The Sky News helicopter hovered above Westminster. The constant thrum an insistent death knell for any incumbent prime minister. Down below, a steady stream of junior ministers and parliamentary private secretaries – many of whom were barely known even by their own families – offered their resignations, while many no-mark backbenchers wrote letters of no confidence.
When you’ve lost faithful toadies like Robert Jenrick and Tom Hunt as well as 2019 red-wallers, such as Lee Anderson and Jonathan Gullis, then the game is up. At this rate of attrition, Boris Johnson is going to have trouble filling all the available ministerial posts.
Inside the Commons the Tory backbenches were paralysed with existential despair. There were just minimal cheers when The Convict arrived for prime minister’s questions, and these only a reflex of collected memory. They weren’t even sure what they were shouting for. That Johnson had repeatedly broken the law and lied about it while they had just sat by and applauded? Or that The Rwanda Panda had given a job to a man he knew to be an alleged serial groper? So proud. So brave.
Johnson took his seat and smirked. It’s what he does. A nervous tic. Even when the shit hits the fan, he can’t help taking everything as a joke. The masochist in him loves the attention. Even when it’s all negative. He’d rather people were still talking about him rather than ignoring him. It’s about the only way he knows he’s still alive. He looked to his right and left. There were Dominic Raab and the newly promoted Nadhim Zahawi who had just spent over £20bn in his first media round as chancellor. He could get to be an expensive habit. But both were fine as they were. Useful idiots. Loyalists who knew they would never get a job in any other government. Good thing they had no idea of the contempt in which he held them. No sign of Michael Gove. The ever-treacherous snake was bound to stab him in the back sooner or later. Just a matter of time. Well, sod him. They’d have to carry him out of No 10.
Keir Starmer had one job. And he did it well. The best he’s ever been at PMQs, honing in on The Convict’s decision to appoint Chris Pincher despite knowing of his alleged history of groping. He even managed to get in a couple of killer lines. The charge of the lightweight brigade. The sinking ships fleeing the rat. Johnson just did what he always does when under pressure. The default Boris. He lied. Not cleverly, but obviously. The sort of lie even a child wouldn’t hope to get away with. He’d acted when he first heard of the allegations, he insisted. He hadn’t. No one even pretended to believe him.
That was just the start of his troubles. Tory backbenchers Tim Loughton and Gary Sambrook called for him to just go before he took the party any further into the sewer, but it was Sajid Javid’s resignation speech that proved the killer. Javid is no natural orator – his chances of making leader are vanishing to nil – but he had a powerful story to tell. The Convict had lied to him. Had lied to everyone. Enough was enough. Doing nothing was no excuse: it was an active decision. The entire Tory frontbench looked dead ahead, refusing to catch one another’s eyes. They were also busted. Nothing left but hollowed out ambition. A cry of “Bye-bye, Boris” accompanied Johnson’s exit from the chamber.
Shortly before the start of the liaison committee, Angus Brendan MacNeil was doing a poll of his fellow committee members of whether Johnson would turn up. Of course he did. It was never in doubt. His pride and vanity would not allow him to stay away. To do so would mean that he accepted the game was up. His denial was total. So what followed was one of the more surreal two hours of everyone’s lives. Almost politics expressed as interpretive dance, with Boris the only person in the entire room seemingly unaware that he was finished. That wasn’t the only irony. If this was to be The Convict’s last act as prime minister, it was to be a peculiar kind of hell for him. Johnson hates details yet here he was being pressed on policy he knew little about and which he has no chance of implementing. Ukraine, the size of the military, education and road pricing would all be someone else’s problem.
All the committee members acted as if they too were in a dreamlike state, only capable of connecting with reality by staring at their mobile phones for updates of the ongoing resignations. Huw Merriman took the performance art to new levels by posting his own letter of no confidence about 30 seconds before quizzing the prime minister in person. Stephen Crabb took to updating The Convict on MPs quitting and asking who was left to fill the vacancies.
Labour’s Darren Jones adopted an almost caring tone. This must be a painful moment, he said. This was too much for Johnson. The contempt and dislike he can take. What destroys him is the pity. The reminder of his own weakness. So he just rocked back and forth in his chair – primal, childlike – and smirked. Asked about something he had written about oblivion setting in, he could only joke that it must have been penned by Cicero or Aristotle. Only he laughed. It was too much a private grief.
Things turned darker when the subject turned to ethics and standards. The confidence visibly drained from the Rwanda Panda’s face, highlighting the rings around his eyes. He tugged the Toddler Haircut, pulled faces and lapsed into near incoherence. He couldn’t really answer anything. Truth and accuracy were a foreign country. He mumbled something non-committal about Pincher, appearing to blame the booze rather than the person. He was confused about Lord Geidt’s resignation.
It ended with committee chair Bernard Jenkin asking if Johnson would rule out the nuclear option of calling a snap general election. The Convict just couldn’t do it. There was always a yes, followed by a but. He’d rather tear down the government. Tear the Tories apart. Anything but relinquish power. His whole life had been geared to becoming prime minister. He’d hang on even it mean appointing Dilyn the Dog to the cabinet. Without the trappings of office, he’d be nothing. Goodbye to Lord Brownlow and dreams of a £150,000 tree house.
Back at No 10, a cabinet delegation – including Zahawi, soon to be the shortest serving chancellor in history – gathered to tell The Convict it was over. Only the ever deluded Nadine Dorries still believed in the Thousand Year Reich. Boris meanwhile hid in a fridge. Hoping everyone would just disappear. Hoping for just one more night in Downing Street. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting on a miracle.