The Roundheads have silenced the Cavalier writes STEPHEN ROBINSON

The Roundheads of the Establishment have silenced the laughing Cavalier – and we must steel ourselves for greyer politics and a new Brexit civil war, writes STEPHEN ROBINSON

Future historians will look back at Boris Johnson’s premiership and scratch their heads in bewilderment.

Here was the most dynamic and talented Conservative politician to have emerged since Margaret Thatcher, whose iron rule lasted for 11 long years.

Yet Boris survived in formal office for just 1,079 days. This was 27 fewer than his hapless predecessor, Theresa May.

In the end, he was defenestrated in a coup that had been triggered by the allegations of louche behaviour of a drunken government nobody who, it is said, could not keep his hands off young men.

There is a certain irony in this, of course. Over the years, many had predicted that Boris’s political career would eventually unravel due to his inability to keep his own hands off women who weren’t his wife.

Oven ready: On the 2019 election trail

Had Boris survived this week’s political turbulence, the name of Chris Pincher would in time have become the answer to an obscure pub-quiz question.

Instead, the Pincher affair proved the final straw, felling a politician who had the intelligence and flair needed to become a major Prime Minister of the modern era — but who was pitilessly traduced by his enemies.

With Boris gone, we must steel ourselves for greyer politics, along with the raging inflation and collapsing living standards that beckon.

Boris’s benighted premiership revealed to us at once the brilliance of his political touch — and exposed the dreadful human weaknesses that were his inevitable undoing.

On many points, he proved a surprisingly deft and canny operator. He displayed bravery and astuteness in cutting through the morass of Brexit minutiae that had tied Mrs May in knots.

The deal he delivered was imperfect — and certainly not ‘oven-ready’ as he had promised — but he honoured his election promise to get Brexit done. That was no mean accomplishment.

This year, his stouthearted opposition to Vladimir Putin’s monstrous invasion of Ukraine has brought him acclaim around the free world — and made him a hero in the defending country. The people of Kyiv will rue Boris’s overthrow: if asked, they will say they find it inexplicable that he has been dumped by his own Cabinet over what amount to trivialities, when fascist terror is being inflicted on Ukraine.

Boris’s sudden exit from the world stage may well threaten the existence of an independent, free and sovereign Ukraine. He was instrumental, even key, in stiffening the resolve of those reflexive appeasers, the French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz. Will his successor share even a modicum of this resolve?

On Covid, too, Boris’s basic political instincts largely served him well — and better than Britain’s tragic tally of deaths would suggest.

After an initial sluggishness in addressing the scale of the problem when it struck the world at the start of 2020, his subsequent efforts to tackle the pandemic proved to be sound.

Yes, lockdown in Britain went on for far too long, and enforcing its onerous rules with the apparatus of the state was a terrible overreach for a supposed libertarian. But the ‘vaccine taskforce’ that Boris spearheaded saw us becoming one of the first countries to escape the worst of the virus, while the furlough scheme prevented mass unemployment.

Getting Brexit done: Boris Johnson gives a thumbs up after signing the Brexit trade deal with the EU in 2020 

For these alone, the history books should give him credit.

And although ultra-cautious ‘health professionals’, platformed by the lockdown-crazed BBC and Sky News, continued to doom-monger long after the vaccines had rendered their panicked measures unnecessary, Boris moved to open the country and lift restrictions as soon as possible.

So yes, his premiership showed — as the cliche has it — that he got several ‘big calls’ right.

But it is equally true that his behaviour has often been difficult to defend — even by his most ardent supporters. So his enforced resignation does not come out of a clear blue sky, after all, but is part of a long-running process.

Alone, the Pincher affair would not have brought a Prime Minister down, yet it could not be borne against the backdrop of a drip-drip of scandalous revelations, many of which had been leaked and orchestrated by Boris’s political opponents.

The holier-than-thou Sir Keir Starmer did his best to stir up public outrage about the Party-gate antics in Downing Street — and there is no doubt that much of the country felt genuine anger when reports emerged of carousing at No 10 while the rest of the country was prevented, under penalty of law, from visiting their dying relatives.

Nevertheless, the Labour leader’s po-faced politicking on the subject succeeded only until he himself was caught out having done effectively the same thing: glugging beer with his ‘team’ as they guzzled a late-night curry at Durham Miners’ Hall in April last year. (As things stand, Starmer may be imminently fined for this apparent offence — and has promised to resign if he is.)

But the rot in Boris’s administration was seeded long before Partygate. The earliest attacks against him were led by Dominic Cummings, the former aide and ally who — after being forced out of No 10 in November 2020 — masterminded a calculated, incremental coup against the Prime Minister he had once served as senior adviser.

I hate to give such a malign character as Cummings any credit, but I suspect he may ultimately be responsible for having sealed Boris’s demise.

How Boris must now rue his misplaced loyalty to the narcissistic Cummings. He should have sacked him after Cummings ‘tested his eyesight’ by driving to Barnard Castle during the first lockdown, at the height of Covid hysteria in April 2020.

But Boris is not a prig, so he indulgently allowed the man David Cameron called a ‘career psychopath’ to stay in post until he proved so destabilising to the Downing Street operation that Boris only belatedly dismissed him.

Ever since, Cummings has attacked his former boss with a disturbingly single-minded zeal. And he is far from the only enemy who set themselves on terminating Boris’s regime.

A freewheeling individual running a looser style of government, Boris faced huge institutional opposition. His defenestration delights the Civil Service, the Foreign Office, the teaching unions, the NHS bureaucracy and the Whitehall ‘Blob’ — all forces invested in the status quo, and committed to preventing Britain plotting a new course after Brexit.

The ‘Remainstream’ broadcast media, too, thrill at his demise.

Love in: Boris and Carrie in the Downing Street garden after their secret wedding in May 2021 

Yes, Boris’s attention to detail is often lamentable. And though this has been at times the reason for his success, he habitually breaks rules — including those set by his own administration during lockdown. All that is his own fault, and it is who he is.

I have known Boris for 35 years, mostly as a colleague, rather than a friend. He can be infuriating, disorganised and unfaithful to women. For what it is worth, I think his premiership would have lasted longer if he had stayed with his second wife, Marina Wheeler, a formidably intelligent and wise woman.

Yet we should never underestimate the sheer mass of forces that were rallied against him from Day One. Whatever his subsequent achievements, the fact is that half the country could never forgive him for delivering Brexit.

Among this cohort were most of the Establishment, the chattering classes, large sections of big business and other powerful lobbies.

At last, then, these Roundheads silenced the laughing Cavalier.

His departure may end, for now, the soap opera in Downing Street. But for all his lack of self-discipline and sketchy command of detail, we should not forget that Britain and the Tory Party are losing a leader with genuine star quality.

Amid fanfare and histrionics, the Conservatives have cast aside the man who twice won the mayoralty of London — a staunchly Labour city. Here is my prediction: no Tory will win London within a generation. Then, against all odds, Boris went on to lead the party to an 80-seat majority less than three years ago. In many respects, it is incredible that he is gone so soon.

Partygate and Pinchergate would in normal times be molehills, but the BBC, emerging in its true anti-Tory and anti-Brexit colours, has spent weeks and months conjuring them into mountains.

But if Tory MPs think Boris’s overthrow will immediately return them to the sunlit uplands and see them storm ahead of Labour in the polls, they are sorely mistaken.

Victory: Carrie and Boris celebrate the 2019 general election win

In 2007, New Labour believed they would march to new heights after Tony Blair was eased out in favour of Gordon Brown. For a while, the political pundits and Labour activists thought the party had solved all its problems by ridding itself of the toxic architect of the Iraq war.

But it was not that simple. Tony Blair had the star quality I mentioned earlier: his successor Gordon Brown did not. Without that quality, elections cannot be won, as Keir Starmer may yet find out.

Rishi Sunak, Jeremy Hunt or whoever next wears the Tory crown will have their work cut out in recapturing the pro-Remain southern voters who have abandoned the Conservatives for the Lib Dems, and in retaining the northern ones who were wooed at the last election by Boris’s promises to deliver Brexit but whose votes were only lent to a party they had no history of supporting.

I am not optimistic that any of the current candidates has what it takes to achieve this.

And just importantly, regardless of the Tory Party’s next internal manoeuvres, Brexit is now in peril.

Never forget what unites all those who grossly inflated the importance of Partygate, from the BBC to the Labour Party.

Responding on Sky News to one spasm or another of Partygate allegations, Lord (Michael) Heseltine made a deeply revealing remark when he declared that if Boris had lied about the lockdown-breaking social events in Downing Street, it would ‘open a can of worms’ that might lead to Brexit itself being reversed.

‘If Boris goes, Brexit goes,’ said this unrepentant arch-Remainer and failed Tory leadership candidate as recently as last month.

By removing Boris, Conservative MPs will need to fight to ensure that truce on Brexit is not suspended and the civil war starts all over again.

In turbulent political times, MPs look for an easy fix. Changing the leader often looks like the easiest solution.

But overthrowing Boris, a proven election winner, will not solve the Tories’ problems.

Before long, I fear, they will be asking themselves: What have we done, and why?

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