Ephemerant

Tories torn between defence and defenestration

Prague is good at defenestrations. It’s had at least three of them. I say “at least” because when Jan Masaryk was found in his pyjamas in the courtyard underneath his bedroom window at the Czech Foreign Office in 1948, having permanently decided against breathing in the future, the official story was that he had self-defenestrated in shame after a robust exchange of views with members of the Soviet security forces.

Barely a century goes by without the people of Prague bursting into some town hall or other and luzzing local bureaucrats out of the window. For hundreds of years, you couldn’t walk the streets of Bohemia without dodging plummeting burgomeisters, tossed – like chamber-pots that believed in transubstantiation – from an upper-storey casement. 

It’s not the most subtle way of ridding yourselves of your political leaders, but it does, at least, have the advantage of being relatively quick and reasonably decisive. The only exception to this is the 1618 Defenestration when the defenestrees survived by falling into a nearby pile of dung.

The idea of politicians being saved by the sheer quantity of bullshit they’d allowed to pile up around their place of work does not, currently, seem like a metaphor too far. As I type, Boris Johnson is on his feet in the House of Commons, staggering through another stage of the slow leaking-away of his authority, like a wounded waterbed trying to squash a bee. 

There’s a truism that the Conservative Party is ruthless with its leaders. This is only half true. They let John Major limp on for three years, allowed Cameron to trot off on his own schedule, gave more time than any sentient being thought necessary to obvious losers William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, and Michael Howard.

Theresa May spun out a whole extra year because they failed to oust her when they had the chance. The Tory party is ruthless – just not with its leaders. It’s ruthless with the poor, with those who come here seeking a better life, and with those who are dependent on the NHS. But it’s perfectly happy to give its leaders third, fourth, and fifth chances so long as they speak nicely and promise to kick asylum seekers. 

Michael Gove recently appealed for us to think of the Prime Minister in the spirit of “Christian forgiveness”. This is the same Michael Gove who said that families who have to use food-banks do so after making bad decisions because they “couldn’t manage their finances”. This is the same Michael Gove who said in 1987 that an empire would be moral if “the fuzzy-wuzzies can’t look after themselves.” This is the same Michael Gove who co-authored a book calling for the dismantling of the NHS.

Let’s be clear, it’s delightful that a committed Christian like Gove has just got to the bit of the Bible about forgiveness, but that will come as small comfort to the people whose lives he has made poorer and more interfered-with by government over decades because he only skimmed over the New Testament. 

A Truss is apparently something used to stop an arsehole from flapping about

Watching Johnson’s slow tumble from the sky has been like watching an enormous raspberry-blancmange-coloured dirigible wheezily deflate, parts of it bursting into flames as it descends; confused spectators crying: “Oh, the huge manatee!” It’s still somehow aloft and might still be by the time you read this, but the motion is clearly downward. Everyone aboard will suffer horrible burns unless they self-defenestrate soon. 

Part of the problem for the Conservative Party, of course, is that it doesn’t have a wealth of talent. It simply has a wealth of wealth. Let’s have a quick look at their options: 

LIZ TRUSS – in interviews she looks like someone has used a word she doesn’t know the meaning of, but she’s determined to style it out. She has an unfortunate quaver in her voice that suggests she’ll make a rather lovely baritone when she goes up to big school. Not to be confused with a surgical truss.

One is used to contain the damage done by an arsehole flapping about all over the place but isn’t used much nowadays because it often makes things worse… and the other is a surgical truss. 

RISHI SUNAK – Despite having singlehandedly engineered a scheme that created a sixth of the new Covid-19 cases in the autumn of 2020, killing tens of thousands of people with vouchers for Nandos, he wants the opportunity to cause more destruction by becoming PM. 

TOM TUGENDHAT – Sounds like a service offered by a milliner turned brothel keeper. Has already thrown his (tugend)hat into the ring. Vocal supporter of Saudi Arabia, especially in their bombing of Yemen, which he calls “defending their own interests”. A pedigree of sucking up to murderous petro-billionaires would place him in a proud tradition of Conservative leaders. 

MATT HANCOCK – A man with all the verve and passion of a post-urinary penis waggle when there’s a queue for the urinal can’t honestly believe that people would vote for him. A man for whom the words “desultory” and “perfunctory” are equally, perfectly appropriate. A desunctory Tory. 

LORD FROST – A man who’s never been elected by anyone to anything for any reason, but the party faithful are dampening their chesterfields for him across the nation. Conjures up images of the villainous toad who’s trying to redevelop the pond in an animated movie. So committed to his principles that he had absolutely none before 2017. 

Perhaps we all know why the Tories aren’t rushing to get rid of Johnson. Even the other names: Dorries, Gove, Rees-Mogg seem closer to being Viz characters than actual human beings. Seeing the shame and disrepute that Johnson has brought upon himself and his office and the state you wonder how we could sink any lower. Then you look at the other options and realise exactly how. It’s enough to make you want to throw yourself out of a window.

Nathaniel Tapley is a comedy writer and performer on the TV shows you hate

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