NorthNot even a trained arsonist could have imagined such spectacular pyrotechnics. This was Dominic Cummings’ wildest dream come true. Revenge came no sweeter than Boris Johnson having a meltdown during the prime minister’s questions. And not just a mild hissing attack, but a total disintegration of the psyche.
This was the Boris that the prime minister goes a long way to hide. Normally we can see the carefree construction of the carefree prankster, but here he was stripped of something much uglier: the primal rage of the narcissistic teenager who has been trapped and has no place to hide. Anger compounded by the knowledge that, as so often happens, most of the damage was self-inflicted.
Even without the Elections Commission saying it would launch an investigation into Johnson’s redecoration of Number 11 just an hour before the PMQs began, there was little doubt where Keir Starmer’s attention would focus. Especially since Dom had asked the six questions on his blog the week before, in which he had revealed the story about the piled up bodies and the unorthodox way Boris had supposedly paid for his Downing Street remodel.
Starmer started with the bodies. Had the prime minister said “pile up the bodies” or something like that after a discussion about the second lockdown last October? Absolutely not, Johnson insisted. And anyone who said otherwise was a liar. Good, Keir replied. He was just checking because various people seemed to contradict him and it would be important at some point to determine who was telling the truth. After all, it was a crime to deceive parliament.
The Labor leader then moved on to decorations. The John Lewis furniture that Michael Gove’s wife Sarah Vine had kindly explained earlier on the Today show had to be thrown away because someone as important as Boris couldn’t be expected to live in a container. With friends like Sarah … So who had paid the initial £ 56,000 bill for the new soft furnishings?
Now Boris started ranting. “I paid the bill personally,” he said. And it hurt. It was bad enough that he had been forced to accept a significant pay cut to become prime minister. How could anyone survive on £ 150,000 a year? – but it had never occurred to him that he would expect to pay for his own living arrangements. Starting out with cash was for the little people. And if she had ever suspected for a minute that she would have to shell out for a £ 10K sofa, she would never have let Carrie order one from the elegant catalog.
Most of the people he cross-examined generally only said “no comment” at this point, Starmer noted, before trying again. This time he tried multiple choice. Had it been the taxpayer, the Conservative party, a Conservative donor, or the Prime Minister who had paid the initial bill? Once again, Boris avoided the question by repeating that he had ended up paying and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. You may find that the Election Commission is not so easily fooled by you by answering a different question than the one that was posed to you.
By now Johnson was in the midst of his spiel, oblivious to anything but his own fury and a burning sense of injustice being asked to pay himself. Labor had spent £ 500,000 in Downing Street, he said, so all he had spent was chicken feed. He seemed to have already forgotten the 2.6 million pounds he spent on a new media suite that he is now too scared to use in case people ask him more awkward questions.
Starmer closed by listing the seven principles of the Nolan commission: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, responsibility, openness, honesty, and leadership, but Boris was too hysterical to assimilate anything. Instead, he got sweaty and just screamed about why he wasn’t. he was asked about the vaccine launch and other things that were going well. He even threw a lie that Labor hadn’t voted for the Brexit deal, just for the fun of it. Some conservative backbenchers yelled “more, more,” but most had the decency to look embarrassed.
This was always how it was going to be. Just as Cummings had predicted when he went public with his filth. It would never be the great things that brought Boris down. The public could tolerate any number of falsehoods about Brexit and incompetence in handling the coronavirus in the first nine months of the pandemic. All of that had a price on Johnson’s public persona. The careless Dr. Feelgood.
It was always going to be Boris who did it for Boris. The feeling that the country’s priorities only prevail when they coincide with yours. And today we had seen that Johnson’s real priorities lay in self-preservation. The refusal to say who had paid for the reform. The personal briefings for newspaper editors who criticize Dom. This had shown him the real Boris. The unpleasant and selfish Boris. The Boris for whom the ordinary rules do not apply. The Boris did his best to keep it hidden.
This would not be the end of it. The PMQs were too niche for that. But there was a sense that a sea change had occurred for all who had witnessed it. What had been seen could not go unnoticed. There is a crack in everything. This is how the light comes in. Ian Blackford of the SNP used his questions to ask if Johnson considered himself a liar. Interestingly, Boris did not reply. It was the closest he came to telling the truth during the session.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism