WATCHING the self-regarding histrionics of Speaker Bercow at the recent prorogation of Parliament and infantile Remainer MPs dressing up as heroes, I was particularly struck by one clip of the event. At one point a group of Labour MPs sang the words ‘We’ll keep the Red Flag flying here’. The spectacle of this quasi-communist anthem being sung in the upholstered and sombre surroundings of the House of Commons led me, irresistibly, to a comparison. Some will, of course, insist that The Red Flag is Socialist rather than Communist. It is, though, after all, the anthem of the Korean People’s Army and was here sung against the backdrop of a party led by the Marxist-Leninist Jeremy Corbyn who is currently threatening state confiscation of property should he get into power.
The Scots author, Kenneth Grahame, was once held up and shot at three times in the Bank of England, where he worked as a clerk, by an unhinged Left-wing protester, later styled by the press as a ‘Socialist Lunatic’, who had demanded to see the Governor of the Bank. Grahame was later to imagine and commit to the page, in The Wind in the Willows, the scenes in which the Wild Wooders, a disreputable rabble made up of weasels, stoats and ferrets, take over Toad Hall, reduce the interior to chaos and feast on Toad’s provender. It was not hard to see this in allegorical terms as the invasion of an aristocratic home by a mob of socialist workers making free with the blueblood’s cigars and champagne. Toad and his friends, Ratty (modelled on Grahame’s literary friend Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch), Mole and Badger devise a plot for retaking Toad Hall by attacking, armed to the teeth, via a secret tunnel. The assault is a valiant success and the Wild Wooders are driven out.
It suddenly struck me that Boris Johnson is Toad. English in his attitudes to the core, bluff, amiable, jovial, comical and radiating confidence (to the point of arrogance in Toad’s case) and bravado, there he was (in spirit at least as he may have left the chamber by that point), at bay and surrounded by rioting Remainers, many of them with socialist sympathies. The weasels and stoats were running all over the green leather and the chamber and country were on the verge of a socialist-communist takeover. Only Boris stood in their way. He, the cabinet and Dominic Cummings were and are desperately trying to find the secret strategic tunnel that will enable him to retake the chamber, free himself from the legal stranglehold he appears to be in and assume the rights an executive should have.
Then an earlier image in the story struck me – the one of Toad moping in prison where he was consigned for stealing and recklessly driving a car. It has been gleefully mooted by his enemies that, should Boris openly refuse to comply with the requirements of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill, he, too, could be imprisoned. They think it’s where ‘dictator’ Boris belongs. The Spectator and Observer journalist Nick Cohen recently told us that Boris and his team should be treated just as one would treat a ‘crime gang.’
Many Remainers and many on the Left are riddled with self-loathing. They hate their Englishness, the post-imperialist legacy of guilt it bestows on them and their whiteness, and regularly and abjectly apologise for them in order to signal their humility. Establishment and Old Etonian Boris, ever quoting Kipling and Churchill, unashamedly embraces these things and, Toad-like, unapologetically loves what he is. What better opportunity than the one he offers, in his person, for us to take all the things we loathe in ourselves, expel them, and deposit them on Boris where they can be punished as a sin-offering or holocaust? Once this dynamic is set up, the floodgates are open as permission is given for all types of revilement and opprobrium to be heaped upon him as he is immolated in his cell. In him our English sins are expiated in a quasi-religious frenzy. Absolutely anything he says or does is seen as further evidence of his debasement. Quoting from the Nigel Molesworth books of another typically English author, Geoffrey Willans, Johnson scrawled on a memo that his old rival, David Cameron, was a ‘girly swot’. This gentle, humorous and almost affectionate appellation was pounced upon and adduced in further evidence of his utter depravity. No holds are barred, it seems, and all our hatred can now be safely channelled in this one direction leaving us purified and without sin.
The weasels and stoats are triumphantly running riot in Parliament, Boris’s hands are tied and he seems to look out at us disconsolately through the bars of a prison cell. In this predicament he sometimes seems to waver and the longstanding doubts as to whether he wants to go the whole hog with Brexit are resurfacing. For now, though, let’s put our faith in him and let’s hope he finds that tunnel, casts off his bonds and makes a triumphant return to the chamber.