“In the name of God, go”

“In the name of God, go!” 

I had intended to write about the Levelling Up White Paper.  It was promised within a year of the 2019 election.  But like Godot, we’re still waiting for it.    

It’s the second time I’ve agreed with David Davis.  In November he broke the Conservative whip, voting to require water companies to “take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows”.  Is there a better metaphor for Johnson’s premiership than pumping raw sewage into our country?  403,171 times in 2020, according to the Environment Agency. 

Davis’s late intervention at PMQs this week floored the Prime Minister.  “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”

Johnson was visibly rattled.  “I don’t know what quotation he is alluding to”.  Odd, coming from a man who makes £thousands in royalties every month from a book about Churchill.  It is reported, and not denied, that they are largely ghost-written. 

For his much-trailed Shakespeare biography, he offered to pay an academic to research and answer questions Johnson would ask.  For this, it’s said Johnson got a £500,000 advance.   

I checked the register of members’ interests.  On 30th November 2015, it records £88,000 for “a book as yet unwritten”, plus another £9981 for the paperback.  Perhaps he never drew down the remaining £410,000.  Perhaps he thinks it’s “chicken feed” like his £22,917 a month fee from the Telegraph.  That’s £2,292 an hour for writing his column.  £2,292 an hour more than I get for writing my weekly column…

That same month he declared £274,796 in media earnings.  Of course, he’ll have needed that, scraping by on his MP’s salary of (then) £67,000.  Despite simultaneously claiming his £142,000 Mayor of London salary.  Plus the occasional £94,507.85, two hour speech in New York, or £122,899.70 three hour speech in India.  No wonder he’s had the begging bowl out since he became PM.  That gold wallpaper doesn’t buy itself. 

Remember when Johnson missed 5 consecutive COBRA meetings, dismissing Covid as “swine flu”?  Dominic Cummings claims Johnson was at the 115-room Kent mansion, Chevening House. 

“Dom,” he’s reported to have said to Cummings (Iago) “I want to run something by you. Do you think it’s ok if I spend a lot of time writing my Shakespeare book?  This f***ing divorce, very expensive.” 

The blurb says Johnson’s book, Riddle of Genius, explores “endlessly intriguing themes of the plays… illicit sex and the power struggles; the fratricide and matricide; … the racism, jealousy, political corruption.”  He’s been busy doing first hand research.    

Remember that scene in Macbeth, Act 2, where Macbeth murders King Duncan?  Has blood all over his hands, kills Duncan’s guards, and blames them.  “Wherefore did you so?” asks Macduff.  And Macbeth says those immortal words, “We’ll have to wait for Sue Gray’s inquiry.”   

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” says Marcellus, a minor character in Hamlet.  He knows that fish rot from the head. 

Johnson has drawn British politics to a place where blackmail is openly discussed.  The only levelling up we’ve seen is £4.2 billion used for pork-barrel politics.  Sprinkled across the country, disproportionately to marginal Tory seats.  Nothing to address inequality, crumbling infrastructure or decades of underinvestment. 

Johnson has even lost his Wragg.  Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Conservative MP William Wragg, claims MPs have been bribed and blackmailed over funding for their constituencies.  A dozen other Tories have come forward. 

Although individually, Conservative MPs can display moments of integrity, they’ve all gone along with him.  Defended him.  Enabled him. 

David Davis voted with Johnson and the whip to cover up Owen Paterson’s corruption.  Between them, they’ve voted to deny poor children free schools meals, the £20 universal credit cut plunging millions into poverty, and putting National Insurance increases on the lowest paid. 

Johnson has been venal.  Morally and politically corrupt.  And for what?  What big project?  He’s more indecisive than Hamlet.  He has only one passion, to advance Boris Johnson. 

Lying awake, unable to sleep, I wonder if Johnson recalls Macbeth.  And reflects his own political career.  “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

*Originally published in the Journal and Chronicle 24.01.22