Harry and Meghan? To be honest, I wish they would go away. My apologies to those New Statesman readers who may disagree, but I’m heartily sick of them. They claim they relocated to California in search of privacy, but endlessly hog the limelight. Thus, any day now, Netflix will release what it calls a “global event” – a six-part series about the privileged pair which they will doubtless use to flaunt their victimhood and to complain of yet more perceived slights and alleged injustices visited upon them by a dysfunctional royal family. For dishing the dirt – real or imagined – they will reportedly be paid a fee approaching $100m.
There are plenty of political figures of whom the general public have grown just as sick, yet who are so consumed by vanity and self-delusion that they refuse to quit the stage.
Boris Johnson tops my list. Last week the former prime minister announced that he would seek re-election to parliament from Uxbridge and South Ruislip – an announcement foreshadowed by Johnson making a very rare visit to his west London constituency on 21 November instead of sunning himself in the Dominican Republic or delivering speeches in Colorado Springs and Singapore for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Johnson bears heavy responsibility for the grave economic crisis and bitter social divisions that now afflict Britain. He was the first prime minister forced from office in disgrace. He struggled to persuade 100 Tory MPs to back his bid to regain the party leadership in October, and his approval rating is deep in negative territory.
Most of the country save Nadine Dorries and a few rabid Tory party activists would be thrilled if he retreated to his study to write lucrative books, or spent the rest of his days canoodling with Carrie on Caribbean islands. But no. He is determined to return – to parliament for sure and Downing Street if possible – and we can only hope that the voters of Uxbridge do the nation a huge service by refusing to re-elect him.
Then there’s Matt Hancock, the former health secretary who oversaw the catastrophic release of Covid-infected hospital patients into care homes, and the purchase of billions of pounds worth of useless personal protective equipment (much of it from cronies), before breaking his own draconian pandemic regulations by having an adulterous affair with an aide.
Most people with such a record would slink away and hide, but not Hancock. He has embarked on a breathtakingly shameless campaign for political rehabilitation, first by appearing on I’m a Celebrity and now by publishing a self-serving, self-promoting diary that blames everyone but himself for his many failings. His pleas for “forgiveness” would be a lot more convincing had he not pocketed £400,000 for his frolic in the jungle. And don’t be deceived by his pledge to donate the book’s royalties to NHS charities. Royalties are what he will receive only after he has sold enough books to pay off his doubtless handsome advance.
Which brings me to Nigel Farage, arguably the most destructive politician of our times, with the possible exception of Johnson. It was he more than anyone who forced David Cameron to call the 2016 Brexit referendum, he whose disgraceful appeals to the UK’s latent xenophobia did so much to procure victory for the Leavers, and he who demanded the hardest of hard Brexits.
No matter that Brexit is daily and demonstrably proving a disaster, and that a wave of “Bregret” is washing over the country. To prevent Rishi Sunak pursuing any sort of rapprochement with the European Union, or with what Farage calls “the bully boys of Brussels”, he is crying “betrayal” and threatening a return to front-line politics.
Any number of decent, moderate, sensible Conservatives have been forced to quit the political scene in the bitter years since Brexit. The likes of Rory Stewart, Justine Greening, David Gauke, Alistair Burt, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Nicholas Soames were effectively purged in 2019. More than a dozen other Tory MPs have tired of representing the nasty party, and announced they will not be standing in 2024.
Sadly the latter do not include Jacob Rees-Mogg, Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Gavin Williamson, Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood, Bill Cash, Mark Francois and so many others of those right-wing Tory zealots who have collectively broken Britain. They’ve achieved their goal. They’ve wrenched Britain out of Europe in the most damaging possible fashion. Surely they should depart the scene and let a new, less toxic generation clear up the ghastly mess that they’ve created?