It increasingly looks as if Boris Johnson is whipped by the same organ Donald Trump likes to grab.
Johnson’s mistress Carrie Symonds exerts the kind of influence on policy that no WAG has done in a major Western country since Mrs Woodrow Wilson. Yet there’s a salient difference: by the time Edith took over, Wilson had lost his mind. Carrie, on the other hand, is running the show because Johnson has lost his nerve.
I almost said ‘his convictions’, but then realised it would be unfair to the man who has never had any convictions to lose. However, many of those who voted Leave and then gave Johnson a landslide victory do have convictions, and these emphatically don’t include the urge to make Britain “more liberal, greener and more international”.
They want British farms to prosper, not wind farms to multiply. They are concerned about preserving – or, as the case may be, regaining – the rights of Englishmen, not boosting the rights of LGBTQ+ people (although personally I love the open-ended plus). And they are sure that, unlike animals so beloved of Carrie, they do have such rights.
The men most responsible for developing the strategy that brought those people on side were Johnson’s communications director Lee Cain and especially his adviser Dom Cummings. In recognition of Cain’s role Johnson last week offered him a higher post, that of his chief of staff.
Then Carrie got into the act. Whatever her expertise in political mechanics, she’s woke in every fibre of her body, including the part with which she has whipped Johnson. That means she has an ideological bias, and no pragmatic concerns can withstand its onslaught.
She wants Johnson to inherit the mantle of Heir to Blair that another faux-Tory, Dave Cameron, once claimed for himself. Hence the “more liberal, greener, more international” drivel Johnson saw fit to mouth.
And hence also the brutal dismissal of both Cummings and Cain, without whom Johnson would probably have gone back to writing his Telegraph column. Granted, gratitude isn’t a productive dynamic in government. But realpolitik should be.
By using her journalistic connections and an underhanded campaign to destroy Cummings and Cain, Symonds has shown she can be as Machiavellian as they are. What she hasn’t shown is their sensitivity to the country’s mood.
Most people who voted for Johnson have no knee-jerk allegiance to the Conservative Party. Nor are they like me, who’d never vote Labour come what may.
These people can vote Labour and have done so in many elections. The masterly campaign laid out by Cummings gave them strong reasons to switch, and so they did. Yet they can switch back just as easily if they feel betrayed. And betrayal is under way.
They thought they were voting in a strong government they could rely on in any crisis. Instead they got a vacillating government that lost control of Covid. They thought they were voting in a government able to handle public finances with traditional Tory prudence. Instead they got tax-and-spend statists.
And they can sense that a Brexit betrayal is in the wind too. It looks likely that the acting PM Symonds will guide the figurehead PM Johnson to relaxing his stance on the EU trade deal. In fact, it could become so relaxed that Britain would agree to obey all EU laws while losing even the dubious privileges of full membership.
This isn’t what the electorate voted for in 2016 and 2019. And electorates can be very vindictive indeed, especially if a viable alternative presents itself.
Sir Keir Starmer and his Labour party are waiting in the wings, and they are literate enough to read the situation fluently. Sir Keir is Corbyn’s clever twin: just as left-wing but smart enough to conceal it behind liberal cant, repeating word for word the Johnson-Symonds mantra of “more liberal, greener, more international”.
In fact, if it were Starmer at the helm now, I’m sure he’d be saying and doing exactly the same things as the Johnson-Symonds coalition. Printing money on a scale unprecedented in peacetime? Of course. Playing footsies with the EU? Naturally. Taxing wealth producers? Definitely. More wind farms and less hydrocarbons even if it means national penury? Certainly. Identity politics based on sex, race and class? Can’t be without it.
Whenever the next general election comes, and it may be sooner than people think, the voters will have to choose between two identical programmes, one fronted by a man who has already betrayed them once, the other by one who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to do so. An easy choice, wouldn’t you say?
Then we’ll have at least a decade of a Labour government even more revoltingly subversive than Blair’s was. Who knows, by then Carrie might even qualify for a cabinet position.
There’s a glimmer of hope though. Johnson has rich form in tiring of his mistresses, including those who have borne his children. Maybe, just maybe, he can get unhenpecked and unwhipped by dumping Carrie’s charms and her policies at the same time.
Otherwise we are courting disaster even greater than the one we are facing anyway. Is this what the French mean when they say cherchez la femme?