I watched this press conference live on TV this morning.
Barnier is listing all Johnson’s broken pledges to the EU over the last few months. Comparing him to our politicians – Boris and his pathetic Brexit trusties – made me want to weep, and to long for the (general) good sense of European bureaucrats again. It recalled to me what my ex-student, a retiring MP, told me was the opinion of many of his fellow Tories late last year: ‘Boris will always let you down’. Utterly unprincipled, vacuous, a mediocre author and worse historian, a disreputable journalist, a bumbling and incoherent speaker, and on his way to becoming the worst prime minister Britain has ever had – all in all what Shakespeare would have called a ‘scurvy knave’ – he’s almost as disastrous for us Brits as Trump has been for our cousins over the water. It’s almost as if Falstaff – the scurviest knave in all Shakespeare’s corpus – became king. Already Boris has managed – though not alone, I grant you – to push our Coronavirus mortality figures to the top of the international scale. For someone who’s always boasting about how he wants Britain to ‘lead the world’ in just about everything, that must be disquieting.
Or does he actually take pride in it? – I’m reminded of the Jimmy Cagney figure in White Heat, cornered on the roof of a blazing refinery, shouting ‘Top of the World, Ma!’ as he burns. After the present crisis is over, and when we’ve worked out what will follow it (socialism? Fascism?), we’ll need to do some serious thinking on what it is about our ‘democratic’ systems in both countries that can propel such ludicrously unfit men to the top. Poor political education? First past the post? The power of money? The historical imperatives of late capitalism? The media? The continued domination of the Public schools (here)? Pure chance? Or is it some intrinsic flaw in the ideal of ‘democracy’, and consequently – because this follows – in ‘the people’? After all, in Shakespeares’s time the groundlings adored Falstaff .