IN the extremely unlikely event of Boris Johnson being asked to kneel before his monarch to be ennobled with one of those pompous-comic, Blandings Castle titles that seem debilitatingly quaint today, his choice of name would be irrelevant.
No matter how he might like to describe himself, he might always be known as the New Duke of York — Oh, The grand old Duke of York, He had ten thousand men; He marched them up to the top of the hill, And he marched them down again.
Johnson is not the first person, nor sadly will he be the last, to so spectacularly misuse his talents.
But there are very few examples in contemporary politics — anywhere — of an individual so shamelessly selling his soul, ditching all principle, getting it utterly wrong, and dangerously misleading his compatriots in pursuit of personal ambition as Johnson’s political-career-ending decision to agitate for a vote for Britain to quit the European Union.
His announcement, yesterday, that he will not contest the leadership of Britain’s Conservative party, to succeed David Cameron, the prime minister he did so much to destroy, might be the first moment he recognised the grim, unattractive reality of his situation, since he announced that he would campaign for a ‘Leave’ vote.
He will have to, for the rest of his life, wrestle with the argument — and always lose — that his contribution to the ‘Leave’ campaign was crucial in one of the most disastrous decisions made by any electorate, anywhere, in almost a century.
Without his contribution, his undoubted charisma and wit, the result might have been very different.
Had he campaigned for what many of his peers suggest are his real beliefs — ‘Remain’ — it is not hard to argue that the EU, one of the world’s great achievements, despite its myriad faults and weaknesses, would be strengthened, rather than weakened to an as-yet-unrecognised degree.
Johnson’s perfidy, to use a word he might use himself, though he hardly seems to appreciate its real depth or meaning, might be dismissed as the buffoonery of a spoilt, over-indulged brat, had it not such far-reaching consequences for millions of people.
Why else should we, in a small city, in a small country on the edge of Europe, be so moved by the machinations of Britain’s insanely arrogant and ambitious — for themselves at least — public schoolboys parading as statesmen?
The suggestion that Johnson misjudged, and bet everything on a narrow vote to stay in the EU, one so narrow that it would fatally weaken Cameron and allow him contest the Tory leadership, does not wash away his shame, either.
All around the world, democratic politicians are struggling to retain the confidence of their electorate, to convince ordinary people that politics can have a positive role in their lives.
There is, understandably in too many cases, a dangerous disenchantment replacing the once-strong belief in democracy.
Johnson’s selfish idiocy has added greatly to that malaise and even if his Pauline moment contributes to the momentum growing around the idea of a second referendum, his political career has ended in deep, irreversible ignominy.
Shame, shame, shame.
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