What was the Rocket’s Function?
“I am now like one of those booster rockets that has fulfilled its function.” In his final speech as prime minister, Boris Johnson offered his “fervent support” to successor Liz Truss – and referenced Roman dictator Cincinnatus “returning to my plough”.
There’s so much to take in the spectacle of today’s rearrangement of the Titanic’s deck-chairs as one disgraced Tory is replaced by another that barely fifty of her colleagues voted for. So everyone has to lie to everyone. Truss has to pretend that Johnson’s time in office has been a glorious success, Johnson has to pretend that his party is uniting around the new leader, even as Nadine Dorries and Priti Patel scuttle out of public office.
The scenes at No 10 were vintage Johnson – exuberant and bubbling with wild levels of hubris and self-deception. Here he was surrounded by his acolyte’s and enablers – his most faithful coterie, a ghoulish selection of the soon-to-be ennobled.
As Alex Andreou put it: “I think, to analyse Johnson’s leaving speech with any seriousness, is to give it credence. It is merely the mitigation speech of a conman in court, defending himself, before being sent down – a reimagining of the truth, by someone already convicted for fraud.”
But what was the rocket’s function?
By one story it was to ‘get Brexit done’ – by another to ‘defeat Jeremy Corbyn’ – by another to ‘save the union’. He also lays claim to ‘standing up to Putin’ and ‘delivering the vaccine’. You might also throw in to save the Tory party after the debacle of the Theresa May regime.
Taking them in turn, I mean ‘sure’ he ‘got Brexit done’ in such a botched and illegal manner that he seriously damaged Britain’s international reputation, threatened the precious peace of the island of Ireland and destabilised the whole economy. He did this while undermining systems of democracy in Britain, and threatening and attacking the devolution settlement.
Yes he defeated Jeremy Corbyn, but he did so with the massed ranks of the entire media and establishment forces behind him, and large sections of the Labour Party itself. So, you know, its less of a personal achievement and more of an inevitable outcome.
As self-styled Minister for the Union he engineered the deterioration of relations between Bute House and No 10 – and in a private Zoom call to 60 northern Tory MPs he dismissed devolution as “a disaster north of the border”. The prime minister described devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake” and during his time in office the most concerted and blatant attempts to undermine devolution were pursued.
Johnson has presided over this deterioration in relations in all three Celtic countries, and his hapless replacement lacks any of the skills to repair the damage:
— Owen Williams 🏴 (@OwsWills) September 5, 2022
His claim to have ‘stood up to Putin’ is better put in his relentless posturing – cosplaying Churchill – while dashing over to Kiev whenever possible for a media shot. Similarly Johnson’s much-vaunted claims in the ‘vaccine rollout’ are dwarfed by the fact that they happened despite, not because of him, and the claims are undermined by the deluge of sleaze and corruption which surrounded the pandemic, plus his multiple gaffs (‘let the bodies pile high’) and breaking of trust and of rules which characterise the latter half of his time in office.
At a time when ‘the country’ needed some leadership he exhibited the most exceptionalist privileged behaviour and a bewildering extraordinary Etonian insouciance befitting his name for himself: World King.
His regime was characterised by cowardice: cowardice to tell the public the truth about, well, almost anything. The reality of the pandemic, the truth about the climate crisis, or even how many children he had.
Just as we are processing the chutzpah of Johnson’s departure speech we witness the debacle of Truss’s acceptance speech, replete with plaudits for her predecessor worthy of the Memory Hole and with the added spectacle of witnessing a political leader LESS capable of public speaking than Theresa May.
There were no cheering crowds as the platoon of Range Rovers descended on Downing Street before delivering the offensive line of creating an ‘aspiration nation’.
Just as you think things couldn’t possibly gey any grimmer, they do.
One of the significant things that Sky News picked up on was her commitment to ‘securing energy supply’ by using oil and gas and fracking to do so. Beth Rigby said “using oil and gas in the short-term”.
This is a dangerous fantasy.
But the fraud hasn’t stopped it has just taken a new form.
But what was the rocket’s function? It was a spectacle and a sticking-plaster for the failure of the British State. It was a state teetering on the edge of lunacy when he entered No 10, as he leaves it’s a failed state now with a leader who is even more ridiculous than Boris Johnson in charge. That’s quite an achievement.