Whatever you think about David Cameron, and he won few plaudits on this ledge, at least he knew how to wear a suit and look prime ministerial.
True, he was another old Etonian toff – but would you look at the state of the old Etonian toff we’re lumbered with now.
Boris Johnson rolled up to Brussels last week wearing a suit seemingly made for someone else. He gave the appearance of a man who’d slept in the bath after a domestic dispute, stumbled up in the morning and headed off for an important business meeting, saying to the closed bedroom door: “Just you wait – I’ll knock this one out of the park.”
The meeting in Brussels led nowhere much and Johnson returned saying that the no deal he’d promised was never on the cards might happen – but never mind for it would be ‘wonderful’. Reducing the nation to one of his ex-wives having to hear the same old lies over and over again.
At least Johnson was supported in Brussels by Lord Frost, Brexit adviser and fellow struggler with a shirt button. Frost and Johnson were photographed alongside the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier; the juxtaposition didn’t flatter, as the Europeans were trim and professional, while the Brits resembled two drinking buddies who’d stayed too long at the office party.
All of this is mightily depressing. All that lying Leaver talk of sunlit uplands, the easiest deal in history and an oven-ready deal that it turns out is nothing more than a half-remembered recipe for patriots’ pie scribbled on the sleeve of Johnson’s crumpled white shirt.
Remember too how the never less than knowingly duplicitous Michael Gove said we hold all the cards and can chose the path we want. Turns out we hold one rumpled joker and all the paths are shut.
Perhaps it is pointless, but as we slide ever closer to leaving without an agreement it is hard not to worry. And don’t fall for all that ‘Australian deal’ trickery; a no-deal is still a no-deal whether or not you stick a can of Fosters on top.
Do not be seduced either by talk of gunboats to protect our fish. That is an irrelevance designed to distract everyone from the mess the government has made of the negotiations.
What Johnson is pursuing has been called by some, including the former Tory MP turned top-notch columnist Matthew Parris, English exceptionalism.
That’s an accurate label, but it’s even worse than that: this is an old Etonian exceptionalism; this is Johnsonian exceptionalism, the belief that only he is right, even when in his secret heart he surely knows he’s making an utter bollocks of this.
Two contrasting newspaper front pages tell different sides to this story today. On the Observer, long my Sunday read, you will find the headline: “Tory grandees’ fury over PM’s ‘nationalist’ no-deal Brexit”. This reports that Johnson faces a rising tide of anger from senior Tories and business leaders, dismayed by his chaotic handling of Brexit (you know, the one he got done).
Over on the Mail on Sunday, if you can bear to look, you will find the disgraceful headline: “Merkel wants Britain to ‘crawl across broken glass’”. This shameful piece of jingoism is based on what is called a “Downing Street source”. Oh yeah? What’s the betting the source of that quote is a man who makes an expensive suit look like a bin bag?
Over the Atlantic, Donald Trump is shaming his stained presidency by fruitlessly dragging the election results through the courts. And on this side of the channel, Boris Johnson is shaming the country by dragging out the Brexit talks and blaming everyone else but the obvious culprit. The one he looks at in the mirror every morning while wondering where he put his comb, and then not bothering anyway.