Boris Johnson should channel Churchill on his very own D-Day – rest, regroup and return, says Colin Brazier
Boris Johnson now faces his own D-Day. Who will tell him it’s time to heed the lessons of history, that leaders have their seasons?
Before Boris Johnson became Prime Minister he wrote articles and books. His best-seller was a rollicking autobiography of Winston Churchill.
In it, he remembers – as our Queen will (she was 18 at the time) – how the King had to stop Churchill landing on the beaches of Normandy with the first wave.
That was on this day – June 6th – in 1944.
Johnson now faces his own D-Day. Who will tell him that it’s time to heed the lessons of history, that leaders have their seasons.
Churchill was the man to mobilise the English language and resist German overlordship, but by D-Day his powers were waning and a year later the voters decided he wasn’t the right man for more boring times.
Similarly, Johnson was the right man for Brexit; for crushing Corbyn; for learning to live with Covid, for standing-up to Moscow.
But is he the right man to win in 2024?
In the next few hours we’ll find out if enough of his colleagues think he should keep buggering on or, like Churchill, should be told the time for leading his troops into battle is over.
He wouldn’t be the first proven election-winner to be dumped by the Tories.
And, if he is forced out, there’ll be many who will argue he might have gone on to defy the polls to win again; just like Thatcher might have done, had she only been given the chance.
If I were a Tory MP, I’d stick with Boris. At least for now.
But if I were Boris, I’d think about Churchill. Not just about how he was able to write lucrative post-war books that wrote-off his debts. But how Churchill was able to come back for another go.
If I were Boris and my MPs wanted me out; I’d take a beat, regroup, rest, and perhaps – when the country’s need is great again – return.
Age hasn’t wearied him, even if the job has. He’s only 57.
Churchill was 70 when the war ended and was at it again six years later.
Tony Blair, whose fans were last week touting his restoration to Number Ten, is only 69.
Other than an easier life, what’s in the surrender of power for someone who craves it?
Well, it’s interesting that one of the MPs who outed himself as a rebel today is Jesse Norman, who belongs to the thoughtful wing of the Conservative Party.
Like Johnson, Norman wrote a biography of a great Tory leader. Not Churchill, but Edmund Burke, arguably the greatest philosopher of conservative thinking.
And perhaps that’s where Johnson should direct himself now.
Maybe it’s impossible to win the big arguments while actually running the country. Perhaps it will be easier for Boris to define his vision of conservatism without the cares of office.
And there will be a time when Britain doesn’t need a bank manager in charge. When a Jeremy Hunt or Keir Starmer, just doesn’t cut it.
If Johnson loses this D-Day, his war isn’t necessarily over.