Editorial: Partied out
The Gospel reading for the Sunday before this edition of Reform went to press was the wedding in Cana, where Jesus turns water into wine. Preaching on it this time last year, I was struck by how out-of-key with our times it seemed.
People are gathered together in large numbers for a joyous celebration, laughing and talking, singing and dancing, eating and drinking. Partying, in a word. It was only when the wine runs out and the party grinds to a halt that the story seemed to connect with our experience during that locked-down winter of 2020-21.
This time round, the story brought rather different thoughts to mind. While our pandemic restrictions continued a year on, returning to this carefree, boozy party scene made me wonder if King Herod was going to turn up by mistake thinking it was a work meeting. And stay for 25 minutes before realising it wasn’t. When the wine ran out, was someone going to pop out with a suitcase?
At the time of writing it is uncertain whether Mr Johnson’s premiership is in its last days, or will somehow limp on for months, or will even manage to simply weather this storm as it has earlier ones. The combination of outrage and laughter provoked by ‘partygate’ would seem pretty terminal. Not many democratic governments could survive so offending the values of their voters, and fewer still could survive becoming figures of such fun at the same time. And yet Mr Johnson rose to power precisely by presenting himself as a figure of fun and causing targeted offence, so if there is anyone who can slip such a noose, it’s him.
But predicting the future is a mug’s game, and predicting it to readers who are already in it is even mugsier. So instead I’ll predict the present and say that this kerfuffle can hardly come as a surprise to anyone who noticed the scrapes Mr Johnson got into earlier in his career, the integrity of character that they revealed, and the honesty with which he faced up to them.
I may be revealing my incorrigible prejudice, and there may be all kinds of reasons why people voted for Mr Johnson in December 2019, but I can think of three: they agreed with his policy – ‘Get Brexit done’; they were less appalled by him than by the alternative; they thought he was a good laugh. But Brexit is done now and the spectre of Corbynism has been exorcised, so I think we’re about to see how far being a good laugh can get you…
This article was published in the February 2022 edition of Reform