So many opinions. So few facts. In the spirit so ably demonstrated by our PM over his life, let’s apply a little fiction to our current politics.
Vanity Fair – updated for our times
Boris: Truly the Becky Sharpe of our age. Determined to achieve the highest position in society he can, no matter what the cost to others. Cunning, sharp and ruthless. But attractive too and a shape-shifter – adapting his persona to whatever is needed to get him what he wants. Always getting into scrapes and always getting out of them. So far.
The Tory Party: Rawdon Crawley – the doomed, rather dim husband, chosen by Becky because of what he could bring, easily manipulated and impressed and seduced. He should have stayed in his regiment: predictable, a bit fusty but dependable and providing him with some scaffolding for his life. But no – Boris beckoned – and off he went.
Red Wall voters / Southern Tories (depending on taste): They are little Rawdy – the forgotten child, produced to the delight of its father, the Tory party (look – a bouncing 80-seat majority!) but largely treated with indifference by Boris, other than when needed to get him out of his latest mess.
The Electorate: Amelia Osborne – the oh-so-faithful friend, always forgiving even when ill-treated. Well-intentioned but so very very naive. The sort of person you just want to take by the shoulders and shake and tell her not to be such an idiot about her current boyfriend.
Brexit – Matilda Crawley – the ever present aged aunt, apparently full of wealth, courted and sucked up to over the years by any number of family members and others. But like all dislikeable, unloved family members, when it came to it, the promised riches never arrived. At least not to those who were promised it.
Covid: Sir Pitt Crawley – that’s where the money went – a dreary, self-righteous, bossy person telling everyone how to behave, wagging fingers and tut-tutting at everyone. Well, not quite everyone. Even Covid could not persuade Boris to behave as others did.
The DUP: Briggs, the ever present companion and faithful side-kick – first to Brexit, then Boris – and cruelly betrayed by both. But really she deserved it. So we won’t waste any more time on her.
Levelling up: George Osborne – Amelia’s husband. Oh, she thought the world of him! But he died on the fields of Europe and in reality was ready to betray her, a faithful hero only in Amelia’s fevered imagination. No-one liked to tell her the truth about him. It seemed cruel. She would realise it in time. Meanwhile she grew poorer and depended on charity.
Russian oligarchs and other assorted rich people: How could we have forgotten them? This tale would hardly exist without them. Lord Steyne will have to represent them: the rich, slightly dubious aristocrat. Always invited to the house, showered with attention and showering Boris with attention and money back. The Tory party cannot believe its luck. It does not ask questions. Oh dear oh dear.
Sir Keir Starmer: the Major Dobbin of our tale. Ever faithful to the electorate. Doing what he can for them. Trying hard to win their heart. Often tongue-tied and unable to speak clearly. A good man but, goodness me, a bit dull. How can he compete with Boris’s naughtiness and fun? One day he believes the electorate will turn to him. He hopes and yearns and waits.
So where are we now? Is the Tory party about to realise that Boris has betrayed it cruelly and if it stays with him, despite everything, it will lose all honour and self-respect and be sent by the electorate to some distant exile, there to die a lonely unmourned death?
Or are we still in the period when self-delusion reigns, even if the honeymoon is over? – a “very vain, wicked foolish place full of all sorts of humbug, falseness and pretension …. not a moral place certainly nor a merry one, although very noisy – a world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having“?
When will this play be played out?