OUR embattled Chancellor may be on the move, it seems. With his hopes of the top job perhaps dashed in the wake of his wife’s non-dom brouhaha, ‘Dishy’ Rishi Sunak is apparently ready to ship out to warmer Californian climes.
However, given that the story appears in Boris Johnson’s old haunt the Daily Telegraph, one certainly cannot rule out that it was deliberately planted by the Prime Minister or his allies to further damage Sunak’s chances prior to any fallout from the ongoing Partygate shenanigans.
That said, it has the depressing ring of truth about it – yet another high-flying, public school and Oxbridge metropolitan elite politician cashing in immediately their career passes its zenith: Not for them the humdrum reality of constituency service they signed up for.
In recent years, the concept of sitting out your time, at least until the next election, as a humble backbench MP after your fall from grace has been the exception rather than the norm.
Whatever their weaknesses as Prime Ministers, only Gordon Brown and Theresa May have behaved with basic decency towards ‘the little people’ after being dethroned.
American money seems a particular attraction in retirement for senior British politicians generally: George Osborne ended up working for American investment banks, Nick Clegg went to Facebook in California and Sunak now seems set to follow him out to the Golden State.
Most notoriously of all, of course, Blair cashed in spectacularly after signing Britain up to support America in the Iraq War, which killed hundreds of thousands and 179 British service personnel.
When it comes to Johnson’s turn, one can certainly see him following this dismal trend. Dubbed by James Delingpole the ‘fat Blair’, equally blessed with charisma and arguably even greater oratorical skills, given a fair wind he could become filthy rich whiling away his retirement quoting ancient Greek and Latin on the American lecture circuit.
The question is, though, how to become a ‘name’? In America Johnson, like almost all foreign political leaders, is probably little known. So was Blair prior to 9/11, and the accusation has dogged him ever since that his motivation in signing Britain up to the ‘War On Terror’ was selfish and opportunistic – a mixture of vanity and venality.
Only Blair will ever know what his true motivations were, but it begs a wider question – to what extent does the effect on your post-government opportunities now dictate British policy, particularly when America is involved?
The most pertinent current example is on the Northern Irish Protocol, and the Government’s inexplicable refusal to trigger Article 16. Yes, there are considerable downsides, a potential collapse of the trade agreement with the EU as well as American ire.
However surely all that should be easily trumped by the ongoing national humiliation, the drag it causes on the United Kingdom exploiting to the full its post-Brexit opportunities, the political and economic destabilisation of the province, a potential return to violence, and to cap it all, the nightmare of Sinn Fein topping the poll in the forthcoming May elections and subsequently demanding a border poll – something that no doubt the embattled, senile plastic Paddy in the White House would grasp with both hands.
Irish reunification would be a major legacy for Joe Biden to leave behind him in a presidency so far completely bereft of achievement. But could it not suit Johnson’s personal purposes too?
Clearly it would be a catastrophic political legacy – the Tories’ signal achievement on Brexit would turn out to be giving power to apologists for murder and terror. But perhaps Johnson calculates that outside of Ulster only hardline Brexiteers care about such things, and Johnson, we now know, is certainly not one of those.
Since the 2019 election he has shown an absolute contempt for the agenda he was elected to fulfil and those who elected him to office, instead currying favour with the metropolitan social circles he and his wife mix in on all manner of issues.
Standing up for the Union in the teeth of American opprobrium could probably blow his chances of earning big megabucks there in retirement – and all those children of his need to be provided for, after all.
Given that Johnson is such a notoriously cowardly and selfish individual, it is not too far-fetched to suggest that the prospects for Yankee gold could have at least some influence on his thinking.