21 February 2016

Exclusive: first draft of Boris Johnson’s epoch-defining column on Brexit…


CapX has obtained (*) the first draft of Boris Johnson’s ‎column for Monday’s Daily Telegraph containing his decision on whether or not to back Brexit. When I was comment editor of the Telegraph many years ago we used to look forward every Sunday evening to the arrival of Boris’s copy and marvelled that he had written his peerless copy in about half an hour. “Boris’s column” a colleague used to say “is basically always a shaggy dog story. It’s brilliant. It’s entertaining. But it’s a shaggy dog story.” Still, to the fury of some of his jealous rivals, Boris is big box office and readers actually read him. I like Boris. I’ve never walked away from an encounter with him without smiling. He has a Reaganite optimism. He’s right about the island airport for London and he would be an interesting Tory leader. But goodness, the man has been making a meal of deciding which way to go in the referendum. Mercifully, the waiting is over. Today, with the Prime Minister reportedly furious with Boris and in pubs and gardening centres across the land Brits desperate for new of his decision, I am delighted to report he is filing early. Here is the historic first draft.

By Boris Johnson

Now, look here about this Brexit business. I know what you’re thinking. Has old Boris, old Boris the basher of Brussels, gone softer than a ripe camembert left outside in the Provencal summer sun? Surely it cannot be true that your fearless correspondent, exposer in the 1990s of the bonkers EU bureaucrats who wanted to ban bent bananas, is now for staying in the same European Union? Has he gone mad? Has he been kidnapped by our old friend Herman von Rumpy Pumpy and his gang of Euro federasts and force fed super-strength wacky backy of the kind now freely available on the streets of Belgium and Holland (of which more later)? In short, what’s Boris smoking? Is Bozza now a Remainian? Friends, hold on, hold on. Not so fast.

Let me tell you a little story…

(Proceeds to tell story for ten paragraphs about a boy he knew at school who struggled to decide what to have for pudding, and by the time he decided all the bread and butter pudding had been eaten by the other boys.)

‎Cripes! Is Boris the boy who will not get any pudding? Has he dawdled so long that his privileges are about to be withdrawn by the pious prefects? Perhaps Dave, our current Prime Minister, is about to summon yours truly, the humble Mayor of London, to his study in Number 10 and deliver a jolly good thrashing. My fellow Britons, be in no doubt that if that happens I will tell him the following. Now, look here Dave, I’ll say, it might seem to you that I am dawdling in indecision on this Brexit questions. But millions of us are. Our eyes glaze over at mention of the indexation of child benefit for Poles, our brains freeze when we hear talk of emergency brakes that can only be pulled if the Estonian parliament deems it ok. That being the case, there is nothing wrong with a bit of good old fashioned British dawdling. Many of our fellow countrymen cannot make up their minds on this referendum, and I am simply giving the don’t knows of this great land a voice.

The big prob is that the PM’s great renegotiation has only made the decision for us dawdlers more difficult. At first, on Friday, I thought good old Dave! The Eurocrats sent in their best spin bowler, little Donny Tusk, but it didn’t faze Dave, oh no, and now look, he’s whacked it for six over the pavilion. Well played that man. What a shot. What a deal. What a guy. And then I started to study the detail of the opinion polls, sorry I started to study the detail of the deal, at which point I must confess I began to worry that Dave had been stitched up good and proper, like Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro by that wily Carthaginian Hannibal on the field of battle at Cannae.

And that got me thinking about the Ancient Greeks too, and what Aristotle might have made of this rum EU to do. He would surely have been appalled at the mistreatment of his countrymen by the Germanic hordes wielding their devilish weapon of destruction, the European single currency. As Aristotle put it…

(Insert several paragraphs on the Maastricht Treaty, the Ancient Greeks, philosophy and the origins of democracy.)

But let’s bring it back, closer to home. I know what you’re thinking. Boris is leading us a merry dance around the maypole and you – the proud yeomanry of England and your maidens – are certainly no fools. Get on with it Bozza. What’s your decision on Brexit? You wrote a book about Churchill (I did, out in paperback now) so what would Winston do?

(‎Proceeds to tell a story about Churchill in May 1940 with crucial details slightly wrong.)

Churchill’s resolute example that day should inspire us now as we stand on the precipice, poised to fulfil our destiny at the heart of Europe, but standing off to one side giving America and the Commonwealth a come hither look. We can have the best of both worlds. We can have our cake – Dundee, Battenberg, Victoria Sponge, one and all – and jolly well eat it too.

And that, my friends, is why I have decided after much agonising that on the great epoch-defining question of our age there can only be one answer. Sing it from the rooftops. Let the church bells ring out across the land. When it comes to the European Union, Britain should leave/remain (delete where appropriate). There you go. Phew. See you on the other side.

(*) No we haven’t. This is a spoof.

Iain Martin is the Editor of CapX