You thought it couldn’t get worse? It certainly can. Britain now faces the very real prospect of Boris Johnson moving into N0 10 (with or without his current girlfriend). He would do so as the country faces its gravest crisis since the Second World War – a crisis of which he was a principal architect – and without having won a general election. He would have been chosen, quite preposterously, by fewer than 120,000 ageing, reactionary Tory party members. Rules are rules: the party with the most MPs selects the prime minister. But the Conservatives have no overwhelming popular mandate. Indeed, they were emphatically denied one in 2017. Theirs is a minority government sustained only by a squalid deal with the Democratic Unionist Party. That tiny Tory franchise, utterly unrepresentative of the country as a whole, would impose on Britain the least qualified prime minister of modern times.
Say what you like about Boris Johnson, he can always be relied on to let you down. He is a serial liar who is trusted least by those who know him best. He is also an industrial-strength incompetent whose parliamentary supporters include just one of the ministers who served with him during his rackety two years as foreign secretary. Then there is the hefty back catalogue of offensive remarks and a private life that would stagger David Lloyd George or the Duke of Wellington. Rory Stewart, one of the other competitors in the leadership race, has even suggested that Mr Johnson isn’t fit to give proper instructions to the commanders of Britain’s nuclear submarines. Not safe with the deterrent is an accusation that Tories sometimes level at Labour leaders, but I’ve never before heard it hurled at a putative Conservative leader by a fellow blue.