Quite how long Conservative MPs and the British public will continue to indulge the prime minister is unclear
Yesterday’s announcement of an inquiry into alleged anti-Muslim racism in the government meant I was going to begin with one of the more eye-watering quotes from Boris Johnson’s terrible novel Seventy-Two Virgins. (Seventy-Two Virgins is the title, not who bought it.) But further partygate revelations – and finally a police investigation – instead force me to tong open another work in the Johnson canon: The Churchill Factor. This minimum opus is riddled with sensational factual errors but is meant to advance Johnson’s big theory that we shouldn’t write off great men as “meretricious bubbles on the vast tides of social history”. On the contrary, great men turn history, and he’s one of them. (Johnson, obviously – not Churchill. Britain’s greatest wartime leader is chiefly deployed as a useful proxy for the narcissist author.)
It is, then, entirely fitting of Boris Johnson’s historical stature that as Russia stands on the brink of an invasion of Ukraine, the talk is all of the PM’s singalong birthday party during the first lockdown. Has ever a meretricious bubble been more in need of a pin? A vast tide of something is flowing out of Downing Street, but it doesn’t smell like history.
Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist