David Davis, the PM’s Brexiteer chum, delivers a killer blow | Tom Peck

David Davis, the PM’s Brexiteer chum, delivers a killer blow | Tom Peck
Boris Johnson and David Davis share a long political history. That the latter should stand up and tell the PM to go felt like it mattered

There’s no rule that says a prime minister has to resign for knowingly misleading a news reporter in a broadcast clip, which might partially explain why the risible garbage Boris Johnson told Sky News on Tuesday, he evidently felt he could not repeat at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, he had spent almost 20 full minutes saying, with as much sincerity as he could conjure, that nobody had told him the party happening in his garden, which he attended for 25 minutes, was against the Covid regulations.

This has already been laughed at, many times over, and there is absolutely no reason not to do so again. It really is a point of fact that the actual prime minister is continuing to claim that he attended a party in his own garden which only he was unaware was a party. Several people have now said he was told it was a party. Johnson says this didn’t happen, which means those of us trying to piece together what might have happened have to decide who to believe, out of absolutely anyone at all and the guy who has been telling clear and demonstrable lies for several months. Sorry, decades.

On Wednesday, at the despatch box of the House of Commons, this defence was not forthcoming. This week, just as last week, all he could say, over and over again, is that we must all wait for Sue Gray’s investigation, which he commissioned, and which he knows does not have the scope to directly accuse him of wrongdoing. And after that, he will claim it is time to move on.

The event was bookended by serious damage. Fifteen minutes before he stood up, Christian Wakeford, the Conservative MP for Bury South, announced his defection to Labour. Johnson didn’t say much about it. Wakeford has a majority in Bury South of exactly 420 votes. On current polling, the Tories will lose 42 of their 45 so-called “red wall” seats. Johnson, of all people, can hardly criticise someone for acting in their own immediate self-interest.

The real damage, arguably, was done after. When David Davis rose to quote Cromwell and, more recently the Tory politician Leo Amery, who told Neville Chamberlain in 1940, “in the name of God, go”.

Davis had pointed out that “you might recognise the quote”, it being among the most famous in British political history. Johnson said he had “no idea what he was talking about”. Johnson has written a biography on Churchill, so it does seem surprising that he would be unaware of the extremely famous lines that cleared his route to power. But, as the historian Richard J Evans memorably pointed out, Johnson also claims in that biography that Germany won the Battle of Stalingrad. There is an 85 metre high statue in Stalingrad today, the tallest in Europe, which points out, with some accuracy, that they did not. Most Key Stage Three history essays on the subject tend to do the same.

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Are we moving toward the end of the beginning of the end for Boris Johnson? It is only his own MPs who can move the process forward. Sue Gray certainly won’t. She can’t. That his old mate David Davis should stand up and put it so bluntly felt like it kind of mattered.

The two men go back a long way. Davis even praised him for “delivering Brexit”, though did not mention that the most recent Brexit negotiator has recently resigned, precisely because Brexit remains very much undelivered. (For Davis’s own personal vision of Brexit, the one in which the UK joins a “free trade area 10 times larger than the European Union”, has sadly still not yet come to pass, chiefly because such a free trade area would be significantly larger than planet earth.)

This kind of vicious Brexiteer on Brexiteer stuff is just not how it’s meant to be going. Can it really only be 400 years ago that the two men skipped down the Chequers driveway together, resigning from the cabinet and refusing to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal?

Though arguably Johnson should have foreseen trouble ahead when he and Davis went their separate ways not that long after – quite literally, in fact. When it came to the vote on said deal, Davis did what normal people do and voted against the deal he had resigned over. Johnson, who you may recall invited a press photographer to snap him in his private office and turned the signing of his resignation letter into arguably the most self-regarding photoshoot in British political history, would then decide to vote for it.

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Many Tories seem genuinely to believe that this is just a crisis and it will all blow over. They may be right. But there are others who think Johnson is now a complete electoral liability who must be dispensed with. For them, arguably the most telling aspect of the session came in his shouty, pseudo stump speech answer at the end. He really did stand there and say that he was immensely proud of everything his government has done. That he was “cutting taxes” and “reducing the cost of living”. He isn’t cutting taxes. That is why The Daily Telegraph of all papers described his most recent budget as “the death of Conservatism”.

And if he is reducing the cost of living, it will come as something of a surprise to anyone who’s read the only story in two months that has moved his own personal rolling s**tshow off the top of the news bulletins. Namely, the one that announced that the cost of living rose 5.4 per cent last month, the fastest rise in 30 years.

And that, really, is the problem. Even without the parties, all he appears to have left is to shout stuff that isn’t true. Close observers of politics know that that’s been the case for years. But now the whole country can see he’s a liar, he may have absolutely nothing to offer.

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