On the whole it had been a rather agreeable bank holiday weekend in Biarritz. Some of the assembled world leaders might have been a bit meh and it was always disconcerting coming face to face with someone with an even greater personality disorder than your own but by and large everyone had rubbed along OK.
Factor in the great morning swims, the food being better than expected, that he had even managed not to spill any wine on the sofa and this was pretty much how Boris Johnson had always imagined being prime minister would be. Plenty of photo ops, high-level schmoozing and no obligation to do anything much at all. Just fun, fun, fun and endless music for the thirsty narcissistic soul.
The beauty of the G7 summit was that it was perfectly tailored to everyone’s needs. Each leader could come away with their own personal wellness experience of what had actually happened without fear of being contradicted. If you wanted it to have been about Iran that was OK. And if you wanted it to have been about marine conservation that was OK too. Much like a Gwyneth Paltrow-curated five-star spiritual retreat on Necker Island, only without the hassle of having to interact with Richard Branson.Advertisement
Still, all good things must come to an end and Johnson was in a hurry to get back to the UK. There was just one problem: he was due to give a press conference and the podium was currently occupied by Donald Trump who had decided to close the G7 with an hour-long, free-association therapy session.
Yes, the US president was very much looking forward to hosting next year’s summit at his Miami retreat because everyone would have their own bungalow and there was plenty of parking. Yes, he might invite Vladimir Putin but there again he might not. Yes, he couldn’t see what the problem with the Northern Ireland backstop was because the Republic of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. He knew that because he had a golf course there. Not that he was obsessed about money and property, but being president had cost him $5bn and he was paid zippo for public speaking. And why didn’t people talk so much about Englandland these days? Boris? Great guy. He didn’t know why he hadn’t been made prime minister six years ago. Possibly because there hadn’t been a vacancy in 2013.
Johnson’s irritation at having his plane held up on the runway gradually gave way to a sense of calm. The advantage of being the next guy up after someone who is certifiable is that almost anything he said would sound sane in comparison. Once Trump had finally been dragged off stage there was a 20-minute recovery period for reporters before Boris delivered his own comedown debrief from his Ayahuasca experience. The G7 had marked a huge step forward for the Sumatran tiger, he declared. And he loved the environment so much he was going to give it £10m. Roughly the same amount he’d put aside for alimony.
Predictably, no one was much interested in the intensity of the prime minister’s drug-induced hallucinations. What they really wanted to know was what he was intending to do about Brexit. Here Johnson’s zen-like mask of self-realisation began to slip and the furtive, guilty smirk crossed his face. Because the whole point of Brexit was that he didn’t actually have a plan. Other than to gaslight the country with a succession of competing and contradictory visions.
On one day a no-deal Brexit might be a million to one shot and on the next it might be the most likely outcome. He might withhold the £39bn or he might hand it over. Whatever it took to get him through the day and to keep everyone guessing. After all, this wasn’t so much about getting Brexit done as keeping him in power for as long as possible. He liked the house, he liked the privilege and he couldn’t bear to be parted from them so soon. And if he didn’t know what he was doing, then none of the other EU leaders would know either. Politics as a form of fetishistic, sexual role play. Only with no safe word.
“Pifflepafflewifflewaffle,” Johnson said, as he was asked several times about his willingness to prorogue parliament. Maybe yes, maybe no. He was like the wind. And no he couldn’t imagine why Philip Hammond might have thought No 10 had briefed that he had leaked the no-deal documents. The very idea. Johnson breathed deeply, willing himself to flash back to his altered state of consciousness. One where he was at one with himself and the world.
He promised to take just two more questions but only took one. So easy to lose count. Besides, nothing was more important than maintaining the G7 vibe of Club 45-70. And chill. The comedown could wait another day.