2022 minus 03: A short thought, about our primus inter mendaces

Posted: 29 December 2021 in 2022 minus, politics
Tags: , , , ,

The title, if it confuses you for any reason, or if you’re a newcomer to the blog, refers to our current Prime Minister, a position known as ‘primus inter pares’, first amongst equals; the polite fiction of the Prime Minister being, at the end of the day, just another minister of the crown.

Upon his becoming Prime Minister, though, I named Boris Johnson primus inter mendaces, first amongst liars, based upon his actions and statements before his ascension in 2019. I don’t think his actions since has lessened the accuracy of that description/appelation.

But almost since he got the job, one of the games people have played is ‘…but when will he quit? Or be forced out? And for what reason?’

Because the game has been played, the questions have been asked. My gods, have they been asked.

I’m in two minds whether he’d rather be forced out, or whether he’d prefer to quit. The former would give him the ‘I woz betrayed’ angle, which he could parley for the next decade into tv appearances, books and… money.

The latter would give him the pretended dignity to which he’s always aspired.

And both, of course, would allow him to continue to do what he’s done since long before his election to leadership of the Tory party and residence at Number Ten.

The penny dropped for me when it comes to Johnson during the long negotiations in the Withdrawal Agreement. (I originally typoes ‘losing negotiations; I’m entirely unsure it wasn’t a Freudian accuracy.)

I mean, the thought had been coming into focus for me for a while, but it was one interview where it came into focus.

It was a genuine lightbulb moment: I realised that Johnson not only prizes ambition over achievement, but that Johnson so prizes ambition over achievement that he’ll readily sacrifice the latter to promote the former.

(I of course mean ‘promote’ in terms of ‘encourage’ and ‘hype’, not promotion of his subordinate ministers, evidence of his cabinet appointments notwithstanding.)

It’s why I don’t think, have never thought, it’s quite right to say that, as many have, that Johnson wanted to be Prime Minister, and he wanted to have been Prime Minister, but he never gave any thought to actually doing the job.

In my view, it’s more primal, more simple, than that: he wanted to get the job of Prime Minister, and he wanted to have had the job of being Prime Minister, but he never really wanted to be Prime Minister. Not really.

Oh, he wanted the trimmings and fun stuff, but again, that’s not ambition, nor achievement. The ambition was always to get the job, and to have had the job. The achievement of actually being Prime Minister soured within minutes of winning. (Much as the achievement of ‘winning’ the Brexit referendum soured the moment the result was announced; the pictures of him certainly bear that out.)

And so we return to the questions above: ‘…but when will he quit? Or be forced out? And for what reason?’

The assumption made by many – an incorrect assumption, in my opinion – is that Johnson has been looking for a way out for some time, and that as soon as the moment comes when his various opportunities to do so are at a maximum, he’s gone.

There’s a very simple reason why I don’t think he’ll do that, not from choice anyway.

And the reason is…

I think he now, now he’s been in the job a couple of years, wants to serve as Prime Minister long enough so he’s not on the list of five shortest serving PMs in modern times.

Which means, he’s got to last longer than Ted Heath did. I don’t think he can.

Right now, as of today, Boris Johnson has served 2 years, 158 days. That puts him second in the list of shortest tenures as Prime Minister in modern times.

(Edit: Rob Cave points out that Alec Douglas Home served as PM from 1963-64, for only 363 days. True, but I don’t think Douglas Home counts in such lists, as he was in the House of Lords when he first became PM.)
 
1. Anthony Eden: 1 year 279 days
2. Boris Johnson: right now 2y 158d
3. Gordon Brown: 2y 318d (Johnson beats Brown on 8th June 2022)
4. Theresa May: 3y 11d (Johnson beats May on 5th August 2022)
5. Jim Callaghan: 3y 29d (Johnson beats Callaghan on 23rd August 2022)
6. Ted Heath: 3y 259d (Johnson beats Brown on 10th April 2023)
 
Johnson would like to stay in Number Ten longer than Heath. He won’t make it in my opinion.

But he desperately wants to be in Number Ten longer than May. Lose office before Theresa May of all people? His immediate predecessor? Thing is, he won’t beat May in terms of tenure until August next year.

Right now, I’d say it’s no better than a 50/50 shot whether he can make it.

 

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Thursday ‘something else’, the last original fiction of 2021.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 almost here.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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