BACK from a trip to London for the opening night of Jonathan Maitland’s latest play, The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson (Park Theatre, Finsbury Park). It was an entertaining evening out – actor Will Barton is quite brilliant as Boris. I ponder, as I plan this latest instalment of our own drama series, Toppling Theresa, on the truth in parody. The venality of politicians and ‘politics’ from the 18th century to the present day is well documented in literature, my own cynicism reinforced at the present time by my immersion in Anthony Trollope’s The Pallisers.
#Bojotheplay follows in a long tradition of dramatising politicians’ pursuit of power at the expense of principle.
I should not give away the play’s ‘2029 Britain in post-Brexit decline’ ending. (How else would you expect a dramatist who previously worked for the BBC to envision Britain’s Brexit future? Positively? Forget it!) However I can’t resist it. Not least because what we already know of the character of Boris invites his inevitable demise. A good ending brings the hero to a destination. This does.
Here you have it then. Sir Boris (mind you), not having been made leader despite an unspecified Brexit having happened, but still an MP and a columnist, is on the brink of his most lucrative book deal ever – three times £3million. There’s an ‘if’ and a ‘but’ though. He must stand again for the newly vacant Tory Party leadership again but on the ‘Brentry’ ticket.Yes, he has to justify our return to the embrace of Europe. And yes, he finds the language and the justifications as he did before but the other way around now. It’s going well until – predictably – he is once more stabbed in the back by the friend who knifed him before whom he’d forgiven, the now Reverend Michael Gove. He backs down as before, and finds himself reduced to a tawdry future fronting TV insurance (Churchill of course) adverts – and hell.
Well, we are still in 2019 and the leadership election to replace Theresa May has not yet taken place. There is not even a date set for it.
Not that it’s stopped the contenders for this crown from lining up, from inside as well as outside the Cabinet – a regular bevy of nonentities, as Robin Harris recently described today’s leading Tory politicians – the most recent of whom to announce her bid is Esther McVey of the flying hair.
Is there in fact any Tory politician who’s not throwing their hat into the ring? The numbers seem to keep growing – International Development Secretary Rory Stewart has announced that he will run and Commons leader Andrea Leadsom has also said she is ‘considering’ doing so, adding to the widely touted Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss.
It’s about as surrealistic as Boris’s final dramatised damnation, greeted by the Faustian ghosts of Margaret, Tony and Winston who’ve been haunting him all the way to the fires of hell.
You might forgive Esther, Dominic and Boris all throwing their hats into the ring (since I assume they did not put their confidence in the PM last autumn) but it seems quite another to be setting out your stall while remaining in her Cabinet.
Call me naïve, but how can Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss and now Andrea Leadsom, continue to look us, or her, in the eye, while neither resigning nor demanding from Mrs May her Mexit date?
Their cynicism, I fear, eclipses the much-parodied Bojo’s. How long will these amoral politicians continue to prop her up? At TCW we count the days.
Today is Day 36 . . .
Postscript: I have just had the ‘last temptation’ reference pointed out to me -TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, the lines Thomas Beckett speaks, ‘The last temptation is the greatest treason / To do the right thing for the wrong reason.’