By Nick Pelling

What will be left when Boris’ travelling show finally falls over the inevitable cliff? There will surely come a moment, very soon, when Boris slides away – as the summer of discontent burns – to write his highly lucrative memoirs. The parties in number 10 will have fallen silent. And one cold grey dawn in Downing Street the cleaners will arrive, like a liberating army, to cleanse Boris’ bunker. 

What will they find? I imagine them standing amid empty wine bottles, half-eaten canapes and defaced promotional leaflets, staring, bewildered, at the claret-stained designer wallpaper. But, in amongst all the detritus, they will doubtless find Boris’ slogan ideas drawer. Tatty scraps of paper of no interest anymore. One of them will pick up one of the pieces of paper and – as they stand amid all the moral wreckage and broken glass and utter chaos of post-Borisland – the piece of inky paper will flutter to the floor and, in the movie, the camera will zoom in on the filthy carpet and reveal the words, ‘Take back Control.’ (What movie? Ed.)


After the day of departure, historians will set about trying to make sense of it all. I guess something like this will be a popular thesis: the problem was that Boris was never really a politician, he was always a hack. And as a hack journalist, he spent far too long making stuff up. To the point that he came to believe that his phrases, once uttered, became true. It was a delusion that gripped him after many years spinning copy for the Tory Press. When Tory journalists say things in the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail, then lo, they are ‘true.’ The young Boris spent years, for example, telling us that the EU banned children from blowing up balloons and only allowed straight bananas and sought to prevent the freedom-loving Brits from eating prawn cocktail crisps. All of this became true in the emerging fantasy kingdom of Brexitania. In all but one small detail; it was all fibs. But, in some odd way, Boris came to believe that his words, almost magically, made things happen. It was a mind-set he took into number 10.

And so the ‘Wizard of the Word’ set about an occult experiment: seeing how far a country can be governed by slogans or phrases alone. ‘Alone’ in the sense that they have no substantive, tangible reality.

Take “levelling Up.” If you think about it, there has never been any real meaning to this. By almost any criteria Britain remains the same old elitist society it has been for years. The same types make it to the top. (Boris is after all the 20th Etonian PM and, at present, the tally of PMs from Comprehensive Schools stands at zero. One could carry on looking at sociological measures of Britain’s structural inequalities, such as the eternal dominance of Oxbridge –  but it’s too boring and too obvious) But the blond magus knew the bewitching value of a vaguely plausible phrase. After all, most of the Tory party fell under his spell.


Let us closely examine the thesis that Boris believed he could alter reality with his magical phrases. He proclaimed that there would be no border in the Irish sea and, hey presto, there was no border. Except that there was. He said he would build 40 new hospitals and, as if by magic, they sprung up. Except that they didn’t. Perhaps his most daring use of magic was to create whole government departments dedicated to his empty phrases. For example, in 2021, the boring old Department of Housing and Local Government became the shimmery Department of Levelling Up. If only Boris had lasted longer, we might have had a Department of Things are Indeed Splendid, with Jacob Rees Mogg at the helm.


But as the dust settles, we will begin to see that the whole Boris episode has really been a bizarre fairy tale. The Tory Party will awake, effectively wondering what happened last night. But beware one more twist from the old trickster. His magical words do not just fall silent. I predict that out of the ashes of his government his words will rise again and this time, be very afraid. I see it up ahead: ‘Boris! The Musical.’ I have said it, it will be. 

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