Have people not heard of the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe?
So that’s it then? That’s how they thank him? The fastest vaccine rollout in Europe! Sorry I’ve forgotten the question but did you know? The fastest vaccine rollout in Europe! And then they just swank out onto the streets and into the polling booths of North Shropshire and vote for the other guy.
It’s sickening really. And not just that. It doesn’t make any sense. For the last four weeks, while Boris Johnson was trying to use the Owen Paterson scandal as a pretext through which to take out the standards commissioner, or telling bald-faced lies about parties in his house that either didn’t happen or he didn’t know about, or having a hundred of his own MPs vote against him, or having to issue denials which no one believes that he didn’t personally intervene to have some dogs evacuated from Afghanistan ahead of people, all we were ever told was that none of it mattered. What the public cared about, what the people cared about, was the world-leading vaccine rollout, which started almost a year ago and absolutely isn’t world leading anymore.
So what were these people thinking? What were they doing? How could they have, not just the bare-faced cheek, but the lack of basic gratitude to go and vote for the Liberal Democrats in a fairly mindblowing swing of 34 per cent, described by the David Attenborough of psephology, Professor John Curtice, as “an earthquake”?
It’s not the biggest ever by-election swing. And while it may be an earthquake, we’ve been living in an age of earthquakes for some time now. What almost certainly does make it historic is that the by-election was not only lost by the prime minister’s personal malfeasance, it was also directly caused by it. Without Johnson, they certainly wouldn’t have lost it, because they wouldn’t have had to fight it to begin with. That kind of pyrotechnic crapness is rarely seen, if ever before.
Naturally, it being a by-election, the conclusion to draw from it is precisely whatever it was you thought going into it but even so, it may be wise at this point to turn to the words of 77-year-old Pearl Morris, whose door was knocked on by the Tory candidate earlier this week, with a reporter from the Daily Telegraph in tow, and who said, “I can’t vote for that charlatan you’ve got in charge”, before explaining that the only reason there was a poster of him up in the window was because her husband had put it up and “he’s got dementia”.
Johnson, once upon a time, was called the “Heineken Tory”, apparently for his ability to convince non-Tories to vote for him. This is because he is very capable of doing an impression of someone charming, down to earth and affable. (He won London twice, after all.) By-elections are funny things. Voters know they’re not voting for who they want to be prime minister. They’re not voting for – or indeed against – any policies at all. They know the result will have almost no impact on them. And general elections aren’t like that.
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But at the same time, if you’ve got a party leader who is now repellent enough to prevent even the people who’ve got your poster up in their own house from voting for you, it’s probably safe to assume you’ve got a problem. If you go to the trouble of putting a poster up of someone, in your actual house, be it One Direction, Pamela Anderson or Birmingham-based junior barrister Dr Neil Shastri-Hurst, and then they turn up at your door? Well, it’s quite unusual for them to be told to go away again.
What’s going to happen now, apparently, is things are going to change. Boris Johnson is going to get some new, better, more grown-up people into Downing Street. Sort it all out. Run the operation better. And we, the people, are going to pretend not to notice that he did this barely a year ago, when the “Vote Leave” lot lost some sort of internal power struggle with Carrie Johnson, so out went Cain and Cummings and in came Allegra Stratton, and some guy called Dan Rosenfield, and a range of other people who didn’t seem to think it would be a bad idea to turn 10 Downing Street into some kind of rolling Christmas disco while the rest of the country was in lockdown, and would then have to resign on their own doorstep in floods of tears.
The problem, as has been crushingly obvious for a full three decades before he ever became prime minister, is Boris Johnson. And it does seem unlikely that Boris Johnson is going to “change”. Character is a curious concept, but it is kind of generally accepted that whatever it is, it is fully formed by the age of 57. Already, we are told, the Conservatives are talking among themselves about who comes next. Maybe they’ve got some bright ideas, though they will be aware that they’ve already deployed their “Emergency: Break Glass” candidate, ie Johnnson, and it is he who’s got them in this unimaginable mess. And if not, then they’ve always got Liz Truss. Be careful what you wish for.