BORIS Johnson approaches the first anniversary of his election victory with light at both ends of the tunnel.
At one end is the bright light of a better tomorrow — the dream ticket of a Brexit deal worthy of the name and the promise of a cheap, effective, British-made coronavirus vaccine that could save not just the nation but the world — unleashing the greatest feelgood factor since they were dancing in the fountains of Trafalgar Square on VE Day.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updatesBoris Johnson is approaching the first anniversary of his election triumphCredit: Andrew Parsons
At the other end is the ominous rumble of an oncoming train, a backbench rebellion of Tory MPs enraged by the Prime Minister’s love of lockdowns and the mountain of human misery they bring.
Boris must feel he has crammed an entire lifetime into the past year.
In just under 12 months he has delivered the Tories a stonking general election majority, buried Jeremy Corbyn’s goon squad, rewritten the political landscape, got divorced, got engaged, become a father for the sixth time and nearly died.
COMPARED TO COVID, SUEZ WAS A TUPPERWARE PARTY
In just those 11 months and 17 days since the election, Boris has presided over a country enduring the worst health emergency in living memory, the largest coronavirus death toll in Europe, the greatest contraction of our economy for 300 years and the biggest national crisis since World War Two.
Compared to coronavirus, Suez was a Tupperware party.
The Queen once called 1992 an annus horribilis — a horrible year. 2020 has been a real annus Boris, a year of tragedy and trauma.
When the virus hit hard, the great mission Boris set himself and his country was clear: To save the NHS.
And the nightmare scenario, so horribly real in other countries, of hospitals that were overwhelmed by the sick and the dying, was averted here largely thanks to its Prime Minister’s determination to protect those who were risking their lives to protect the rest of us.
In that first, long lockdown, the nation gladly united behind Boris.Boris entered No10 on the back of a stonking general election majorityCredit: PA:Press Association But the majority of his premiership has been defined by his handling of the Covid crisisCredit: PA:Press Association He faced the worst health emergency in living memory while suffering from the killer virus himselfCredit: PA:Press Association But it hasn't been all bad news - he got engaged and became a father for the sixth timeCredit: Instagram Carrie Symonds gave birth to son Wilfred on April 29Credit: Crown Copyright
Those Thursday nights at 8pm — balmy spring and summer evenings in the memory — saw us give heartfelt applause for our front-line health workers.
And Boris himself deserves an ovation for his support of the NHS front line. More than anyone in the country, he protected them.
In our time of most desperate need, Boris Johnson — so close to himself being another coronavirus fatality — inspired the nation to form a human shield between its people and the NHS.
The Queen once called 1992 an annus horribilis. 2020 has been a real annus Boris.
In that first great test of his leadership, Boris Johnson got it right.
When asked to name the greatest difficulty faced by a Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan reportedly said: “Events, dear boy, events.”
Events — the great unknown suddenly falling out of a clear blue sky — have come very close to derailing Boris Johnson’s premiership. And came horribly close to killing him.
In April, Boris became an early victim of Covid-19 and spent three long nights in an intensive care unit at St Thomas’ hospital in London with his life in the balance and his fiancée Carrie Symonds waiting at home, desperate for news, seven months pregnant with their child.
The near-death experience changed him.
The old accusation against Boris was that he was dangerously reckless, unable to take things sufficiently seriously, a total stranger of caution.
During a Brexit debate, Amber Rudd famously said of Boris: “He’s the life and soul of the party but he’s not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening.”The election of Boris was meant to usher in golden yearsCredit: PA:Press Association Yet less than one year since his triumph, history reserves its judgment on BorisCredit: Andrew Parsons
Boris’s incredible year
DECEMBER 2019: Boris wins the election with a huge majority of 80.
JANUARY: He pushes Brexit deal through Parliament, so UK can leave EU on Jan 31.
FEBRUARY: PM and girlfriend Carrie Symonds announce engagement — and pregnancy.
MARCH: Boris orders Britain into lockdown on March 23.
APRIL: The PM catches Covid and is taken to hospital. He is in intensive care for three anxious days but is back at work just two weeks after he is discharged. On April 29, Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson is born.
MAY: Boris’s aide Dominic Cummings breaks lockdown rules but avoids the sack. Boris formally divorces wife No2 Marina Wheeler.
JULY: Boris lifts lockdown on July 4.
AUGUST: Boris, Carrie, Wilfred and Dilyn the dog go camping in the Highlands but their holiday lasts just three days.
OCTOBER: Footie star Marcus Rashford takes on Boris over free school meals and later calls his win the “greatest moment” of his life.
NOVEMBER: Boris’s director of communications, Lee Cain, quits. He is followed through the exit door by Cummings. Government spending tops £1trillion for the first time in history.
“A cavorting charlatan,” sniffed Sir Max Hastings, his old editor at The Daily Telegraph.
“If the Johnson family had stuck to showbusiness, like the Osmonds, Marx Brothers or Von Trapp family, the world would be a better place.”
But after nearly dying, Boris has acted out of character. The passionate libertarian morphed into an unlikely authoritarian.
The great, grinning advocate of personal freedoms has presided over an unimaginable curtailing of our civil liberties.
Bonking Boris has morphed into the grim-faced lord of lockdown. And millions think he has got it wrong.
Of all the mistakes of 2020 — the great cavalcade of cock-ups that includes the early lack of PPE, informing A-level students they had failed exams they were not allowed to sit, closing gyms for months when we were fighting a disease that is fatal among the obese — history will surely record that here was the greatest mistake of all.
Bonking Boris has morphed into the grim-faced lord of lockdown.
To never, ever ask: What is the price we pay for all these lockdowns?
How many cancer tumours have to go undiagnosed to “protect the NHS”?
How many students must see their futures stolen to reduce the death toll?
How many bankruptcies? How many unemployed?When the virus first hit, Boris was clear his priority was to save the NHSCredit: AFP - Getty The nation gladly united behind him, although some said he was slow to lock down the countryCredit: crown copyright
Some blame Boris for being slow to lock down the country.
But in truth, the entire nation shared his early incredulity that China’s toxic export would change everything for all of us, as if the curbing of long-held British freedoms was beyond our collective imagination.
We were ALL slow to take Covid-19 as seriously as it deserved.
Even when much of Europe was already shutting down, the races at Cheltenham attracted more than 250,000 spectators between March 10 and 13.
Even when Spain had an estimated 640,000 coronavirus cases, Liverpool played Atletico Madrid at Anfield on March 11 in front of a crowd of 52,000.
But the reason so many Tory MPs seek Boris’s head on a stick is because he now acts as if fighting Covid-19 is the only thing that matters.
In the name of battling coronavirus, entire industries are being consigned to the scrapheap. Every high street in the land sees new shutters going up each day.
The vast majority of pubs are fighting for their lives. The airline industry is in tatters. Theatres and concert halls are silent.
LONG LINES OF ICONIC BLACK LONDON TAXIS STAND IDLE
And as office workers obey Government advice to sit around in their jim-jams at home every day until spring, long lines of iconic black London taxis stand idle and the drivers wonder how they will feed their families.
Don’t blame the boffins, whose only job is taming the pandemic. Blame Boris.Now many are turning against him due to his love of lockdownsCredit: PA:Press Association We cannot blame his boffins, whose only job is taming the pandemicCredit: AFP or licensors If Boris gets a British-made vaccine in the arms of millions, he may yet bounce backCredit: AP:Associated Press
He invariably claims he is “following the science” and yet there are plenty of scientific experts calling for a more holistic response to the pandemic.
When Boris won the General Election on December 12, 2019, he awoke the nation from its post-Brexit referendum paralysis, a country where the establishment spent years doing everything in its power to thwart the biggest vote for anything in our history, while at the same time lacking the guts to actually call the whole thing off.
His premiership doesn’t need a reset now. It needs the kiss of life.
How bitterly ironic that Boris now reigns over a different kind of paralysis, where countless lives and livelihoods are ruined because we live in abject, irrational fear — and a cabal of unelected, unaccountable boffins on gold-plated pensions and taxpayer-funded salaries get to tell us how we are to live.
The election of Boris was meant to usher in golden years. We would be a proud, independent nation once more, gloriously global in our outlook.
“The broad, sunlit uplands” were what we were voting for, not a bleak, miserable, joyless world where — according to one of Boris’s gloomy scientific handlers — hugging your granny at Christmas is akin to attempted murder.
The scars of coronavirus will endure. More have died of Covid-19 than perished in The Blitz.
But one day there must also be a reckoning of how many were killed by lockdown.
Yet less than one year since election triumph, history reserves its judgment on Boris Johnson.
The great flaw in his coronavirus strategy is that it has been aimed at crushing the disease to the exclusion of all else — including your job, your business, your mental health, your happiness and your cancer treatment.
BoJo did not lose his mojo. He lost his sense of perspective.
His premiership doesn’t need a reset now. It needs the kiss of life.
The showman — and show-off — in Boris must yearn for a dazzling finale. I would not bet against it.
If Boris Johnson gets Brexit done and a British-made vaccine in the arms of millions in this country — and billions around the world — he may yet lead us to those broad, sunlit uplands of his dreams.
Boris Johnson makes history with first virtual PMQs over videolink
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