Sketch: BoJo’s Most Important Gig Yet
“Today is a big day,” smirked Boris Johnson at the top of Prime Minister’s Questions. He wasn’t, of course, referring to the bruising 16 resignations from his government in the last 24 hours. No, no, he was talking about tax cuts. But attempting to deploy his cheekiest chap persona, BoJo was sure he could see off his opponents. It had worked every time before, after all.
So far today he had met with ministerial colleagues “and others”, Johnson said. “Others” here meaning those who had quit or were calling for him to go. “I suspect I shall have further such meetings later today,” he added, chuckling at his own misfortune as though it was all just a big laugh. Nothing to see here. Move on.
Keir Starmer got down to brass tacks. He asked about the behaviour of Chris Pincher, which seemed to sober the PM up a bit.
“I abhor bullying and abuse of power anywhere,” insisted the Prime Minister. Unless it is in Cabinet, naturally.
Starmer rounded on those resigning, arguing that to wait until now means none of them have a “shred of integrity.” “Isn’t this the first recorded case of the sinking ships fleeing the rat?” he asked.
The rat replied: “He should hear what his lot say about him.” He was rapidly running out of defence lines, so he recycled some old ones. Mutter, mutter, Jeremy Corbyn. Mutter, mutter, Brexit.
The leader of the opposition, positively enjoying himself by this point but trying to put on a suitably serious face, accused remaining Cabinet members of being a “Z-list cast of nodding dogs”. Which made the dogs stop nodding their heads immediately. They were the “charge of the Lightweight Brigade,” Starmer said. Well indeed, someone had blundered but theirs is not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.
The blunderer-in-chief blundered on. Something, something, Ukraine. Something, something, tax cuts. Something, something, getting on with the job. He was clearly confused by the boos and jeers around him. Why wasn’t his comedy routine going down as well as usual?
Things got worse because when Ian Blackford accused him of being a “dead parrot”. Then of being an “ex-Prime Minister”. Johnson just couldn’t get his head around it. The people usually love him. Or at least love to hate him. He’d never felt this strength of feeling before.
And to top it off, one of his own colleagues, Tim Loughton, rose to ask: “Does the Prime Minister think there are any circumstance in which he should resign?”
The job of a Prime Minister in difficult circumstances is to keep going, insisted the PM. I suppose that’s partly true, but it’s just not usually circumstances created by the PM himself that’s causing the problem.
Thankfully, a loyal backbencher came to the rescue of Johnson shortly after. The MP, we’ll call her Spineless, asking something about town centres. It was a question on a silver platter which normally would have allowed Johnson to talk about levelling up, but clearly addled by that point, all he could manage was to promise Spineless a meeting with the levelling up secretary. Who, it must be pointed out, wasn’t even in the chamber at the time – which probably wasn’t helping Johnson’s confidence. Gove had priors for this sort of conniving.
A second loyal backbencher had a go. Toady, I think he was called, wanted the PM to stop some houses being built. But yet again, the confused PM merely promised a meeting with the “relevant minister”. It’s hard to keep track of who is responsible for what in government these days, so best to avoid actual names or titles.
Third time is the charm. Yet another backbencher got to her feet, we’ll call her Stooge, and she said the London mayor needed to “get a grip on crime”. At last, London, something Johnson knew about. He recognised the crime had indeed spiked in London since his time as mayor. Probably not helped by the 126 fines handed out due to parties hosted on a certain very important street in the centre of the capital. But no matter. The Tories were tough on crime, he’d heard.
The run of BoJo loyalists soon ran out though and it wasn’t long before Gary Sambrook, one of the 2019 intake, was calling for resignation.
“There’s a very simple reason why they want me out,” replied Johnson, apparently not realising Sambrook was standing behind him and not the benches opposite. It can be hard to tell your friends from your foes when there are enemies everywhere. Johnson continued regardless – that reason was because the Conservatives, under his leadership, would definitely, absolutely, win another general election.
That’s at least what his allies have led him to believe, as they offer him soothing tones to hide the sound of sharpening knives. It’s tough being at the top.