by Peter Franklin
Friday, 8
July 2022
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14:00

Boris Derangement Syndrome lives on

Figures like Rory Stewart and John Major are getting carried away
by Peter Franklin
Credit: Getty

Boris Johnson deserved to go. Nevertheless, the fact that he’s now gone isn’t enough for some people. They want him gone right now — thrown out of Downing Street immediately with an acting Prime Minister appointed in his place. 

There is, of course, no precedent for such a move. Nor is there any need. Boris Johnson’s character flaws are clear for all to see, but he’s not insane. He hasn’t committed any great crime — not unless you count spending a few minutes in the same room as an uneaten birthday cake.  

So for John Major to write to the 1922 Committee and suggest that the “proposal for the Prime Minister to remain in office” is “unwise” and “may be unsustainable” is puzzling. 

For a start, Major is in poor position to lecture anyone on Prime Ministers who ought to leave office. He himself failed to resign in 1992 after the humiliation of Black Wednesday and, again, in 1995, when it was clear that he was leading his party to a landslide defeat. 

As for the present day, the idea of Boris Johnson continuing until a new Prime Minister is chosen isn’t a “proposal” it’s just the constitutional default position. Of course, if an incumbent was so impaired or compromised that he or she couldn’t do the job, then special arrangements would have to be made. But if anyone’s got any evidence for that in respect to the incumbent, then we’ve yet to hear it. 

As well as announcing his departure, Boris Johnson spent yesterday plugging the holes in his Cabinet. Furthermore, he did so in the most boringly responsible way possible — drafting experienced former ministers like Robert Buckland and Greg Clark. But for some over-excited Boris-haters even this was too much. For instance, Sam Freedman, a former government policy advisor, tweeted “What on God’s green earth is Greg Clark doing? He’s a vaguely sensible person.”

I used to work for Clark and he’s possibly the most sensible man I’ve ever met. He’s also got zero reason to do any favours for Boris Johnson — he just knows that the machinery of government starts seizing up if ministers aren’t in place to make decisions. Nevertheless, Freedman is still furious with with Buckland and Clark for “propping [Johnson] up”.

Except that there’s no propping up to be done here — Boris has toppled over. One can either kick the corpse or do something more constructive. 

Of course, the corpse-kickers can’t help themselves. They’re all over the opinion pages today, crowning Boris Johnson as Britain’s worst ever Prime Minister. And in some ways they’re right — but, despite the man’s manifest inadequacies, he still got Brexit done. 

And that, of course, is the real reason why they hate him. He took on the liberal elites and defeated them. That the Remain establishment tried to overturn a binding referendum result is the actual constitutional outrage of our time — not the dog-end of Boris Johnson’s time in office. 

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Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 month ago

Major and Heseltine should have been gagged years ago; bitter, twisted old never weres.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Sam Brown

For his faults, Major did contest and win a GE in which he was supposed to get a drubbing.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
1 month ago

Only because Maggie chose him (to keep Hestletine out).

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 month ago
Reply to  Sam Brown

However they highlight a problem. There are two factions in the country whose desires for living together are diametricallly opposed to one another. The precise split 52:48, whatever it has now become, is still a barrier to effective Government in this country, because the two sides are living in different constitutional dugouts. This is different from the historic Tory/Labour split up to 1983, because in those days all were agreed that the system itself was basically fine, it was just a question of who got to decide how the old wagon rolled along. But now there is not the slightest agreement between the two sides as to what the nature of the UK should be. One thinks that the UK should be pristine and alone, and the other is a globalist worldview in which localised ‘national’ governments are irrelevant. Unless many globalists change their minds, that’s where we will always be. The logic of this situation is of course two entirely separate political realms, but no-one knows where to draw the borders. This will be a festering sore for the foreseeable future.

Last edited 1 month ago by Arnold Grutt
Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

This simply is not true. You are vastly exaggerating the differences and assuming that everyone in each of your two tribes believes a) the same and b) equally strongly. You also ignore British tolerance.
This is yet another manufactured fake narrative.
You are also repeating the error that everyone who voted Leave wanted a Britain “pristine and alone”. Nonsense. I just didn’t want top be part of a failing organisation and thought we could do better. It’s nothing to do with “isolationism”.
But go on – keep patronising the voters and telling us why we voted the way we did. Keep telling yourselves you only lost because someone wrote a suggestion on the side of a bus (an option which was open to anyone with the nouse to do so).
British democracy has always survived “52:48 splits” before.
What is true is that there are certainly some Remainers – and we can include both Major and Heseltine in this group – who care not a whit for democracy.

Peter Dawson
Peter Dawson
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

I gave him a down vote for you.
He’s entirely wrong and you a very much more on the nail Good comment.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yeah Arnold is mistaking us for the USA. Brits outside the Westminster bubble and these niche forums really don’t care that much as long as we don’t get too extreme, which is why we so easily flip from Labour to the Tories.

Thats why it’s so remarkable that the British electorate voted for Brexit in the teeth of establishment opposition. That was a unique moment.

And it was still just leaving a trade agreement that got too intimate, not the earth shattering change the establishment elite claimed. I love the British electorate for seeing through that charade.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
1 month ago

Excellent piece which is spot on. Thank you.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
1 month ago

great article – and you’re not wrong

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
1 month ago

I think David Cameron was the worst UK PM in 100 years… although I am open to hearing about other contenders for this dubious honour. Boris Johnson is only in the hapenny place. As the author of the piece says, Johnson’s main crime was to be caught at the wrong time in the same room as an uneaten birthday cake.

Cameron’s decision to grant the first referendum on Scottish Independence has opened a constitutional can of worms. His referendum on the UK leaving the EU is the poisoned chalice that none will ever be able to drain – he left office without even trying. Like King Lear, Cameron tinkered with settled constitutional arrangements, and has unleashed forces that cannot be controlled.

Last edited 1 month ago by Lennon Ó Náraigh
Mark Walton
Mark Walton
1 month ago

Totally agree Cameron was the tories Starmer moment!

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Walton

He was dreadful, but many of the problems stemmed from Blair’s decade of ‘changing the culture’ of the UK, before scuttling of as Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds and raking in obscene amounts of loot.

On his watch: devolution; mass immigration from low wage European expansion (everywhere else put a cap on this) and lowering the bar for spouses and families; enshrining rights in law that have led to endless abuses of the system and fuelled the grievance industry; vast overexpansion of rubbish universities while vocational or technical training was depleted; Iraq War; ridiculous public spending on non-jobs for his new voters. I could continue.

Cameron failed to fix any of this, but he didn’t cause it.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
1 month ago

The groundwork for Blair was laid by two things. Neil Kinnock’s decision in opposition to Thatcher after 1983 to change to a pro-European stance, and a similar move made by John Major during his premiership when the nature of the European ‘project’ changed from a purely economic one to a frank attempt at a ‘United States of Europe’ (basically a ‘single Europe’ governed centrally by unelected committees with democracy as a kind of ‘placate the mob’ addition tagged on some way behind) – long a goal of Roman Catholics (e.g. Blair and his wife) in the UK, but previously resisted by Tories because the UK has a Protestant Constitution. It was Cameron (a man basically of international descent, like most Remainers) who, for instance, got the prohibition against a Catholic marrying into the British monarchy removed in 2013. Why exactly? I don’t remember a mass clamour for this among the British people.
A lot of this was also caused by the failure of the Soviet Union in 1989, whereupon Euro Communists, deprived of a regime to worship, started to move into the EU whose ‘remote government’ very much suited Communist thinking.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago

What matters far more than whether Boris “Got Brexit Done” in the sense of a completed project, is that he – probably alone amongst politicians – was able to break the constitutional logjam that arose from the Establishment attempt to overturn the result of a binding referendum.
The NI issue was always the thorniest sticking point, and will i expect lead to a reunification of the island of Ireland at some point, but only by precipitating it rather than as a primary cause. If that’s how events transpire, it’ll have been a price worth paying for restoring the ability of the citizens of GB to determine their own laws through a democratic process rather than through an unelected, bloated and increasingly remote bureaucracy in mainland Europe.
Without his ability to face down EU bureaucrats, a Parliament descending into further disrepute, the Courts and an entire wing of his own party, we’d still be in a constitutional mess and how we’d have fared when Covid hit in those circumstances doesn’t bear thinking about.
For this alone, Boris will be remembered as a transformative PM, albeit one whose tenure then became derailed, first by Covid and then by the very same Establishment determined to prey upon his flaws, of which there are many but which those who voted for him were able to ignore due to his unique abilities.
It’s perhaps as well that he’s now leaving office, and in good time for his party to restore confidence in its ability to govern competently before the next election. It’s certainly not too late, as some would suggest. So bye, but thanks Boris.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 month ago

It all seems very British: the PM loses the confidence of his colleagues, announces he’ll resign … and then things muddle along somehow with an eventual handover. In Australia, where we’ve had a lot of experience with this business, it just happens at a meeting of MPs when someone moves a ‘spill motion’ – if passed, all positions are vacant, people declare themselves as candidates for leader or deputy, votes are taken, and the winner walks out of the room, and is driven off to be sworn in as PM by the Governor General. Someone was PM one day, someone else is the next day. Seems better than enduring weeks of media going on about who will be the next PM. and who will be in his/her team.

Last edited 1 month ago by Russell Hamilton
Mark Walton
Mark Walton
1 month ago

Having just returned from the last PMQs for BJ, viewed from the public gallery and invited as a guest of my MP. I shall share my thoughts.

These are the days, great statemanship is never enough. The devil’s in the detail, the woke and prefects fail us. I fear a special PM has been let down by a bitter and bloated civil service, poor PR and an assumption that teamwork exists in the vastly over populated building adjacent to Big Ben. Big government is rapidly reaching its sell by date. Let’s just hope Ben Wallace can fill his shoes and they are trainers! I for one think the PM has some fine qualities, some bad, far from perfect but who is? As for the loto his head resembles a great big boil of puss and poison and it needs lancing before he infects the nation with his sanctimonious bile. A so called working mans salary taken, a total waste of public money. A puppet, a trojan horse powered by the unions, inside it is a great deal of misery in the form of socialism. Let’s hope the government can turn things around in quick time against impossible odds. I for one think we will see the last decade of Conservative rule as the most prosperous, especially with the dark clouds of western recession on the horizon.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

Boris wasn’t Britain’s worst Prime Minister. Not while you’ve got Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and May on the list.
It strikes me he’s one of those people who’s exceptionally good at 20% of the job but poor across much of the rest. Sometimes that was helpful – in real crisis situations where a fast, instinctive reaction was needed in his case – but over the long run, he seemed to lack the concentration and stamina to put up with the boring grind of most of the job.
But if he didn’t do the good stuff that was hoped for, perhaps he did less of the bad stuff than many of the others.
As others have said, he never really belonged to any party – apart from the one man “Boris party”.

Philip Abramson
Philip Abramson
1 month ago

I see no mention of Rory Stewart in this article, which seems an omission given that his name is placed so prominently at the top.

Also, to say that Boris Johnson “got Brexit done” is at best contentious. The very terms on which the UK left the EU, based on the terms which Johnson himself negotiated, left the integrity of the UK in constitutional limbo (see: the customs border), and are now themselves subject to new legislation which unnecessarily breaks international law, and can only prolong and protract the conclusion of the UK’s departure from the EU. The continuing costs to the UK over border fees and red tape should not leave anyone satisfied that Brexit is done (Jacob Rees-Mogg certainly doesn’t seem to think it’s done; why else would he be looking for signs that it’s worked?)

The fact this article ends with a final wail against Remoaners, and Johnson’s (self-serving) fight against them, reminds one of the line: “he’s a son of a b**ch, but he’s our son of a b**ch.”

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

I’m happy with any article which omits Rory Stewart. Does he actually matter or have anything useful to say ? Or just a ventriloquist’s dummy for whatever agenda the media which to push ?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Could you please explain exactly how the NI Protocol Bill will lead to a breach of international law?
Hint: the FCDO itself reports that the UK has withdrawn or changed the terms of international treaties at least 50 times since WWII.

alexander Tomsky
alexander Tomsky
1 month ago

Well said. Thank you. And then, there’s the culture war waged by miserable crowd of misfits against majority who are still sane but silenced.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago

My comparison between Blair’s various (in my view) misdoings and Cameron’s lazy responses to them, replying to another post, was instantly quarantined and has now been deleted. Not a profane word and merely a list of his actions and policies that many will be familiar with. Interesting.

Last edited 1 month ago by Al M
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

Brexit Derangement Syndrome followed by Boris DS is remarkable. I know very intelligent Remainers, who probably consider themselves progressive liberals, and they lose their marbles when debating Brexit and the Tories, and end up resorting to ad hominem insults revealing a visceral hatred.

It’s amazing to see because they get so distracted by their own prejudice that they stop using logical arguments. Same thing seems to have happened with Democrats in the USA over Trump.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 month ago

Over here in the U.S. I’ve been watching this anti-Boris phenomenon as it developed and it occurred to me that it is like all the Trump animus had no where else to go. It’s become a world-wide phenomenon now; tag…your it.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

I watch US political shows (Maher is my favourite; John Oliver drives me mad) and read USA newspapers. And I expect these little passionate bubbles and echo chambers mislead me just as much as you might be misled by our media, which has become quite hysterical in its reporting. I discount the headlines in MSM now.

David Harris
David Harris
1 month ago

So for John Major to write to the 1922 Committee and suggest that the “proposal for the Prime Minister to remain in office” is “unwise” and “may be unsustainable” is puzzling. “
They’re all Sad Remainers (Major, Heseltine, Adonis, etc) thats why.