AND so it goes on. Boris Johnson – ever the shameless showman – continues the dark farce that is his premiership.

He looks for all the world like a tousle-haired circus clown, tootling along in his comedy car, not noticing that the lions’ enclosure is straight ahead of him. The truth is, however, that the Prime Minister is both more savvy and more dangerous than that.

The Sue Gray Report into the Covid lockdown parties at 10 Downing Street – although limited by civil service niceties – would have led to the resignation of any of Johnson’s predecessors. The damning evidence of both widespread Covid lawbreaking by his administration and his own “misleading” (i.e. lying to) parliament notwithstanding, Johnson – emboldened by his Teflon-coated, Trumpian self-confidence – refuses to do the decent thing and resign. He thought, he says, that gatherings that involved boozing into the early hours of the morning, a karaoke machine, someone throwing up and at least one fight breaking out were “work events”.

Now, I’ve worked in journalism for 28 years, and even I know that such get-togethers can’t be described as purely vocational (not in normal times, and certainly not at the height of a pandemic).

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No matter how much he tries to distract from partygate by implying some ridiculous equivalence between Keir Starmer having a beer with his curry (at a time when a meal with colleagues was permitted) and the illegal jamborees at Number 10, Johnson’s guilt has been laid bare. Yet he hangs on. Regressing to his early childhood, at whatever expensive prep school he went to before moving on to Eton, the PM asks us to accept that he is “humbled” and that “we have learned our lesson.”

Johnson – the brash Bullingdon Club alumni and the most flagrant, unembarrassable PM in living memory – is no more capable of being “humbled” than a ravenous lion is of becoming a vegetarian. He stays on, not because he has an urgent political project that he is burning to pursue, but out of a rancid combination of upper-class entitlement and personal ambition.

How else can we understand a man who, on the eve of the Brexit campaign, drafted two columns for the Daily Telegraph, one for Brexit, the other against? The fact is, whilst Johnson is clearly a politician of horribly bigoted, right-wing instincts, he is driven, overwhelmingly, by narcissism.

That the Prime Minister’s politics are comprised of deeply unpleasant prejudices is unarguable. One need only remember that, as editor of right-wing magazine The Spectator, he joined with the right-wing gutter press, publishing a piece that blamed “drunken fans” for the Hillsborough Disaster that ultimately cost the lives of 97 Liverpool fans. The article also accused Liverpudlians of having an “excessive predilection for welfarism” and of wallowing in “victimhood”.

Then there were Johnson’s unambiguously racist comments about Muslim women who wear the niqab face veil looking like “bank robbers” and “letterboxes”, and African people being “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”. His homophobia – by which gay men were referred to as “tank-topped bumboys” – is equally vile.

Johnson’s lying over lockdown parties should come as no surprise. He is a serial liar whose lying has led to him being sacked from two jobs – as a journalist on The Times and vice-chairman of the Tory Party.

The appalling truth is that the PM’s combination of right-wing bigotry and narcissism is (like a remarkably similar combination in Donald Trump) a toxic brew. In some ways, indeed, it makes the current Johnson administration even worse than the governments of the hated Margaret Thatcher.

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Let me be clear, you would have to search far and wide before you would find someone who despises Thatcher and her legacy more than I do. However, one thing I will give her is that she pursued her political agenda – vicious though it was – with ruthless efficiency.

Thatcher’s cabinets were filled with people, usually men, who she believed could be relied upon to pursue her brutal programme. Henchmen like Nicholas Ridley and Norman Tebbit were as committed as she was to trying to destroy the UK’s big industrial trade unions (mainly by eradicating the industries and communities in which their members worked and lived) and systematically laying waste to anything that smelled of public ownership or social solidarity. By contrast to the highly-organised assaults of Thatcherism, Johnsonism – if such a thing exists – is characterised by a dangerous mix of nasty political instincts and organisational chaos.

One only needs to look at his cabinet – which is comprised primarily of Johnson loyalists who helped to propel him through the Brexit referendum and into 10 Downing Street – to see why this government is both so chaotic and so vicious. Unlike Thatcher, who appointed cabinet ministers on the basis of their ruthless ability, Johnson dishes out cabinet seats on the basis of who is most likely to give him unconditional support, no matter how ludicrous his premiership becomes.

Take Nadine Dorries – Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – for example. A fawning Johnson cheerleader and a reactionary, philistine culture warrior, she is, surely, the Westminster politician least suited to a brief that includes the arts and media. Yet there she is in the Johnson cabinet, her loyalty to the boss and her blatant, right-wing prejudices trumping her obvious lack of intelligence or ability. Consequently, Channel 4 faces privatisation, partly because, Dorries let slip, she thinks Channel 4 News “didn’t do itself any favours” by being a bit, you know, liberal and questioning.

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You can add to Dorries the hideous, bullying, far right, refugee-bashing Home Secretary Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, a Justice Secretary (no less!) who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “misogyny”, and Liz Truss, a geographically illiterate Foreign Secretary, who thinks the Baltic republics sit on the Black Sea. The consequence of Johnson’s primary purpose being his own political survival is truly a cabinet of none of the talents.

Alongside this motley bunch, Johnson has to tolerate in his cabinet prospective successors such as the increasingly eccentric Michael Gove and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. This is purely a matter of political pragmatism. Even Thatcher gave a few cabinet seats to “wets” in order to keep the “One Nation” Tories happy. Johnson is a master at appearing to bumble through life and into top jobs and high offices – from editor of The Spectator, to Mayor of London, Foreign Secretary and PM. With his hair looking like he’s been pulled through a hedge backwards, and his seemingly forgetful, blustering persona (as showcased in his numerous appearances on BBC show Have I Got News for You), Johnson has cultivated carefully an image of the lovable, slightly roguish posh bloke you’d like to bump into down the pub.

However, as leading BBC presenter Jeremy Vine exposed in a fascinating article back in 2019, the half-remembered jokes and the general buffoonery are a very effective front. Behind that front sits the real Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a self-entitled charlatan, a liar and a thoroughgoing reactionary, who, like a decadent Roman emperor, will not relinquish power until some of those closest to him stab him in the back.