Expulsion from Borisland

We may walk no more in paradise


And so, for the last time (OR IS IT?) to Borisland, the sunlit country where ambulances are so plentiful that paramedics go door to door just checking everyone’s feeling tip-top, where British Gas sends its customers an envelope full of cash each month with a note urging them to treat themselves, and where you can still dispatch a parcel to France without spending a day filling in customs forms.

“Why must he go? Why? WHY?”

In Borisland, the people have finally allowed their beloved prime minister to retire, but only after he promised them he would write more of his wonderful and often accurate history books, to brighten their evenings. Now he had come before us to say a gracious and modest farewell, hoping that the cheering crowds filling Whitehall would not insist on carrying him shoulder-high all the way to Balmoral, where Her Majesty was threatening to abdicate in his favour.

As he began to speak, did the television image seem to shake? I could see the cameraman trying to steady himself as his shoulders heaved with sobbing. Just out of shot, the normally demure policeman who stands outside the famous black door of Number 10 lay in the street, wailing.

Down the road, the cavalrymen outside Horse Guards sat comforting one another on the pavement. Their mounts had refused to leave the stables that morning, so great was the grief felt by man and beast at the departure of our Beloved Helmsman. Looking at my notes, I find that my own tears have caused the ink to run, so that the only words I can make out are: “Why must he go? Why? WHY?”

Is this how it is in his mind? Is he wondering, even now, why there don’t seem to be more grief-stricken women throwing themselves in front of his motorcade? When he heard last week that protesters had entered the House of Commons, did he imagine he was finally getting his own January 6 moment, with a furious public rising up to demand the restoration of the Borisarchy?

“Well this is it, folks,” he began. There were, to be fair, plenty of people gathered in Downing Street who seemed sad to be losing him. Towards the gates, some of Britain’s dimmest MPs had gathered to see him off. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who hasn’t really got over what the plebs did to Charles I, had brought his son.

There too was Rachel Johnson, whose business card I’ve always imagined simply reads “Sister”, well-positioned for the cameras. She is available for christenings and bar mitzvahs, no job too small, rates on application. Perhaps there will be a place in the House of Lords for her in the resignation honours list, alongside brother Jo. The Johnsons are like Japanese knotweed. We’re going to be digging them out of our democracy for decades.

He had Got Brexit Done

The prime minister, for so he just about still was, managed almost 50 words before we got the first whinge about the unfairness of it all. This counts, for him, as almost heroic self-restraint. “The torch will finally be passed to a new Conservative leader,” he said. “The baton will be handed over in what has unexpectedly turned out to be a relay race.” Ungracious and, for a man who has written a biography of a Tory prime minister, weirdly ahistorical. When has the Conservative leadership ever been anything but a relay race?

“They changed the rules half-way through,” he complained, incorrectly. “But never mind that now,” he added, with transparent insincerity.

This was as close as he got to mentioning the reality of his departure: that he was forced from office by an outbreak of disgust among his own ministers unparalleled in history. That having won the huge majority he was so anxious to remind us of, he had blown it all in epic self-indulgement.

And then we were off into his many achievements. He had Got Brexit Done (terms and conditions apply; your Brexit may not resemble the Brexit promised; statistics on bus are for illustration only; any attempt to take Brexit across Irish Sea will invalidate warranty). He had delivered the vaccine. He had given weapons to Ukraine.

There’s clearly been a sense in recent days that this list is a bit short, and so other things have been added. Johnson is now taking personal credit for fibre-optic broadband, and the fact that street crime fell in those months when no one was allowed to leave their house. By next week he’ll be pointing out that the Top Gun sequel was released on his watch.

And then we got to the real focus of any Boris Johnson speech, Boris Johnson. “On the subject of bouncing around,” he began, and we briefly wondered whether he was about to unveil a new post-prime-ministerial mistress. “I am now like one of those booster rockets that has fulfilled its function, and I will now be gently re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down invisibly in some remote and obscure corner of the Pacific.” Circulation isn’t what it was for anyone, but this is an odd way to describe a column in the Telegraph.

“Like Cincinnatus I am returning to my plough,” he went on, “and I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support.”

The grimmer, greyer world that is Trusstopia

These words were greeted by political journalists as though they contained some obscure clue that could only be decoded by GCHQ. Off they dashed to Wikipedia. Mary Beard was summoned onto the radio to explain what he could possibly mean. But Johnson couldn’t have been less subtle if he’d hired a skywriter. His plan, apart from an almighty cash-in, is to write disloyal and whiny pieces in newspapers, and, whenever he feels public interest is waning, making a remark about his comeback. Liz Truss will come to loathe him, but having spent the summer endorsing the myth that he was unjustly forced out, she’ll be in no position to complain.

And with that, he was into the Range Rover and off to Borisland, the beloved and much-missed leader, waiting for the call to return once more and rescue his country. The rest of us headed to breakfast, to contemplate the prospect of the grimmer, greyer world that is Trusstopia.

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