Tough, isn’t it. Difficult to look at what’s currently happening in British politics and not think: ‘We are a clown car country.’ Very hard to observe Boris Johnson – a prime minister so wedded to his own indestructability and ego that people have to literally beg him to leave office, almost 60 Tory MPs lining up to quit his government and plead with him to pull the plug on himself – and not think to yourself: ‘Wow, this is stupid.’ But you know what’s even worse? Watching said PM issue a resignation speech, only to blame “herd instinct” for his own shameful failures. As a wise woman once said: “Are you not embarrazzed?”
Hard, isn’t it, not to think about the last 24 hours – or the last four years of Conservative rule, even – and come up with the conclusion that this country is fundamentally cringe. This government is cringe. In fact, it may be the most cringe government ever? You may have thought nothing could be cringier than David Cameron forgetting which football club he supports or Theresa May dancing to Abba, but it turns out that there are even darker, more humiliating depths of cringe that a Conservative government can descend to. The kind of embarrassment that keeps you up at night; the kind of thing that haunts you in therapy sessions – the political equivalent of being five years old and pissing yourself in Asda because you lost your mum at the check-out.
As Boris Johnson resigns, we take a look back at some of the most truly cringe moments of his now-collapsed government.
Michael Gove ordering Boris Johnson to quit by 9PM and then getting fired at 8.59PM
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I like to entertain the thought that people go into politics because they want to, I don’t know, better the country or improve the lives of millions or something like that. But then you hear about Boris Johnson firing Michael Gove a single minute before Gove’s “quit or I go” deadline on Wednesday and it turns out people go into politics so they can act like David Brent behaving like a deranged emperor-king during the last days of Rome.
Matt Hancock’s Diary of a CEO podcast interview
So many questions. Like: Why wear a black rollneck to your post elevator-snog apology interview, thereby channelling Dapper Laughs circa 2014? Why bring your mistress – sorry, the love of your life – to the interview? Why the Huel? Why the horrible blue jeans? Why any of it? Why? Why did anyone think this man was competent enough to be put in charge of the health of 67 million people?
Nadhim Zahawi becoming Chancellor
Some politicians love to think that they are the Main Character of their own West Wing spin-off, when they’re really more like the dregs of a ten-second gag compilation on a FailArmy video. Nadhim Zahawi – valiantly agreeing to be Chancellor only to turn around and tell Johnson to go fuck himself (my words, not his) less than 24 hours later – is one of those people. He thinks he’s a Littlefinger-esque Game of Thrones figure who has used all his cunning and strategy triumphed with a top job, when really, it’s a little bit embarrassing to see this level of craven ambition so clearly outlined by a side character that people always have to look up on Google.
All the Tories resigning who can’t screenshot a leaving letter properly
Here’s a secret for any boomer Tory politicians struggling to upload their letters to Twitter. Open that lovely little signed document on your phone. Maybe it’s Adobe Acrobat you use. Maybe Google Docs. Doesn’t matter. Now Google “how to screenshot on [insert name of smartphone model]”. Screenshot accordingly. Post it. For god’s sake, just behave like a normal person for once in your lives.
Boris Johnson’s highly convenient amnesia
Anyone who has watched the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills knows that saying you “don’t remember” or “didn’t know” when you’ve fucked up, is futile if followed by a camera crew. This also applies if you hold the highest office in the land. Cringe of partygate aside, telling the nation that your excuse is “nobody said” that holding drinks during lockdown was breaking any rules, is objectively funny. “Forgetting” you had been briefed about allegations of sexual harassment against the man you appointed deputy chief whip, is not.
Matt Hancock going back to his constituency and fist bumping food stall owners
Can you imagine how much intense media training this man has received over the years? And yet still, here he is, in September 2021, fist-bumping food stall owners and saying “good stuff” with his thumbs up, like an automated Tory-programmed robot attempting to pass himself off as a man of the people. You would have thought that, by then, people would have stopped letting him on TV after all the pretend crying and parkour etc, but no, it simply kept happening.
Michael Gove’s BBC Breakfast accent video
Boris Johnson *allegedly* attempting to give his then-mistress Carrie a £100k chief-of-staff job, then the story disappearing
Where a tale of love and corruption intertwines, a fantastic news story is made. In this case, it was Boris Johnson allegedly attempting to give then-mistress Carrie Symonds, now mother to two of his many children, a job – back when he was foreign secretary under Theresa May in 2019. (No 10 and Symonds declined to comment at the time.) Trying to make your lover your chief of staff is obviously cringe enough, but what was MORE cringe was the fact that this story, originally reported by The Times, disappeared from later editions of the paper. Mysterious!
Jennifer Arcuri releasing her diaries in which she recalls Boris Johnson asking how he can be the ‘thrust’ of her career
Admittedly, I doubt anyone’s racy messages would be exempt from cringe if read many years later in the Guardian. But your lover’s company being awarded £100k in a public money grant from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, when you, the then-Mayor of London, have asked how you can help her career – yeah that’s cringe! “How can I be the thrust – the throttle – your mere footstep as you make your career? Tell me: how I can help you?” said Johnson in 2012, according to former mistress Jennifer Arcuri. Not hot!
Neil Parish getting caught watching porn in Parliament (twice), claims he was “trying to look at photos of tractors”
Mate, was it that urgent to have a wank at work? Also, did you really expect others to believe that Googling “John Deere” could’ve somehow led you to Pornhub? Though John Deere could be a good porn star name, maybe going for “combine harvesters” might’ve been a bit more believable.
Nadine Dorries’ entire TikTok account (and/or existence)
Literally what is going on here? Is she trying to be more relatable? This video where she raps/performs spoken word with a half-hearted attempt at an AB rhyme scheme to try to be ‘down with the kids’ or whatever is giving 80s anti-drugs advert, and not in a satirical, post-ironic way. Hate it.
A true highlight in the unfolding of Partygate was the revelation that boozy get togethers were so common in Number 10 during lockdown, there was a whip round between staff to invest £142 in a wine cooler fridge for ‘Wine Time Fridays’. Blergh!
Boris Johnson trying to build a £150k treehouse for Wilfred
Planning to build your son a £150,000 treehouse while people in your country choose between eating and heating: nice.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Boris Johnson gave Jennifer Arcuri's company public money. It has now been updated to reflect that the money was awarded in a public grant.