On Tuesday April 7, 2020, Boris Johnson was moved into intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital, just across the Thames from the Commons.
He had been admitted two days earlier, suffering from Covid-19, and his condition was going downhill rapidly. He was being given oxygen and there were genuine fears that he may have to be put on a ventilator.
Rumours began to circulate that the PM was at death’s door. Fleet Street hastily updated obituaries. TV newsreaders were issued with black ties, just in case he popped his clogs overnight.
His pregnant fiancee Carrie, self-isolating in Downing Street, was said to be worried sick, crying down the phone to friends. Fortunately, Boris began to pull through and after seven days he was discharged from hospital.
Forget the intelligence-insulting sophistry now being employed by the PM as he wriggles on a very large hook of his own making. Let’s cut to the chase
The Prime Minister’s brush with mortality helped convince an already frightened nation that an unprecedented lockdown was the only way to mitigate the threat from this new killer virus.
Restrictions on civil liberties were enforced with draconian zeal. You don’t need me to revisit the absurd rules and outrageous, heavy-handed abuses of police power.
We were assured all this was for our own protection, whether we liked it or not. At 5pm every night, millions tuned in to the daily press conference to hear the latest death toll. Next slide please.
The Government’s uncompromising message, hammered home by the Two Ronnies of Doom, was stark: Do as you’re told, or you’re all going to DIE!
Yet six short weeks later, Boris and Carrie — who had just given birth — attended a Bring Your Own Booze party in the back garden at Downing Street, with dozens of close aides and civil servants.
Forget the intelligence-insulting sophistry now being employed by the PM as he wriggles on a very large hook of his own making. Let’s cut to the chase.
Johnson constantly led us to believe coronavirus was the deadliest danger to life since the Great Plague swept London in 1665.
It could only be held at bay by putting the entire country under house arrest. Mixing with others was tantamount to a death sentence.
So why did Boris think it was safe to ignore his own lockdown rules? Surely having suffered a near-death experience of his own, he’d have been super cautious.
The Prime Minister’s brush with mortality helped convince an already frightened nation that an unprecedented lockdown was the only way to mitigate the threat from this new killer virus
Why expose his postpartum wife to the risk of contracting Covid? Wasn’t he worried that he might inadvertently transmit the virus to his baby son, asleep in his cot upstairs? Apparently not.
Remember, this was at a time when little was known about Covid, there were no vaccines, no mass testing, no mandatory face masks and the Army was frantically building emergency Nightingale Hospitals to treat hundreds of thousands of coronavirus patients expected to overwhelm the NHS.
Why would he behave so recklessly? The only explanation can be that he knew the Covid threat was overblown and the lockdown regulations were nonsense.
Ministers and civil servants simply didn’t believe in the ridiculous restrictions they were imposing on the rest of the population.
Or, at the very least, they didn’t think those very same rules applied to them.
Perhaps they had a secret store of kryptonite vests tucked away in the Cabinet War Rooms. Or they thought there was a Star Wars-style force field which protected No 10 from Covid rays.
What’s Boris’s excuse? He doesn’t have one. The King is in the altogether. In the past, I’ve remarked on his ability to paint himself in a corner and walk out over the paint. Not this time.
He’s got away with lying to his wives, to his lovers, to his closest associates. He may even get away with lying to Parliament.
But lying to the British people is unforgivable. So is treating us as fools. We gave him the benefit of the doubt and he betrayed us.
Right now Boris’s political career is on a ventilator. If the plug gets pulled, he’ll only have himself to blame.
Dishi Rishi did a disappearing act to the West Country, rather than sit alongside Boris in the Commons this week.
In so doing, he was acting in the best traditions of ambitious Chancellors making themselves scarce when the PM is under the cosh.
Gordon Brown gained the nickname Macavity for his unrivalled ability to go under the radar instead of supporting Tony Blair in times of trouble.
John Major was allegedly having a dodgy wisdom tooth fixed when Mrs Thatcher was being knifed.
At the time, this column offered a reward to anyone who could point me in the direction of his elusive dentist. I even had a clandestine meeting in the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel with an informant who slipped me a name and address.
But after sending a reporter and photographer deep into what used to be Huntingdonshire, we drew a blank.
Rishi may think he was avoiding guilt by association. And, yes, it’s true both Major and Brown eventually made it next door to No 10.
But without doubt, they were the worst prime ministers in living memory until Mother Theresa came along.
Be careful what you wishi for, Rishi.
Defence cuts continue to bite deep. Not so long ago, we learned that the Army were having to train with blanks to save money. Now it has been revealed that the Special Boat Service is struggling to teach recruits properly because it doesn’t have a decent aquatic centre.
Tory MP Richard Drax told the defence select committee: ‘The SBS are marine special forces and yet they lack a swimming pool that can meet their operational demands and let them train with their equipment in safety.’
Perhaps, until the MoD coughs up, they can commandeer the local lido. I’m sure swimmers wouldn’t mind sharing with mini-subs and frogmen leaping from diving boards planting limpet mines at the deep end. Dive-two-three, Splash-two-three, Paddle-two-three…
The Yorkshire Ripper was restrained for eight hours before he died from Covid and heart disease, the prison ombudsman has reported. Oh dear, how sad, never mind.
MPs have a duty to represent the anger of voters. And there’s no doubt the BYOB party scandal has cut through the Bubble into the wider world. But I found Tuesday’s self-indulgent, shroud-waving session in the Commons utterly nauseating. It’s supposed to be the Mother of Parliaments, not the Jerry Springer show.
Sorry, Rich, we’re one short
Marks & Sparks have dropped the name ‘Midget’ Gems from sweet packets, after an academic accused them of ‘hate crime’ against people with dwarfism. Heaven knows where that leaves the MG Midget Owners’ Club, or Bridget the Midget (The Queen of the Blues).
As it happens, I have some experience in this area.
Years ago, during a long-forgotten TV series, I presented the first — and, I believe, the only — television performance by The Half Monty, a team of dwarfs who got their kit off to You Can Keep Your Hat On. They were so successful, my producer decided to feature persons of restricted growth on every show in the series.
After programme six, the head dwarf approached me in the green room and apologised that he wouldn’t be able to do the following week because he was double-booked.
He had a previous engagement, at a dwarf-tossing contest in Sheffield. Would I mind if his brother-in-law stood in for him?
‘Is he a dwarf, too?’ I asked.
‘No, technically he’s a midget, but no one will notice the difference . . .’
Labour’s Angela Rayner must have more shoes than Imelda Marcos. On Wednesday, she abandoned the stripper’s stilettos she wore at the despatch box last week in favour of Showaddywaddy-style brothel creepers, presumably designed to put the boot into Boris. The last time I saw someone in a pair of those was Les Reed, from Mud, on Top Of The Pops, circa 1974. That’s neat, that’s neat, Ange. I really love your Tiger Feet . . .