How will history recall the reign of Bad King Boris? | Stewart Lee

King Lear may have divided the country in two and turned it against itself but perhaps, like the outgoing Tory leader, he ‘got all the big calls right’

Boris Johnson’s “victory tour” is the insane peacock parade of a monster of a man who has ruined everything, trolling the entire country, rubbing the noses of those whose lives he has destroyed in the filth he has wall-spaffed into their faces. The French would have strewn burning tyres and broken baguettes all over the motorways by now, God bless them, and set fire to hayricks in the middle of rural roundabouts, while choking back successions of small sour drinks and making inscrutable obscene gestures at press corps helicopters. Instead, Brexit Britons sit around, tutting and shrugging into their milky tea as they dunk the soggy digestives of their impotence, like eunuchs in a penis factory. I hate us. We don’t deserve rock’n’roll.

Johnson’s grand tour ought to feel like King Lear’s last route march around Britain, in the enduring tragedy of the same name, but it doesn’t, quite. Shakespeare depicted the mad monarch tramping from one now unwelcoming former supporter to another, his presence nothing more than an inconvenient embarrassment. But Johnson’s valedictory progress, as I write this on Wednesday, seems to be a success. In Dorset, he boasted of his broadband. In Barrow-in-Furness, he surveyed a submarine. It is not known if, in Islington, he posed proudly by the sofa upon which he had spaffed into a pole-dancing data analyst, who was then awarded tens of thousands of pounds of public money when his wife was away serving the British justice system. Doubtless his indefatigable supporters would have loved to have seen the stained cushions anyway. Funny Boris!

It’s a shame Lear didn’t have the Brexit-boosting, offshore-billionaire-owned British press to back his bullshit, their eyes on a bigger prize. King Lear may have divided the country in two and turned it against itself, encouraged rivals to squabble at the expense of national unity, alienated even his own favoured daughter, and set in motion a chain of events that led to an old man’s eyes being thumbed out of their bloody sockets like a “vile jelly”, but like World King Boris, maybe King Lear “got all the big calls right”.

The fact is that Johnson, something of a vile jelly himself if the truth be told, is a massive psychopathic bastard. And if you support him, or voted for him, you must be either evil or ignorant. Either way, thou art a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle in my corrupted blood; you are a knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue… you are not worth the dust that the rude wind blows in your face. And you smell as well, probably. So it’s no wonder no one wants to kiss you and they’ve all got printed T-shirts saying so.

Once more unto the breach. Johnson lied about giving EU savings to the NHS; he lied about Turkish access to the EU; he refused to give details about his trip to the former KGB agent’s son’s villa; he lied about lockdown parties; he lied – to the Queen – about the need to prorogue parliament; he justified Putin’s incursion into Crimea; he jeopardised the Good Friday agreement; he presided over the Brexit-driven collapse of Britain’s ability to contribute to the cultural and intellectual conversations of the wider world and over the worst recession of all the advanced economies. Do we have to go on?

The problem is, I finally feel defeated. I was in Edinburgh last month. There was a bin strike. On Monday, I drove three black bags of three people’s glass and paper recycling back to London to pulp it there, like a conscientious cap-doffing peasant, while incoming Liz Truss reconfirmed the Tories’ commitment to fossil fuels as Pakistan literally drowns in a climate chaos deluge. What’s the point? I am trapped on a dying island ringed by a shadow of human shit and Brexiters took away my right to escape it.

Meanwhile, the energy bills crisis is barrelling down the bowling-alley gutter of the blasted heath of Brexit Britain, the tripling costs making the closure of hundreds of thousands of businesses and the abandonment of their staff inevitable. Some commentators suggest low-income families will see the deaths of their youngest and oldest members as a result of fuel costs, threatening levels of poverty unseen for decades, energy policy as envisioned by the King of Sparta. Shakespeare describes a similar scene in King Lear.

“Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these?”

In the lines above, exposed to the elements as he makes his pathetic progress, King Lear observes the sufferings of the people with a compassion entirely absent from the heart of King Boris, who refused to take any practical action on the imminent household energy crisis during his interregnum, choosing instead to simply use it to shat the bed for his successor in the most selfish, psychotic way possible. Liz Truss opens the door of Downing Street into a cloud of bluebottles and gags.

But what was it all for? For now, the rightwing press continues to celebrate Johnson’s corruption, while the gelded BBC is too toothless to confront it. But in the end, the last historian left standing, supposing any historians survive the Tories’ scorched-earth approach to arts and humanities, will document as a matter of simple record the evil, selfish, criminal career of the disgusting Boris Johnson. “Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither.”


Stewart Lee

The GuardianTramp

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