Practice makes imperfect. There was an air of expectancy on the Tory benches as Boris Johnson prepared to face his first prime minister’s questions. Surely the previous day’s car crash could only have been an aberration. This time their clown prince would prove to be the headline act they had been promised. Bring them sunshine, make them smile. Give them a reason to feel good about their tawdry, shabby lives. Some hope.
Johnson has breezed through life, flailing effortlessly upwards while happily trashing the lives of all those with whom he comes in contact. For him, being the prime minister is merely a position of entitlement rather than of responsibility. The ideal job for someone predisposed to laziness and arrogance. Someone for whom the idea of preparation is an unthinkable admission of failure.
Within minutes, it was clear we were heading towards yet another shitshow. At least Theresa May gave the impression of acknowledging Jeremy Corbyn’s questions even if she made little effort to answer them. Johnson just believed he was above it all. PMQs was the Boris show. No one else really mattered. They seldom do to him. So what we got was an excruciating 50 minute unravelling of the narcissistic ego in which Johnson exposed his familiar tired Archie Rice routine. Corbyn was Caracas! It hadn’t been funny when he’d first made the gag three years previously. The opposition was shit! Corbyn was a big girl’s blouse! Johnson is going to go down a storm on the world stage. Making Britain Crap Again.
“Pifflepafflewifflewaffle,” said Johnson, when the leader of the opposition pressed him about the state of the government’s Brexit negotiations. This was all on a need to know basis. And not even he needed to know. You never negotiate in public. And apparently not in private, either. In any case, Corbyn was just trying to undermine him by taking no deal off the table.
Corbyn replied it was hard to undermine something that wasn’t taking place. Yet again, Johnson was achieving something the Conservative party and most Labour MPs had previously thought impossible. He was making Corbyn look like a statesman in command of his brief. A politician who understood the forensic detail and could think on his feet. Who knew that Boris was capable of such altruism?
It was all downhill for Johnson from there. Asked to confirm what was in the No Deal Operation Yellowhammer dossier, he all but suggested it didn’t exist. Even though almost all the details had been leaked to the Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago. And then he just made up a story about the interview in which Michael Gove had said some food prices would go up. It had never happened. It was a Mikey impersonator who had been on the TV. The real Mikey had been having breakfast with him. Honest.
Boris looked up hopefully. This was the kind of bare-faced lie he’d got away with for years and he confidently expected to get away with it again now. Except many of his own backbenchers were beginning to suffer unexpected pangs of conscience. They’d put their doubts about Johnson’s character to one side when they’d elected him, because they’d fallen for the glitter after Theresa May’s monochrome leadership. Now they realised that the Carry On film they thought they had bought was in fact a snuff movie.
“We need a sensible moderate Conservative government,” Johnson ploughed on. But that wasn’t on offer, as what we had was a party that had abandoned its one-nation values and had now been hijacked by a far-right elite that had just purged 21 of its number for doing something that many in the cabinet had done repeatedly with impunity. The wrong kind of morality is a death sentence these days. Classic Dom.
But the moment when Johnson totally lost the house was when the Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi was applauded for asking him to apologise for his racist comments about “bongo bongo land” and Muslim women looking like letterboxes. An admission that he could have chosen his words better – that language mattered – was all that was required. But Boris is incapable of saying sorry. So he bumbled, anxiously looking round for support, while his entire front bench stared at the floor, refusing to catch his eye.
Come the end, Johnson was desperate to leave. He couldn’t even keep to the script that he didn’t want an election as he blurted out that he did want one after all. Dom would kill him for that. He rushed for the exit, only to be hauled back when he was reminded he was rather obliged to sit through Sajid Javid’s spending review. Having retaken his seat, he appeared to lose interest quickly. As did everyone else. Javid is even duller than Philip Hammond and besides his statement was only an election promise. No one had a clue whether it could be delivered.
Enough was enough. Johnson would be back later for further humiliation. He would lose the Rebel Alliance vote on preventing a no deal. And he would also lose the vote on forcing an election. The timetable was out of his hands. Classic Dom. Played three, lost three. His 100% record would be intact. The failure’s failure.