The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland might just as well have been talking about today’s Tories. With the looming possibility of them welcoming Boris Johnson back as a hero, a matter of weeks after they flung him out as a blackguard, you can’t help but wonder. Our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports.
Hard to know whose side Karl Marx was on when he said that history repeats itself, ‘the first as tragedy, then as farce’.
Also hard to know what the Conservative party is on just now.
Never mind Wonderland, it’s starting to feel more like Homer’s land of the lotus eaters. Whose inhabitants were all totally off their faces.
Let’s just consider the current situation.
Confronted with the small matter of partygate, that did for, er, our last but one Prime Minister, his backers bleat ‘oh let’s not go over all that old ground again’.
A bit like John Cleese in the iconic TV series Fawlty Towers saying don’t mention the war.
Except that that little not very local difficulty hailed from a different era, decades earlier.
The Johnson car crash, by contrast, was only this summer. Even if loads of Tory MPs are minded to not count that bit it’s debateable how the voters view it.
No question the man does have charisma, sex appeal and the ability to put bums on seats. Hence his huge majority at the last general election.
So, say his fans, if he’s done it once he can do it again. And unlike Liz Whatsername (remember her?) he did actually get a mandate from the people.
But that was before he revealed himself in the eyes of his colleagues at Westminster as, to use the Monty Python line, ‘a very naughty boy’.
It’s doubtful all those folk who suffered the heartbreak of not being allowed to bid their farewells to loved ones succumbing to Coronavirus will easily forget.
But all the polls point to Tory members, now suffering buyers’ remorse over their choice of Truss for leader, would ever so much like their beloved Bojo back.
The grownups trying to organise an orderly succession are doubtless saying their prayers that MP’s will come up with a shortlist of one. Rishi Sunak.
After all, the former Chancellor does understand finance. Meaning his elevation would stave off any more grief in the money markets.
Worth pausing to reflect for a moment on the fact that this isn’t just a Westminster psychodrama in which the rest of us are mere spectators.
When Truss’s chum Kwasi Kwarteng came up with his idea of what to do with the economy The City got a fit of the collywobbles.
And if these guys had pulled their money out of UK PLC and kept it out we’d all have picked up the tab.
The French poet and diplomat Paul Chaudel had an eloquent take on a forthcoming financial disaster back in the 1930’s.
‘Gentlemen, in the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of champagne.’
Good line, but it predated even the analogue age. Now that we’re digital it’d be the mere blink of an eye before the tanking economy took the nation with it.
And the guys with the twangy braces are not so silly as to fail to appreciate a second coming by Boris would signal more uncertainty.
Not least because he just could be chucked out, again, when the report comes out into whether he told porkies about partygate parties.
Let’s just once more consider the facts.
The respected all-party Commons Committee of Privileges has been tasked with getting to the bottom of it all.
And the bar for a guilty verdict is, from Boris’s point of view, dangerously low.
Until not so long ago it was all down to whether he’d ‘knowingly’ misled parliament. Now it’s just question of whether he got it wrong.
This may sound a bit legalistic and boring, but it really really matters.
That’s because it means his basic claim, that there’s nothing to see here, no longer has the get-out clause that he just didn’t realise stuff was happening.
The fact is, as is now a matter of public record, it was.
And if the committee does give him the thumbs down he could be suspended from the house, and facing a by-election in his own pretty marginal constituency.
Imagine that, if he actually is Prime Minister when all this happens. What’s that famous Laurel and Hardy line?
Oh yes. Another fine mess.
When Truss’s edifice started to crumble people were calling her Prime Minister In Name Only. Pino, for short.
Flesh that out a bit and you get Pino-cchio. Welcome back, Boris? Discuss.
His backers insist the likely damning verdict from the privileges committee can be easily overturned by a whipped vote in the commons.
But even that is open to question.
The Tories’ stonking majority at the last election has since been whittled down by resignations and sackings, and now stands in the mid seventies.
Meaning it’d only take something in the mid to upper thirties of Tory MPs to vote with the opposition for the government to lose.
It’s impossible to know whether there are enough Conservative back benchers who loathe the ground Boris walks on to, realistically, commit political suicide.
But there could well be.
Of course it may not come to that. If Johnson isn’t back in Number Ten then any thought of his being chucked out of parliament will be his problem not the party’s.
Which brings us back to the grassroots, and begs the question what does the word ‘democracy’ actually mean?
All very well saying let the people decide, but the Tory membership is around half of one per cent of the public. These guys gave us Truss, and look where that got us.
By contrast, MPs were chosen by their voters. So, vicariously at least, they’re speaking for them. Sort of.
The Labour party too has its wounds to lick in this regard. When they decided it’d be a laugh to give Jeremy Corbyn a go at it, it didn’t end well for them either.
No surprise right now they’re gagging for a general election – as the polls all say they’d do ever so frightfully well.
Not, that is, because Keir Starmer’s suddenly become God’s representative on earth, but simply because the Tories have turned into the devil incarnate.
Then there’s the unlikely but intriguing possibility of King Charles calling time on the government.
Technically, well, very technically, he actually could do that. And stranger things have happened.
Back in the 1970’s the Australians got in such a pickle there seemed no way out, until Charles’s mother stepped in.
Via her man in Canberra she sacked the Prime Minister.
Go on, Charlie boy, just quote your dad. Tell ’em to bugger orff.
Watch Peter’s report HERE
Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.