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How Boris Johnson mastered the art of the modern politician

The former PM’s performance in front of the Privileges Committee betrayed his realisation that the game was up.

By Freddie Hayward

In his duplicity, incomparable talent to contort answers to fit the question, his conviction that he can’t be wrong, with an eye to the revolving movement of politics: Boris Johnson has mastered the art of the modern politician.

When I sat behind him in the committee room alongside the sketch-writers, I had a perfect view of his freshly trimmed hairline. Against the clock and under the unmoving eyes of the Privileges Committee chair Harriet Harman, his protestations became flustered, exasperated. Johnson’s determination to “correct” the record on whether he intentionally misled parliament over partygate led him to drive a bus over his staff, as I noted yesterday. He averted his face when his statement on partygate in the House of Commons was replayed on the screens. The former Spectator editor lacked what George Orwell called the “power of facing unpleasant facts”. His frustration betrayed a realisation that the game was up. The committee ­– comprised of MPs, with their own prejudices and projects – looked decided.

[See also: Boris Johnson pleads idiocy]

But never write Boris Johnson off. If the Conservatives are defeated at the next election, a leadership contest is probable. People like Johnson don’t lose their desire for the top job. But his chances of resurrection are curtailed by the relatively small number of rebels in the vote on Rishi Sunak’s Windsor framework agreement. As Andrew writes, “the rebels appear to be a pretty incoherent grouping and the excessive number of would-be leaders means that they, really, have none”.

This was supposed to be Johnson’s resurrection, the return of the king. The scandal that helped elevate Sunak to power was to be the germination of the Prime Minister’s downfall. Tell the committee what’s what, then give it to the usurper in the voting lobby. I overheard beforehand a Johnsonite ultra noting that the timing of the vote was good “optics” for Johnson. That turned out to be a statement of faith. What followed was closer to a crucifix­­ion.

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The Committee is yet to come to a judgement. If Johnson gets more than a ten-day suspension, then there could be a by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. The modelling by the unnervingly accurate Ben Walker has Labour winning the seat. Not something that Rishi Sunak would welcome, and a big decision for a parliamentary committee to take. Either way, Boris Johnson’s popularity among MPs – crucially, because they are the kingmakers – looks depleted.

[See also: Is Boris Johnson coming back?]

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