It was once said of Winston Churchill that his rhetoric only matched the level of events when the Second World War arrived. His soaring oratory was precisely what was needed when British oblivion seemed imminent. Once the War was ended, the great war leader was ejected from office in a Labour landslide, only returning a little over five years later to deliver what was a fairly unremarkable peacetime premiership.
During the 1945 General Election, Churchill’s now-infamous claim that Labour would impose upon Britain a version of the Gestapo backfired spectacularly. Following Britain’s great deliverance, people wanted a share in the fruits of victory. They could do without grand words about the global political scene. Churchill’s scaremongering about the dangers of the Left, though it would soon return to the fore with his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in 1946, was for now off-key.
Theresa May’s foreign secretary, Rt. Hon. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (don’t you dare call him Boris), apparently believes that he is the modern equivalent of Churchill. Indeed, he wrote a very enjoyable hagiography about Churchill, entitled: ‘The Churchill Factor.’ As a piece of historiography, it’s alarmingly cartoonish in its portrayal of Churchill – who was a complex, ingenious and flawed man – but this should hardly be surprising. Johnson the writer is much like Johnson the man: shallow, quixotic, self-involved, insincere and dishonest.
Britain deserves better than this shameless, useless, unpatriotic mop. It is in large part due to Johnson that we are now leaving the EU. Sensing that the premiership would be more likely to fall into his lap if he backed the Brexiteers, he ditched his long-avowed Europhilia at the eleventh hour and submitted one of two articles he had on ice explaining why we should Brexit. The second article, it is now widely known, was far better written and made the case for staying in.
Since the advent of Theresa May’s disastrous premiership, Johnson as foreign secretary has presided over gaffe after gaffe after gaffe. He has insulted our friends, our neighbours, our allies and our own citizens. He has brought shame to the Union Flag. Not content with trashing our reputation in Europe last year, now he traduces Britain’s name across the globe as he tours the world in a spectacle as grotesque as the one painted by that other sick political joke, President Donald J. Trump.
Theresa May is now so weak that she is singularly unable to sack Boris Johnson – despite his repeated betrayals of her and the country. If she had any strength left at all, she would be able to rid herself and us of this troublesome popinjay. As Nick Cohen tweeted earlier today, “Theresa May’s Love Actually moment would be to walk out to the cameras in Downing Street and announce she’s fired Johnson and Patel”. It’s too late for that, I’m afraid. Plus, Johnson seems to have far more in common with Daniel Cleaver of Bridget Jones’s Diary than he does with the ghastly American president who Hugh Grant humiliated so righteously in Love Actually.
Today we learn that Johnson has unwittingly increased the likelihood that a British mum, serving a five-year sentence for allegedly plotting to topple the government in Tehran, will remain in jail. Johnson told a Commons committee that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested at Tehran Airport in 2016, was “teaching people journalism”. The Thomson Reuters Foundation said she was seeing family and urged Mr Johnson to correct his “serious mistake”.
Perhaps this latest blunder is good news for Johnson. After all, he’s in the news, which seems to be all that matters to him. Straight out of the Donald Trump / Max Clifford / Frank Underwood playbook, that trick. If only Johnson were imaginary, like Kevin Spacey’s Underwood. Sadly he is all-too-real, and with every passing day he remains as foreign secretary, he degrades our international standing. The lately fallen Sir Michael Fallon took much glee in saying Ed Miliband would “stab Britain in the back.” Ridiculous words, for sure. And untrue. Unlike these – Boris Johnson: the man who hated Britain.