Et tu Cummins? Et tu Davies? Et tu Wragg?

He has been stabbed in the back. Stabbed in the front. Stabbed in the arras. Yet, like a Shakespearean character stretching out the last scene of a tragedy, Boris Johnson staggers on, keeping the audience enthralled with his gasping phases, bravado and sense of drama. It is a great drama but is it a way to run a country?

There is a fear, and perhaps it is a reality, that many of the government’s announcements are now all about propping up a prime minister in free fall. A clutch of backbench Tory MPs have joined opposition MPs in calling for Boris Johnson to resign. But as always Shakespeare has wisdom, as spoken by Chamberlain in Henry VIII:

“Press not a falling man too far! ’Tis virtue. His faults lie open to the laws; let them, not you, correct him. My heart weeps to see him so little of his great self.”

There will undoubtedly be more twists and turns in this drama in the next few days. But it is clear there is something rotten in the state of the Tory party.

As Timon of Athens said, Wilt thou whip thine own faults in other men?”. The whipping scandal has potential to hog headlines in Sunday’s newspapers. William Wragg, Tory chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, urged MPs to contact the Metropolitan Police if they had been threatened or intimidated. He claimed Number 10 staff, special advisers and government ministers had said there would be embarrassing stories released to the press if MPs did not get into line. Former Conservative MP Christian Wakeford, who crossed the floor to Labour on Wednesday, alleged that party whips told him he would lose funding for a new high school in his constituency if he did not vote with the government.

The big question for Boris Johnson is “whether to be or not to be” prime minister? That is a question that has only one answer from Boris Johnson’s perspective. In childhood, it is reported that Johnson “wanted to be world king”.  Although he may believe he is a man more sinned against than sinning”, he is staggering between comedy and tragedy.

“Is that a dagger I see before me?” No, it’s Sue Gray. The jury is out on how damning her report on Whitehall parties will be when it is published next week. Certainly, it won’t accuse Boris Johnson of any crimes. That’s a job for the police though Cressida Dick seems shy of launching an investigation. But it may be the tipping point for the prime minister.

There is serious business for this government to do. Ukraine, soaring inflation just as tax hikes kick in, the post-Brexit mess, to mention just three of dozens of problems. But the government is distracted by the instability of it’s leader.

It is time for an end to this. I wish Boris Johnson well in his non-political life but the words of Macbeth may will define his tenure:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player. That struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And then is heard no more. It is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.”

That’s the way politics is played on the stage of the House of Commons. I wish it was not thus but we have seen so much acting by the prime minister, we need a dose of reality. It is time for Boris Johnson to “exeunt stage right”.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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6 Comments

  • Nigel Hunter 21st Jan '22 - 6:03pm

    The whips in the Conservatives are there to get MPs to do as they are told,vote for the govnt. Persuasion should be used but I can well believe that it is not the gentle sort. Is it bullying, re do this or else? Or is it blackmail do this or you will not get funding for your school you want? To deprive constituencies of the needs of that area is not levelling up. I can believe it where the Conservatives are concerned they will not see it as blackmail but ‘encouragement’.I doubt that these ‘conversations’ are written down and as such there will be no proof but I can well believe it. All the whip has to do is mention to the minister concerned that ‘X’ is rebelling and he will not get what he wants.

  • Nigel Hunter 21st Jan '22 - 6:28pm

    I understand (via twitter) that the rebels may have secretly recorded the Conservative chief whip and his behaviour.

  • Tristan Ward 21st Jan '22 - 7:48pm

    In the good old days “Tory whipping scandal” meant something completely different.

    https://goodnessandharmony.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/norman-lamonts-dominatrix-brothel-madam-miss-whiplash/

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jan '22 - 10:38pm

    I love a bit of Shakespeare, as a performer, of course.

    But as a viewer, Kenneth Williams version of Julius Ceaser sums up the pm…

    “Infamy, infamy, somebody’s got it in for me!”

    Carry on Cleo!!

  • Trevor Andrews 22nd Jan '22 - 8:42am

    Nice one Andy and remember the film well Lorenzo.

    To me it shows that Boris is only interested in one thing, himself and his ego.

    If he wanted to do good for the people or cared about his country then he would have either done better or resigned.

    Sometimes it is good to let the child suffer and appreciate the value of things. So the country may have to suffer a little longer to get the electorate to appreciate the value of their vote and to take more care of how they use it. It also gives us more chance to be better prepared for the next General Election.

  • Brian Evans 22nd Jan '22 - 8:47am

    Re Andy’s final words – my understanding is that ‘exeunt’ is plural. Was this a mere oversight, I wonder, or a subtle reference to Boris’s multi-faceted personality: showman, politician, writer, etc.? – I.e. a dabbler in many things, but master of none!

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