OPINION
23/07/2019 12:05 BST

Boris Johnson's Win Resigns Us To No-Deal Catastrophe

Johnson is a peculiarly malignant and aggressive tumour that will leave post-Brexit England a rump with the other parts of the old union clumsily amputated, Tim Walker writes.

Press Association

No prime minister before Boris Johnson can ever have come into office on such an enormous wave of national depression. 

For vast swathes of the population, the unilateral and imbecilic will of Tory party members to instal this unprincipled clown in the highest office in the land represents nothing less than the end of days: their days as an aspirational and financially responsible political party, and our days as a country that can be taken seriously on the world stage.

Be in no doubt that those in despair at Johnson’s election include a great many who voted to leave the EU, but who now have the measure of Johnson and his pernicious hard-right ideology. 

To know this man is to loathe him – at least if you are not a billionaire – and I regret very much that my fellow countrymen and women cannot now be spared this ordeal.

This has long since ceased to be about being optimistic or pessimistic, patriotic or unpatriotic, or whether or not anyone still buys into the idea of Johnson as an all-round-entertainer.

Nor is it about scapegoating the civil service or the judiciary any more or playing into irrational fears about immigration. 

Even the rabble-rousing words of the Sun, the Daily Telegraph and John Humphrys on the Today programme no longer matter at all.   

It comes down only to the horrific reality of a no-deal exit from the European Union on Halloween. That is all Johnson can offer as it’s been made abundantly clear by our partners across the English Channel that the time for negotiation has run out.

It said everything about Johnson’s folie de grandeur that he should let it be known he expects them to come to him to seek a new deal, rather than the other way round.

Theresa May, for all her many faults, was never beholden financially to anyone who actually wanted no-deal, but Johnson, banking his £270,000 salary from the Telegraph owners Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay for years, undoubtedly falls into that category. 

Look up his entry on the Register of Members’ Interests and you will see all the other fabulously wealthy no-dealers piling in behind their obliging creature.

Johnson may have been “visibly shaken” when Whitehall mandarins told him in a preliminary briefing that a no-deal Brexit would result in civil disobedience – suggesting cognitive dissonance on his part of an extraordinary order – but rest assured that he will go through with it.

It is inconsequential to him that no one except the disaster capitalists – shorting the pound and on the look-out already for distressed companies they can buy on the cheap – are going to come out of this experience unscathed. 

The greatest failing of Tsar Nicholas II was a lack of imagination and I think the same is true of Johnson in terms of how he grasps the costs to ordinary working people of a no-deal Brexit. 

I happen to have a brother who is a type one diabetic and I asked his pharmacist this week if he had received any advice from the government about how his insulin, which is not manufactured in the UK, is going to be reaching him on time.

There was a look of fatalism on his face when he told me simply that he had not heard a word. There were many others whose lives depended on imported medicines that had been asking him the same question.

No prime minister in my lifetime – whether running a Labour or a Tory administration – has ever before been willing to countenance the death of even a single civilian in the name of ideology.

I am sometimes asked why, right from the start of this national nightmare, I was so vehemently opposed to Brexit and I always reply that for more than 12 years I worked on the Telegraph with a lot of its principal proponents – most notably Johnson, but others like Daniel Hannan – and I got to know how they operated only too well.

Of course, Johnson himself would seldom deign to show his face in the newsroom or talk to me – or even the editors that came and went during my innings – because he knew the only relationship that mattered for him was with the owners: first Conrad Black, before he went to prison, and, currently, the Barclays. 

My opinion of Johnson was formed at one remove by the sub-editors who I’d see tearing their hair out as they tried to fact-check his columns or race against time to get what he had written into the paper when he always sent it over at the last possible minute.

Johnson understood, as all unscrupulous shock-jock columnists do, that in journalism, unlike politics, it is never necessary to take responsibility for your rhetoric.

It would appear that, for him, facts are only what lesser mortals or pernickety little sub-editors fret about, and how abundantly clear that became when Andrew Neil dared to ask him about specifics in his only real television interrogation.

Moaning about the European Union and bendy bananas made Johnson a good living on the Telegraph, but it was an act of unimaginable hubris to have allowed all of that hot air to percolate into an ideology and eventually and catastrophically a referendum.

It was perhaps only a matter of luck and the fundamental decency of the politicians that have gone before Johnson that our unwritten constitution and antiquated electoral processes have never been tested in quite the way that they are now. 

Johnson is, however, a peculiarly malignant and aggressive tumour that will leave England a rump with the other parts of the old union clumsily amputated and stricken with a political, economic and social fever. Johnson’s England will be like an Amish community but without the sense of morality. To know this man is to loathe him – at least if you are not a billionaire – and I regret very much that my fellow countrymen and women cannot now be spared this ordeal.

Tim Walker is a broadcaster and political columnist