In a clip born to go viral, Prince Harry is seen walking along a line of waiting participants in that way royals do. He skips past Boris, not bothering to shake his hand or say anything to the prime minister, going on to speak warmly to Baroness Scotland who stands to the PM’s direct left. Boris’ face tells it all – how much he hates being not liked. He is the natural life of the party type and finds it hard to cope with being treated with distain. The pain of being shunned by a senior member of the royal family is clearly very difficult for him to take.
I bring this up because it seems to me Boris has always wanted something out of being prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that isn’t bestowed on almost any prime minister: he wants to be fondly remembered. This pretty much never happens – allow me to demonstrate. Churchill and Attlee are still widely revered but there is an easy reason for that – one was PM and the other his deputy throughout most of WWII, a war that has become deified in the British mind for some very good reasons as well as some bad or at least, not completely true ones. Take them out of the equation and what are you left with in terms of prime ministers since the Battle of Britain? Eden – associated with the Suez crisis and nothing else. MacMillan – Profumo. Douglas-Home – hardly remembered by anyone. Wilson – the outbreak of the Troubles, the eventual collapse of the Labour Party into factions. Callaghan – rubbish strikes and general societal breakdown. Thatcher – revered by a large portion of the country but hated by a larger one. Major – disowned by Tories and not exactly loved by everyone else. Blair – become a hate figure. Brown – used to be thought of as one of the worst PMs, reputation slightly getting an uptick because of the lameness of what followed. Cameron – Brexit referendum failure. May – complete failure on all levels.
Apologies for that long exercise, but it’s important to point out that all but the most rare of premierships end in total collapse and the legacies of all the prime ministers since Churchill’s second term have been mostly if not wholly negative. Boris clearly thinks he can buck the trend but I don’t see it, partly because he lives in volatile times that unlike WWII probably offer no route to herodom, partly because even if the times do allow for such a thing, Boris isn’t good enough to rise to the occasion.
Why this is important is that while all prime ministers had an eye on their legacies, I think Boris cares about it way more than any PM since Churchill. It is a driving factor in everything he does. Why does this matter? I think it makes things like a no deal Brexit much more likely. He is bound to take big risks because he feels he needs to do so in order to glorify his time in office. He also thinks things will work out for him because they always have done. It’s why I remain convinced his premiership could burn out much faster than anyone predicts – the way he is going through cabinet members already is a demonstration of a fast forwarded premiership that will crash and burn before its allotted time.
In desperately wanting to be liked, Boris is doing what all those who are desperate to be liked end up doing – making people not like them. The need to play the hero is what will be his undoing.
n a few weeks time, I have another book coming out. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge.
It’s out on April 9th, but you can pre-order here: