I saw almost daily, when he was foreign secretary and I was one of his Ministers of State, how reluctant he was to push through even those policies that he professed to endorse. He demanded, for example, to know why we were not doing more for “charismatic megafauna”, but when I came back with a £9 million programme to work with the German development agency on elephant protection in Zambia, he simply laughed and said “Germans? Nein. Nein …”. He said, “Rory: Libya. Libya is a bite-sized British problem. Let’s sort out Libya”, but when I proposed a budget, and some ideas on how we might work with the UN and the Italians in the West of Libya, he switched off immediately. “Cultural heritage”, he told me, “is literally the only thing I care about in the world”, but again I could not get him to support a fund on cultural heritage.
It seems to me that Marcus Rashford was in a very similar place to Rory Stewart but perhaps his rather higher profile enabled him to persevere against Johnson’s whimsical decision to require Tory MP’s to oppose free school lunches for half term in England. Now all of a sudden Johnson has resolved to finance free support and activity for the Christmas holiday and beyond.
Johnson is like the cat playing with the half dead bird, which he kindly allows to come back to life from time to time – just because he can.
Maybe his mood was upset at being unable to retain a bottle of Hungarian wine and caviar gifted to him by that nice Mr Orban and the Hungarian government.
But I imagine there will be lots of Conservative MP’s who are decidedly unhappy at looking stupid amid the wild, Trumpian inconsistencies of policy that they are required to be happy to support.
This doesn’t bode well for current and future problems. There are already grave doubts about the mass testing trials for Covid in Liverpool, and an orderly Brexit seems increasingly not just unlikely, but not possible without a transition extension.
Where Johnson professes to endorse policies he does not follow through and where sometimes eventually he does follow through it is either late or extraordinarily sloppy.
Johnson is an empty political vessel, which is adrift in an uncharted sea.
He made a poor job as Mayor of London. He is a disaster as Prime Minister.