We are used to the idea that our politicians are corrupt. We are used to the underhand sale of peerages, favours for friends and the misuse of taxpayer cash to make headlines go away.
They don’t all do it, and most have no intention to, but it seems that regardless of party a sizeable number of them end up in a place where it happens, nevertheless.
Rarely, if ever, have we had a Prime Minister like Boris Johnson, who is so enthusiastic about the potential for his own personal corruption that he relies upon a billionaire for even the food that sustains him.
And never – not once – has the British voter ever forgiven or overlooked even a fraction of the venality, personal indulgence, and fatal incompetence that he has displayed in just 18 months of power. Yet there he is, this leech fattening himself upon the body politic, four points ahead in the polls.
Most of the millions who voted for Johnson in 2019 did so for Brexit, the big idea he was only half-supportive of when he convinced the nation to do it. He denied Parliament its sovereignty, increased burdens for business, and fails, still, to control our borders to protect us from a deadly pandemic.
Many of them voted, too, for Conservatism. For no change, for fiscal caution, low taxes, a small state. He has given them a union split asunder, money thrown to the four winds, tax increases to pay for it and a state which now controls when we can see our loved ones.
Others voted for the guy who was not Jeremy Corbyn, the crusty old socialist in a funny hat. What they got was a killer scarecrow in a week-old suit who’s given Scottish independence a shot in the arm, seems hellbent on making everyone poorer, and is close to handing Northern Ireland back to the Irish.
Which all begs the question: what does a man whose decisions have killed 124,000 people have to do to become unpopular?
Step forward, Dilyn.
Some politicians have dogs because they like dogs, others because the dogs make them more likeable. Whatever his reasons, Dilyn the rescue terrier is probably doing more to undermine Johnson’s premiership than Her Majesty’s Opposition.
Around 12.5m adults in the UK own a dog. They are trained with varying degrees of success or lack thereof, but most of them have learned to carry biscuits in their pocket and be consistent in their care of the canine that has them in its thrall. And a lack of such training indicates an owner too stupid, or wild, to be trained.
Dilyn rampages around grace-and-favour listed buildings. He chews antiques, humps legs, urinates in handbags, causes rows between women and has state-paid photographers documenting every twitch of his tail. He has befouled the Downing Street carpets so badly there was a £5,000 bill to replace them.
How a dog behaves tells you a lot about their owners. In Dilyn’s case, he is either mimicking Johnson’s own activity precisely, or demonstrating what happens when you put an un-neutered hound in charge.
But while Dilyn’s misbehaviour damages the PM, Carrie Symonds has hurt him even more.
Criticism of her for having expertise in her partner’s field, and voicing her opinion or counselling him, is pure misogyny which ignores how many millions of women do exactly the same every day. But it is a very sticky slur, as both Hillary Clinton and Meghan Markle can attest, and old Tory men will remember it.
Then there’s the old Tory wives, who take a dim view of intermarital shenanigans with fruity young ladies. There are the younger Tories, who want their government to get them on the housing ladder and aspire to a big pot of Dulux, not £100-a-metre gold-flecked wallpaper.
Then there’s everyone for whom £200,000 is the price you would pay FOR a flat, not just to decorate one, never mind setting up a charity so rich pals can foot the bill. And now, adding to the eyebrow-raising other-worldliness of Johnson’s premiership, comes the news that he is being handfed by a billionaire.
Around £12,500 of Britain’s most highly-priced food has been delivered to Downing Street since Johnson left hospital after his bout of coronavirus. While the rest of us have scrabbled for Tesco delivery slots, or queued with masks and hand sanitiser to run around the Co-Op without inhaling, the PM has been getting a £250 weekly delivery from Daylesford Organic, the food shop beloved by celebrities and owned by Lady Bamford, wife of Tory donor Lord Bamford, whose JCB empire turned over £4bn last year.
The boxes are so heavy they must be taken in by trolley. They come with a lovely, overpriced, bunch of flowers. And they are apparently so empty that every lunchtime, two pre-prepared, £25-each meals are hand-cooked by the Daylesford chef and couriered to Downing Street for the PM’s midday feed.
A No10 spokesman says the PM meets the cost of these himself, but does not say if a bill is actually issued – for all we know, this enormous pile of grub could be without charge.
But there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the Bamfords – who have given the Tories £4m over the years, including £160,000 to Johnson in 2019 – have been rewarded, in the past, with high-profile trips to their factories, private Downing Street dinners, and, oh yes, a peerage in 2013.
The Prime Minister on his knees, reliant upon an unelected billionaire for his food, is far worse than an unelected fiancee telling him who to fire.
Being unable to make £250 of food a week stretch to include your lunch is far worse than quibbling over £15 a week to millions of parents who are struggling.
Running a country into the ground is far worse than merely running it badly, but here we are, in a Wandavision world where 40.8% of British voters believe everything looks fine.
But the laughter track is starting to glitch. The cracks are becoming too large to be ignored. And while he may escape blame for the deaths and the corruption, he cannot juggle this much wrongness. Dilyn, Carrie, and the Downing Street revamp – each of them the result of his inability to keep it zipped – will do more to bring about his downfall, because they’re things the voter takes more notice of.
If I was Keir Starmer, I’d do a big interview with a well-behaved dog, and my wife, in a house with B&Q wallpaper. And I’d do it at lunchtime, while I made my own damned sandwiches.