“U OK HUN?” - You can't say the Prime Minister has lost his grip. He never had it to begin with.
That we live in a country where the Prime Minister has to declare ‘Britain is not a corrupt country’ and then has to be asked, “is everything OK, Prime Minister?” is indicative of just how far this country has sunk in terms of its reputation.
And to suggest, too, that it may be as a result of some illness or other.
For what it’s worth, the whole ‘Boris is Unwell’ angle began last year following his spell with COVID - this page wrote a long piece on a now defunct website that spoke about the theory, and it was given some credence following a session of Prime Minister’s questions on September 2 last year.
Now, most understand Boris Johnson as a feckless individual seemingly coated in Teflon; viewed by some as a kind of loveable oaf; an eccentric that isn't to be taken 'too seriously' and any indiscretion or transgression can be simply viewed by his supporters with a 'Ohhhh that's our Boris' kind of mentality.
Thankfully, as we see via the polls, this is sort of changing - and if this page’s modest assessment is anything to go by, voters are generally getting quite sick of the Conservatives - or at least Boris Johnson.
Feckless, incompetent, an obfuscating liar, unwell, or all of the above?
Specifically focusing on the Prime Minister’s questions from September last year, however, there was a moment where Johnson commented that the reason he hadn't spoken to members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group at the time was due to litigation proceedings taking place.
[Thankfully, he has met with them - it took a year]
Yet according to the group itself at the time, they were not proceeding with any litigation.
Sky News @SkyNews.@Keir_Starmer asks the PM to reconsider meeting with bereaved families of #COVID19 victims. @BorisJohnson says the specific group mentioned are "currently in litigation with the govt" and will be happy to meet with them once that has concluded. #PMQs: https://t.co/x8VV2dZa7q https://t.co/cQ2aYnE28z
Why would Johnson lie so brazenly when something that can be so easily fact-checked to use against him? [In fact, not just lie, but flat out fabricate something out of nothing]
Johnson ‘lied through his teeth’ about the non-existent litigation proceedings being taken by the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group at the time, but he couldn’t escape the lie he told during another exchange with Starmer at the despatch box where he said - at the time - that Starmer hadn’t discussed with him the safe return to schools following the end of Lockdown 1.0.
Is this an example of when the Prime Minister was being feckless, incompetent, an obfuscating liar, unwell - or perhaps all of the above?
Interestingly, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group
have recently accused
Johnson of not allowing them to have a say in deciding who chairs the committee for any future inquiry.
When it is exemplified that Boris Johnson is, for instance, incompetent [or a liar], Conservative voters often can’t dispute it - when provided with enough evidence, as above, it underpins the truth behind Boris Johnson's historically unhinged approach.
But is ‘unhinged’ synonymous with ‘being unwell’?
The Prime Minister: Sick Man? [Pt. 1]
‘Long covid’ is an aspect of the pandemic that has thankfully gained traction and each day we learn more about it - as we do new variants, such as the B.1.1.529 variant which has been causing some consternation as of late.
On Tuesday actually, Channel 4 News highlighted the problem of ‘Long covid’ as an illness and the tentative wait for those seeking treatment.
As noted in Pt. II of the ‘Crikey on Substack’ series, there were rumours dating back to as early as August last year that Boris Johnson was scheduled to retire from the role of Prime Minister at some point in the future on the grounds of ill-health.
The story originated here in The Times that reported Humphrey Wakefield [Dominic Cummings' father-in-law] compared sending Boris Johnson back to work [after catching Covid in March last year] like horses experiencing fetlock lameness.
"If you put a horse back to work when it’s injured it will never recover."
As early as May 2020, Downing St. staff commented that Johnson was a shadow of his former self – describing Johnson as “tired”, “not rested properly” and “not feeling well”; “on edge” and “knackered”.
The source spoke of an altercation with other Whitehall staff in which Boris Johnson was “rattled” by Sir Keir Starmer and used “a deleted expletive” to describe the Leader of the Opposition.
The same article describes a scene in Downing St. where Boris Johnson is discussing who is in charge of implementing the measures for lifting lockdown.
An account by Matthew D'Ancona, journalist for the Sunday Telegraph and former editor of The Spectator, describes a scene of utter bewilderment as Boris Johnson delivered his “garbled” and “confusing” address to the nation on May 10 2020 that was watched by an estimated 27.5 million people and came a month after the Prime Minister’s stay in intensive care.
“...All was not well.”
“[Johnson] was out of breath. He waved his arms about curiously... banged the desk to emphasise a point... The cadences were strange, the rhythm was off by a beat or two.”
He goes on, saying:
“If Boris Johnson had been a less accomplished speaker, perhaps nobody would have noticed. But it was very clear that the Prime Minister was a long way from full health. He was straining for effect and far from his usual confident self. The argument, rushed and sometimes even garbled, was very hard to follow. By the end, Johnson sounded as relieved as the rest of us that the whole thing was over.”
So is Johnson now - in November 2021 - so unwell, and have the long term effects of ‘Long covid’ overwhelmed the Prime Minister to such an extent that it has finally contributed to him ‘losing his grip’ and becoming so unhinged?
Or is it something else?
Mad Man Theory [NATB goes ‘Off Piste’]
When I think of ‘unhinged’, I think of Richard Nixon.
Nixon’s paranoia and the myriad of issues he experienced were compounded by his drinking and medication.
[Note: this is in no way to suggest Johnson’s own drinking habits form the basis of his problems though there is speculation]
Nixon’s staff and aides were utterly terrified of him, actually, and he'd often be found locked away in his own private quarters in the White House alone, for hours on end, having full drunken and drug-induced psychotropic conversations with a picture of Abraham Lincoln; screaming at the inanimate portrait of the former President before emerging in a exorcised frame of mind to suggest to his staff about using nuclear warheads on North Korea and talking endlessly on a loop about Soviet spies - all the while referring to himself in the third person [or ‘Illeism’]
And when Nixon wasn’t scrambling B-52 bombers over the arctic in an attempt to bring the Soviets and VietCong to the negotiating table, he was wandering around Washington at 4am leaving his security detail behind only to be found in a relatively dishevelled state speaking to ‘Hippy’ protestors about football and surfing.
We should be thankful we haven’t achieved Nixon-levels of weirdness with Johnson.
Although I feel based on some commentary from Conservatives, we’re not far from it and they feel it might be best to ‘nip it in the bud’, as it were - maybe this is the catalyst behind Johnson’s descent into weirdness.
Glimpses of his unhinged madness could be seen following his speech to the CBI on Monday, where there was a genuine tipping point, it seems, and society began to grimace out of either concern or embarrassment rather than laugh at his comments on his trip to Peppa Pig World.
His staff are briefing against him, factions, according to the Financial Times, are beginning to form, surrounding him with enemies; and thus paranoia sets in for the Prime Minister.
None within the Conservatives at this point probably believe him to be ‘sick’; they just think he’s useless; or ‘chaotic’ according to the Chancellor’s own leather-clad policy adviser Liam Booth-Smith.
The Prime Minister: Not so sick man? [Pt. 2]
Plausible deniability dictates that we won’t know if the Prime Minister is suffering from the effects of ‘Long covid’ unless he explicitly states so.
But if the Prime Minister views apologies as weaknesses, why would he ever admit to the nation that he is unwell when by his own account, he is “fit as a butcher’s dog” when scrutinised on his own health a year ago?
Maybe to do so would be most surprising of all - but it’d similarly carry risk when people could feasibly consider whether he’s fit enough, physically and mentally, for the job. But it could also gather sympathy - Johnson’s own confessional to appeal to those who suggest he’s “doing his best.”
And only after that would it be left for us to decide whether we sympathise, whether we perceive him as the boy who cried wolf, or whether or not any illness offers absolution for what appears - genuinely - to much rather simply be a result of incompetence and mismanagement.
His own backbenchers seem to think so - and as we saw with Theresa May, they’re a particularly ruthless bunch.
The backbenchers are signing ‘no confidence’ letters as we speak as they watch the party go beyond the pale into a pit of disrepute - be it over the handling of the Owen Paterson scandal, the cash-for-honours questions, the social care bill, the so-called ‘migrant crisis’, the scrapping of the HS2 route to Leeds, Johnson’s own continued disregard for COVID guidance, continued supply chain issues in the countdown to Christmas…
All within the space of around 3 weeks - and they cannot feasibly hide all of these managerial miscalculations behind a sympathy-grabbing headline of simply ‘being unwell’ - even if it turned out to be true.
Journalists - and Sir Keir Starmer himself, as we saw at the most recent Prime Minister’s Questions - can ask “Is everything OK, Prime Minister?’”
Alternatively, others can ask, “has Boris Johnson lost his grip?” - the latter is fundamentally the wrong question to ask because it suggests that he had a grip to begin with.
Any suggestions that his recent miscalculations might be due to ill-health are wrong, too.
The Prime Minister isn’t feckless and incompetent because of any illness he might have. He was always feckless and incompetent, and it’s only now, for many - including those within his own party - that the penny is beginning to drop and frankly, they ‘want rid’.
The Conservatives’ Fear
The optics are changing now.
Politics is changing, and if anything, as suggested in ‘Gravy Train’ we have regressed back to a state of fairly normal ‘boring politics’ and it has been revealed that the Conservatives [still the party elected in 2019] - having defeated Covid [which they haven’t done] and ‘prospered mightily’ from Brexit [which we haven’t], don’t really appear to stand for much now, and despite their modest to high ratings in the polls, don’t really appeal to anybody in particular.
Politics now is almost as though it’s 2010-2015 all over again; even Farage is making a comeback - and it won’t be Labour voters flocking to him this time because they’ve already eloped and squandered their hopes after turning to the dark side in 2019.
What the Conservatives know is that the ‘Left behind’ who turned away from Labour at the last election, will turn away from the Tories at the next - most will probably not even vote; citing ‘political homelessness’.
And because the Tories are attempting to appeal to these oft-right-wing types with ridiculous bills or meaningless rhetoric on ‘small boat people’ and claw back votes either lost to Reform/UKIP or lost altogether, they’re haemorrhaging traditional votes to the Liberal Democrats in previously ‘Blue Wall’ constituencies - a demographic of apparent “middle class and educated” individuals in formerly safe seats.
Right now, for the Conservatives, Johnson is a liability; and even if Johnson is not ‘sick’, his indecision, his mismanagement, and his incompetence reveal a pernicious sickness at the heart of his Conservative Party.
Whoever leads them next - suggestions on this page begin with Sunak, though I’d also suggest Liz Truss and Jeremy Hunt, too - will have a tough job convincing voters that the sickness left by Johnson has subsided, and no numbers of letters to Macron will suffice.
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