In 1867, Walter Bagehot famously divided the British Constitution (and, as he saw it, all functioning constitutions) into two halves - the "dignified" and the "efficient". That was the year the Westminster model was being shipped wholesale across the Atlantic for a new not-quite-sovereign nation called the Dominion of Canada, so scholars were giving serious thought to what worked and what didn't. The "dignified" aspect was that which was necessary "to excite and preserve the reverence of the population" - ie, the Crown. The "efficient" side was supposed to "employ that homage in the work of government" - ie, the politicians.
We have just had a four-day masterclass in the "dignified" end of the deal - even if much of it wasn't terribly dignified (Meghan, crappy pop stars, telly celebs, etc). Meanwhile, down at the "efficient" end, the hacks and mediocrities of the political class could barely wait for the huzzahs to die in the Mall to schedule a no-confidence vote in Her Majesty's first minister, Boris Johnson. The urgency mimics the blood lust of the famous Australian "spill", under which a chap can be prime minister at 2.15pm and calling an Uber by 3.07.
It won't be quite that decisive today. And it is possible that, as has happened before, Boris Johnson will simply defy the normal rules of political gravity. But, if those rules still apply, one thing can be said for certain: Whatever the result, he will emerge from the count mortally wounded: Mrs Thatcher won her confidence vote overwhelmingly, and was gone a year later; Mrs May won hers by two-thirds, and was gone six months later.
~Aside from the political arithmetic, one is struck by the obvious: these days, the "dignified" end of the British Constitution is way more efficient than the "efficient" end, which is neither efficient nor dignified. I don't just mean in the sense that the Palace is far more efficient at identifying approaching threats (the Sussexes, the Duke of York) and quietly liquidating them, as they did these past four days - while Boris was being suffocated by a ginger growler with vanilla frosting. By comparison, the Queen is a wily old thing:
That sound at the end is Her Majesty tapping along to "We Will Rock You" on her teacup.
Oh, you can scoff, but imagine Joe Biden trying to squint and mumble and yell his way through a dialogue scene with a CGI green-screen stuffy. And they'd have to dub the teacup taps.
But, setting Paddington aside, I'm thinking more of the broader failures of the Westminster system's "efficient" half, as demonstrated these last two years in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. As is to be expected, that is not how the pollies see it: Anthony Albanese and his boorish republicans Down Under are getting it precisely backwards. If you're serious about reform, the "dignified" end works fine; it's the "efficient" side that needs a complete overhaul.
~Nigel Farage did his country a great service by working for two tough thankless decades to get his compatriots a vote on whether to leave the European Union. Then the opportunist Boris snuck in at the last moment, took all the credit for it, and rode it to the top of the greasy pole. That's just the way he is. As I wrote less than three years ago:
Until his car passed through the gates of Buckingham Palace en route to the kissing of hands, I didn't quite believe Boris Johnson would actually make it to the premiership. That's partly because many years ago he arrived late at a Spectator lunch, told us he'd just realized he was going to be prime minister, and we all laughed. Yet, a quarter-century later, here he is. As his sister Rachel points out, only fifty-five people have ever become UK PM, and, even if one has difficulty recalling the names of any of the recent occupants, that's still fewer than have gone into space.
I credited Boris sufficiently that I did not believed he would have schemed and maneuvred his entire adult life just to become merely the latest of those you won't remember. I thought he was cleverer than that:
The famous image of him stuck on the zipline in a beanie-like helmet waving plastic Union Jacks is so ingeniously endearing one assumes he paid them to stall the thing - because a failed photo-op is way less tedious than one that goes off like clockwork.
Any old third-rate clod can pull off a photo-op: even Joe Biden manages it occasionally. But to divine that what people want is not a crappy old photo-op but a total fiasco of a photo-op shows a rare political genius.
To be sure, it was never moored to any political ideology. There is "Thatcherism" and "Reaganism", but "Johnsonism" means little beyond a commitment to shagging anything that moves:
What does he believe in? Other than himself, not terribly much... Like Boris, Theresa May schemed and maneuvered for decades to reach the top spot ...and, by the time she pulled it off, she'd spent so much time and effort on the scheming and maneuvering that she had no idea of what to do once she got there. Boris is likewise invested in himself, but, having reached the finial of Disraeli's greasy pole, he doesn't intend to be just the latest seat-filler. Mrs May wanted to be prime minister; Johnson wants to be a great and consequential prime minister.
He blew it.
~We had a very busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with my take on the dirty stinking rotten corrupt federal "justice" system's disgraceful arrest of Peter Navarro, which occupied much of Friday's Clubland Q&A. On Saturday Rick McGinnis' weekly movie date went all punk. The fifth of the new stand-alone weekly editions of The Hundred Years Ago Show covered all the news from Ukrainian rubble to toxic oysters, and our Sunday song selection was a favourite of young Princess Elizabeth and her dashing naval lieutenant. Our marquee presentation was my appearance on The Megyn Kelly Show. It was lovely to be back on air with Megyn again - and, if you haven't yet seen it, I think you'll enjoy it:
If you were too busy tapping out "We Will Rock You" on your teacup, we hope you'll want to check out one or three of the foregoing as a new week begins.
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