How would Britain fare under the autocratic rule of a bumbling Brexiteer?
PHASE 1: THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE
First of all, he would resign as foreign secretary, saying that Theresa May had failed to deliver the Brexit that the people have demanded.
I don’t think he would try to become leader of the Conservative party; he would probably, in league with the Daily Mail and possibly The Telegraph, decide that he alone was going to conduct the Brexit negotiations himself.
The government could try to stop him but the people, his people, would fight back. He would probably turn up at St Pancras station with thousands of supporters chartering trains to go through to Brussels to carry out the people’s negotiations.
Then he would just lead a delegation of about 50,000 supporters to Brussels to sit down and negotiate. Brussels would probably have to agree that his delegation was much, much bigger than Theresa May’s small coterie of experts. He would then storm out of those negotiations and demand that there was a Euro-wide referendum for the people of Europe to give the people of Britain the Brexit deal that the people of Britain voted for. On the journey back from Brussels to London, he would pick up Euro protesters – Marine Le Pen supporters – so that there would then be 150,000 people coming out of St Pancras station. He’d insist that they march to Westminster, then Buckingham Palace to get the deal ratified. And the Queen would probably concede, given that she’s 91.
PHASE 2: THE ASCENT TO GLORY
A week or so after this he would go on to instil himself as regent. It would be so clear that the country wanted him to be prime minister that there would be no need for an actual vote. He’d say it was a contained regency for the smooth transition into an independent UK.
Dictators don’t call themselves dictators: Stalin called himself leader of the Communist party; Augustus called himself the first citizen. Boris Johnson would call himself ‘Head of House’ and reside in Buckingham Palace to protect the Queen. There would be ‘house rules’. He would still say he fully supports Theresa May and acknowledge her as prime minister, but she would be a kind of figurehead. He would appoint his father, his sister and his brother – might as well make it a dynasty.
Then he’d probably set up some committees to look into how things could be worked out ourselves and made fine again. ‘Making Britain Fine Again’ would be his underlying mantra. In terms of transport, he would replace the planned high-speed railway HS2 and be very keen on a national network of zip wires. And once we have control over our rail network, which he thinks we don’t, he would promise to bring back steam.
I don’t think Boris would kill people who disagreed with him; I think he’d just ridicule them. But he’d probably ring up comedians and ask them if they could ridicule them as well. And they would feel that if they didn’t, they would be ostracised. There’s no way they’d get into an English Heritage home or a National Trust property. They’d be on a list. Programmes like Have I Got News For You would have to come to Boris. Every episode would have to end with a fly-past.
He already knows the leaders of other countries terribly well, of course, because he’s been foreign secretary. Despite publicly stepping down, he would effectively still be foreign secretary. He would use his powerful network of contacts to make sure the British influence was spread far and wide. And rather than a United Nations General Assembly, he would prefer a dinner somewhere at a nice London restaurant: ‘Closed for a private event – the United Nations General Assembly.’ He’s part-American so if some American firms came in and helped run Britain – but under a contract – he would find that a terribly efficient and convenient use of resources simply because the actual governing bit is a bit of a hassle. He’d put on some lovely shows at Christmas; there’d be lights and fountains made out of water cannons, sparkling in the light.
PHASE 3: THE FINAL DAYS
Stalin genuinely believed in the political line.
He wasn’t in it for the wealth. He was in it for the power. In his case, it was an example of the political dogma becoming all-consuming. And you see it happen in any political fundamentalism: first you attack your opponents; but then you attack the people within your own group who are slightly different from you. Boris strikes me as someone who is happy to stir up populism when it suits, but doesn’t quite know what to do with the result. He’s his own vacuum; it allows for other people to go, “Well, what you need to do is this…”
I think a Boris dictatorship would last for six or seven years. Criticised by the press for not actually getting involved himself and allowing other people to make decisions, he’d decide to assert his authority, sack all these advisers he’d brought in and then try to run things himself. He’d then find it was actually very difficult, and defer lots of decisions to the point that Britain ground to a halt. That’s where he would decide, rather than to confront it, to just run away. There’d be a hunt for him and he’d be found in Devon. He’d just be sitting in a tea shop, seeing the crowds come towards him, and just know the time was up. It’d be horrible because there’d be blood and jam. Flesh and cream.
The Death Of Stalin is at cinemas from 20 October
(Pictures: REX Features)