving Boris out of the race that year (emphases in the original):

… Leadership candidates Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi and Tom Tugendhat worked the crowd. Later in the evening as things were winding down the Spectator’s Katy Balls mischeviously introduced Josh Grimstone, the newly unemployed former Special Adviser to Michael Gove, to soon-to-be unemployed Guto Harri, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications. Josh definitely had something to communicate to Guto about Gove’s late night sacking the night before…

Josh firmly protested that his boss had been loyal to the PM, that he personally loved Boris and that both Gove and himself had been nothing but loyal. He accused Guto of sacking Gove out of spite and attempting, unfairly, to make it look like Gove had been sacked for disloyalty. Guto was sceptical about Josh’s protestations of innocence and insistence that his boss had been loyal. The toing and froing went on in front of a silently listening audience that included Guido, Tim Shipman and Steve Swinford. Neither of the protagonists backed down from their position. Grimstone said Guto’s behaviour was a “f***ing disgrace”.

Guto eventually retorted that it was Gove’s fault that in 2016, when he betrayed Boris, the country was as a result put into 3 years of dismal turmoil under Theresa May. Guto’s stance seemed to be that even if it was true that he had been loyal of late, Gove had it coming to him for the 2016 trauma that he inflicted on the party and country. Unresolved and unreconciled Grimstone broke off leaving hushed onlookers uncertain that the summary justice of last night was entirely justified by recent events. Guto seemed relaxed and satisfied that it was amends for the sin of the past. 

But that wasn’t the only verbal dust-up that evening.

On the BBC’s Question Time, Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell and The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley, who once ran for MP as a Labour candidate, argued about who was worse in terms of being economical with the truth, Tony Blair for the illegal war in Iraq or Boris Johnson with a piece of cake during lockdown. Campbell is on the left in the photo:

Guido has the video:

A few days later on July 11, Stanley wrote an article about it for The Telegraph: ‘My TV encounter showed everything that is wrong with the Left’:

I’m not a friend of Boris Johnson: my most recent contact was a Christmas card that I’m sure was signed by someone else. This didn’t stop Alastair Campbell from calling me part of the same “corrupt class” on Question Time, a grim experience I didn’t enjoy but my editor says I’ve got to address.

Around the five-minute mark, I was invited to give my take on Boris’s resignation – and Campbell butted in with the first of many attacks on my profession and character. Afterwards, a producer said: “How long have you known Alastair?” I replied: “I’ve never met him before.” Given how he spoke to me, many people assumed we had a feud going back decades.

No, he was just horrible, and the nastiness was camera ready. Campbell was nice as pie before the recording; he gave me a cheery goodbye after. My conclusion is that he’s an act. When he launched his on-air assault, I was shocked and considered walking off; I couldn’t take a whole hour of this. Instead, I pulled a one-liner out of the bag, noting that the Blair government took us into a war that cost thousands of lives, while Boris ate some cake.

The point was that Boris might have been chaotic, but it’s often the best organised regimes that make the biggest mistakes.

The line was hardly Oscar Wilde; the audience was furious that I appeared to make light of the Downing Street parties. I thought my career was over, and was wondering if Lidl might be hiring. But what I couldn’t see till I watched the show back was that Campbell shrugged away the reference to Iraq as if it were mundane. It was an ugly moment. By not bursting into tears, I think I came out better.

What irritates me about some people on the Left is that they talk about mental health and kindness yet they treat their opponents like dirt, not giving a damn how it might make them feel – and if a Conservative hits back, they act like we have crossed a line that doesn’t apply to them

And I wasn’t trying to defend Boris on Question Time, just explain his thinking. I have my own views, of course; but in that format I try to put both sides of a story, so the audience can make up its mind. I often find that Left-wing panellists can’t process this. They claim to be empathetic yet have zero interest in how other people think. It will be the Tory party that will produce the first non-white prime minister and how will the Left respond? They’ll call them a “racist”.

That night on Dan Wootton’s GB News show, opinions about Boris’s successor flew in thick and fast.

Former Conservative Home Secretary and later Brexit Party MEP Anne Widdecombe was adamant that the next Party leader be firmly committed to completing the Brexit process. We still have the Northern Ireland Protocol and French fishing difficulties to deal with:

Opinions swirled around the time it should take Boris to vacate Downing Street.

Someone in the know told the Daily Mail that Theresa May — a Remainer — should be caretaker PM. GB News reported:

While Mr Johnson is expected to stay on until Prime Minister, he could choose to relinquish his duties with immediate effect.

In which case an interim Tory leader would be appointed, who would in turn also become the caretaker Prime Minister.

And former Prime Minister Ms May, who held office between 2016 and 2019, could reportedly make a dramatic return to No.10.

A report in the Daily Mail said: “She knows the ropes and the security stuff, she’s a party woman through and through, she’s definitely not interested in standing for it herself and would be credible.

“She is uniquely placed.”

Thank goodness that didn’t happen.

Another Remainer, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, apparently told the 1922 Committee, headed by Sir Graham Brady, to get rid of Boris pronto. Edwina Currie, a former MP who served with him in Parliament at the same time and who was Major’s mistress between 1984 and 1988, said that the former PM was being ‘a bit of a prat’:

The 2021 Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, agreed. He would have made a great mayor, by the way:

However, biographer Tom Bower explained that Boris and Carrie had no other home, therefore, he would stay at Downing Street until such time as the couple buy a house:

And what about Carrie?

A lot of conservatives blame her for Boris going off the boil with a libertarian-Conservative manifesto to focus on damagingly expensive Net Zero policies, never mind the gaudy refurbishment of the Downing Street flat, allegedly paid for by a Party donor.

The day Boris resigned, The Telegraph‘s Celia Walden wrote ‘The Carrie conundrum: What next for the Prime Minister’s wife?’

Over the past two years and 11 months our outgoing First Lady has certainly garnered criticism – some unfair, some fair. And already commentators are saying that Carrie “helped blow it for Boris”. But it is surely her husband’s sociopathic behaviour over the past few days, weeks and months – and what has been described not as Boris’s downfall but his “clownfall” – that will have been most brand-damaging. So how easy will it be for Carrie to rid herself of that toxicity, and what next for the Prime Minister’s wife? …

Before Carrie became involved with Boris, and his special brand of bedlam, the daughter of Matthew Symonds, co-founder of the The Independent, and lawyer Josephine McAfee was described as “controlled” and “confident”.

Politics may have seemed a world away from the creative fields she immersed herself in at the University of Warwick – where she studied theatre and art history – but after a stint working for Zac Goldsmith, who was MP for Richmond at the time, Carrie moved on to the Conservative party’s press office, where she quickly rose through the ranks, working on her future husband’s re-election campaign, when he ran for Mayor of London in 2012, before becoming the youngest director of communications for the party at just 29.

That a woman who forged a career in the business of public perception – and was credited with taking charge of the Prime Minister’s image (and weight) after they first got together in 2019 – could go on to make the series of missteps Carrie made at No 10 remains baffling today.

It may always have been strenuously denied that the PM’s wife played any part in the prioritising of dogs over humans for evacuation from Afghanistan, but it was without a doubt the First Lady who oversaw No 10’s controversial maximalist redesign. It was she who picked out the infamous gaudy wallpaper estimated to cost £840 a roll and, as I write, Twitter is alive with memes about the one “burning question” that remains: “Now that the Prime Minister has finally resigned what happens to Carrie’s gold wallpaper?”

Because of this, reports that the Johnsons planned to build a £150,000 treehouse for their son at Chequers (but were stopped when police raised security concerns) prompted some to interpret this as “yet more Carrie”. Which might have been unfair. But then there was Carrie’s involvement in partygate.

The Sue Gray inquiry was told that it was she who was keen to throw a party during the first lockdown and “offered to bring cake” – so these cannot be written off as “sexist”, “misogynistic” slurs along with the rest. And while other First Wives have been busy out in Ukraine, shaking Zelensky’s hand, Carrie has been notably low profile in recent months, presumably acting on advice from spin doctors.

according to Craig Oliver, former director of politics and communications for David Cameron: “Leaving No 10 could be the making of Carrie. She’s an intelligent woman, interested in a lot of issues. Being the PM’s wife has an inevitable chilling effect on what you can do and say. She’ll now be free to speak her mind.” 

Lord Ashcroft, whose biography, First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson, was published in March, describes Carrie as “an impressive person – with a high-level career in politics and a record of campaigning on animal rights and the environment”. Another political writer, meanwhile, assures me that any toxicity will be shrugged off with characteristic ease both by Boris and his wife. “He will be a very successful ex-Prime Minister. His star quality is shoulders above any of the others and he will become very rich on the back of it. So very shortly, everything will settle down, and she will be glad to have left the fishbowl.”

… although Carrie is clearly a political animal, it seems likely that she’ll choose to concentrate next on animal rights campaigning, perhaps deepening her involvement with The Aspinall Foundation, for whom she has worked as head of communications since 2021 – which in itself is in a period of transition. Every PR knows that charity work is the best “brand rehab” there is, and her passion for the cause isn’t in doubt.

We can but see.

There was more to come with Mr and Mrs Johnson: their belated wedding celebration, which they weren’t able to have earlier because of the pandemic.

More to come tomorrow.

Alas, poor Boris.

His downfall started the Monday after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend in early June.

The next few weekday posts will look at what happened and how.

Before going into the full story, however, I would like to explain why replacing Boris does not automatically trigger a general election.

Why there is no general election

In the UK, we elect MPs to represent us. They are up for (re-)election during a general election, although there might be by-elections in the meantime for those who die or are caught up in scandal.

In other words, we do not elect a Prime Minister. The party that wins a clear majority in Parliament puts forward their leader for that post.

Admittedly, the position of Prime Minister has become somewhat presidential in recent years. People gravitated towards Boris in 2019 and voted for a Conservative MP so that he would become PM.

Boris, although deposed, has never lost an election. He was elected Mayor of London twice (two four-year terms). He has never lost an election as MP. He won the Conservative Party’s leadership election. He became PM when the Conservatives won the 2019 general election. He also survived a confidence vote in 2022.

One of Guido Fawkes’s readers pointed all this out and provided more food for thought:

Each time he won it was in the face of massive media opposition. So was it logical for his MPs to throw him out because the media told them to? It was the Treasury dominated Chancellor [Rishi Sunak] with his string of wrong economic judgements who needed to go.

Now on to the story of Boris’s downfall.

‘World king’

Boris Johnson, born in New York and raised there as well as in Europe, imagined himself as destined for greatness when he was a child.

On June 10, 2022, UnHerd‘s Will Lloyd posted an interesting article, ‘How Churchill ruined Boris’.

Lloyd tells us that, when Boris was a child, he:

declared he would be “world king” one day. 

At that point, Lloyd says, Boris’s father Stanley was philandering. The Johnson family unit was breaking down and his mother had to leave for a while (emphases mine):

The boy’s response was to make himself “unhurtable, invincible, somehow safe from the pains of life…”, according to his mother when she resurfaced after an eight month disappearance. His desires betrayed his insecurities. If he could not be loved, he would be powerful. 

As a result, the most popular Prime Minister of living memory became his hero:

The armour plate little Boris chose to cover these scars was Winston Churchill. It was always Churchill: Britain’s last world king. Absent a mother, he discovered a hero. Self-pity was sublimated into the desire for glory. 

Churchill, who died in 1965, loomed large in the collective post-war British imagination:

Johnson decided to emulate Churchill — “the greatest statesman Britain had ever produced” — and stitch himself into this gold thread. Churchill was a holy presence in post-war childhoods. Boris memorised the captions of Churchill picture books. Fathers read selections from the Great Man’s speeches to their sons. Boys in the Sixties imagined themselves piloting Spitfires over green Sussex, as the sonorous, rousing, words of Churchill echoed in their heads. 

Allegedly, by the time he got to Eton, he had set his goal in life, masked under a cloak of joviality as self-preservation:

By Eton his wish was Churchillian. Become Prime Minister. Win. The clown fez he wore for the next 40 years distracted his contemporaries from this ruthless fixity of purpose. 

In 2014, as the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death approached, Boris wrote a biography of his hero, The Churchill Factor. The prose is pure Boris:

Churchill is the “beaver who damned the flow of events”; he is “like some burly and hungover butler from the set of Downton Abbey”; he is simultaneously a “crowbar of destiny” and a “hyper-gravitational astral body”.

It is no wonder that Boris continued to be attached to his hero in recent years:

Churchill, wrote Johnson, was the “inevitable” Prime Minister. By 1940 there was only one “man for the moment”. When Brexit was deadlocked in 2019 Johnson’s association with Churchill, the assiduously spade-worked notion that, give or take some hair, they were the same man, cashed out spectacularly. The mantle of inevitability passed to Johnson.  

Like Boris, Churchill also had a troubled childhood:

They are spookily alike, but not due to their maverick political careers, not for the doughy and obvious reasons. You have to go back to the beginning. Churchill suffered through his own version of Johnson’s youth of neglect and distress. “Famous men are usually the product of an unhappy childhood”, writes Churchill in Marlborough.

Churchill’s personal sadness drove his political ambitions, too:

Unhappiness evoked the same ambitions in Churchill as it did in Johnson: the conscious decision to be a classical hero, with all the ruthlessness and coldness such a choice results in. “He is bound to emerge historically as a romantic and glamorous figure”, wrote one sympathetic observer of Churchill in the Thirties, “but he is surrounded by corpses.” Suicides close to Winston Churchill included a brother-in-law, a former stepfather, a daughter’s lover, a former daughter-in-law, a son-in-law and a daughter. Johnson leaves behind two cratered marriages, and anguished relations with his platoon of children. I can picture both men wondering if this is the cost of greatness.

Both men used self-deprecating humour as a shield:

The callousness of Johnson and Churchill was leavened by self-mocking qualities. Their vanity was excused by humorousness.

Older Britons say that Churchill was perfect for winning the war. His role in leading peacetime Britain, however, was quite the opposite. The public deemed him a failure in that regard. So it was with Boris, the man who got us out of the EU then went on a downward leadership spiral:

Now that half his party is trying to slaughter its chief, The Churchill Factor makes for weirdly poignant reading. If Johnson hadn’t chosen all this you could almost feel sorry for him. “I think he doesn’t really know what he wants,” wrote Johnson about Churchill, and himself. They both just wanted more of whatever it was — acclaim usually — whenever they could grasp it. Such behaviour in peacetime, notes Johnson eight years before Partygate, “can be disastrous”. 

You become what you pretend to be. Johnson never really thought beyond Churchill the world king, hero of the finest hour, the growl on the radio. By emulating Churchill’s optimism, patriotism, and hopefulness, Johnson could finish Brexit, and take his historical place next to the most famous Englishman of all. Once he became Prime Minister, his inner world of make believe appeared congruent with reality at last. Johnson fantasised about monuments to himself, says Dominic Cummings. Johnson bumbled around Number 10, musing that the people would remember him after his death, like a Roman Emperor. Or Churchill.

The version of Winston remembered by Britain, and imitated by Johnson, is a false one. The picture is incomplete. In his last years Churchill said over and over again that he wished he had died in 1945. His beloved Empire was being dismantled. Communists dominated most of the Eurasian landmass. Socialism appeared to be the future of British politics.

Heroes are not supposed to go on. Either they die young, like Alexander did at 32, or their ludicrous self-image cannot be maintained in the face of the reality of the world. After a certain age, failure sets in like frost.  

Imagine, then, if Boris hadn’t survived Covid. A Prime Minister sacrificed for his people. All those early pandemic photos of Johnson bouncing unmasked through hospital wards suddenly charged with saintly light. Nothing beatifies, or erases error, quite like death. A romantic-cynical end, but then, as Johnson said: “All romantics need the mortar of cynicism to hold themselves up.” 

Instead there is no romance. Only cynicism. He recovered, and received cake in a Tupperware. There will be no Downing Street booze ban, he says, because Churchill needed his brandies during the war. Johnson ends up resembling the post-war Churchill. Not heroic, but hamstrung. Confused and tortured.

Resignation: who was responsible?

On Thursday, July 7, when Boris resigned as leader of the Conservative Party, he became a caretaker Prime Minister.

The media and anti-Boris Conservative MPs finally forced his hand. They had been banging on since late 2021 about the Downing Street ‘parties’, assailing him, holding him solely responsible.

But what about Simon Case, who was in charge of the Civil Service at that time and continues in that role as I write?

Surely, it was Case’s responsibility to manage the civil servants, not Boris’s?

Nothing happened to Simon Case. Yet, no one ever mentions him, only Boris.

Hmm.

The same principle holds true for the groping scandal surrounding now-Independent Chris Pincher MP, which, after Partygate, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Pincher had been Deputy Chief Whip, an appointment that Boris signed. However, even if he hadn’t signed that appointment, the Chief Whip could have gone ahead without him. The Chief Whip can have anyone he wants as his deputy. The Prime Minister’s signature is a mere formality.

The push to oust Boris is an intriguing one, indeed. I think that someone will revisit this in the years ahead.

Returning to Boris’s childhood, on the day Boris resigned, top biographer Tom Bower spoke to GB News’s Dan Wootton. Many years ago, I read Bower’s biography of the late Robert Maxwell. It was a page-turner, full of detail about his personal life.

Bower’s latest biography is Revenge, which is about the Sussexes.

But I digress.

Bower told Wootton that Boris is:

looking for love.

He said that Boris’s bout with coronavirus finished him as Prime Minister. He was never the same afterwards.

Bower said that Boris needs a good — i.e. solid — wife and that Carrie is not that person. He does not think their marriage will last.

He also said that Boris surrounded himself with poor advisers.

This is an insightful interview, well worth watching:

Hmm. I hadn’t realised that his ex-wife Marina Wheeler is a friend of Dominic Cummings’s wife, Mary Wakefield of The Spectator. Talk about wheels within wheels:

Hmm. Boris divorced Marina while she was suffering from cancer. Not a good look.

Boris has imitated his father’s poor marital example.

In closing, on the aforementioned Dan Wootton show, a panel discussed who was to blame for Boris’s resignation:

Former Boris adviser and loyalist Lord Moylan, top right, said that the attacks from MPs out to get him were:

vicious and manic.

However, Suzanne Evans said that Boris, as a former journalist, should have been able to fend off the relentless media attacks.

I agree with Liz Truss, who said on July 25, that Boris’s notional failings were insufficient to require resignation:

Liz Truss has suggested that the Conservative Party ousting Boris Johnson was a mistake, as she campaigns to replace him.

Asked why she did not join the ministers quitting over Mr Johnson’d conduct in the BBC TV debate on Monday evening, the Foreign Secretary said: “I supported Boris for the leadership, I was first Cabinet supporter, I campaigned with him, he did a brilliant job of delivering Brexit and delivering an 80-seat majority.

“Yes, he made mistakes, he admitted he made mistakes, but I didn’t think the mistakes he made were sufficient that the Conservative Party should have rejected him. That is my view.

“I’m still working with the Prime Minister, I’m still Foreign Secretary, and I think it’s important that I remain in my post. We have very serious issues to deal with on Russia and Ukraine, and I thought it would have been a dereliction of duty to leave my job at that juncture.”

Looking beyond Partygate and Chris Pincher, there is no doubt that, post-pandemic, Boris neglected much of the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto for Net Zero, probably because of his wife Carrie.

It is also likely that he underestimated the power of the civil service. Trump had the Swamp. We have the Blob.

It will be fascinating to see how his successor performs in similar circumstances.

More on Boris next week.

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