What happens when an honest man collides with a dishonest one?
In the world we all hope we live in, the good guy sees through the bad guy, and does it sooner rather than later. The world will be set to rights, there is a just punishment for wrongdoers, and we all go about our days safe in the knowledge that someone benevolent is in charge.
Yeah, in FAIRY TALES.
Those moral, hand-me-down rule books work fine when explaining to children why being naughty will get you in trouble. They are less useful when America sends Ned Flanders to do a deal with the Bullingdon boy who cried Brexit.
There is lots of talk about how Joe Biden dislikes Boris Johnson, and Kamala Harris despises him; about Dominic Raab’s churlish refusal to acknowledge democracy, and the Northern Irish border reanimating to bite us all in the trade deals.
But it would take a more bitter columnist than this one to fail to appreciate the spontaneous street parties, the improved hopes of a better Brexit, and the proper headache now being suffered by Dominic Cummings as the chaos of toddlers is replaced by the arrival of an affable grandad who not only wants this mess cleaned up, but has a pocketful of sweeties with which to achieve it.
The spin cycle is complete: calm has returned. Even the bot farms of St Petersburg have started misfiring, sending out Ickian madness that makes renowned landscape gardener Rudy Giuliani sound reasonable. You could sum up the dark web, today, as: “Error 404: conspiracies could not be found.”
The trouble is, none of that really matters when the next chairman of the G7 is a “shape-shifting creep” with lifelong marketing expertise in getting away with being an utter sh**.
If the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is good at anything, it is in convincing those he has only just betrayed that he still loves them. So while Biden may take issue with that 2016 column about Barack Obama having “an ancestral dislike” of Britain due to his Kenyan heritage, you can expect Johnson to plead the habitual journalist’s defence and blame it on “them in the office”.
It goes something like this: “I know, I know, I thought the same when I read it… dreadful cock-up, I can’t tell you angry I was, and told them so in no uncertain terms. Bloody subs. I can assure you it won’t happen again, you can trust me on that, now, what can you tell me about this Green New Deal, sounds fascinating, I’d love to hear more…”
Harris, a woman who took on the role of caring for children that weren’t hers, and understandably has a low opinion of someone who shucks all responsibility for however many he has, will be subject to heartfelt revelations about how much he regrets earlier misdemeanours, perhaps some eye-moistening as he waxes lyrical about changing young Wilfred’s nappies.
And the world will be treated to the sight of a man who has stopped keeping up with the KKKardashians, and started keeping up with appearances, instead.
Because Johnson is the world’s best liar. Not that he ever really convinces anyone – even those who believed the bus knew it was a pipe dream. But that, like a four-year-old who tells blatant untruths about who raided the biscuit barrel even as crumbs fall from his still-chewing mouth, his lies are greeted with resignation, an indulgent smile at his absolute cheek, and zero consequences.
So, as Theresa May got hot and heavy with Trump in indecent haste, we can expect Johnson to display international levels of sucking-up not seen since a randy prince tried to crawl into Rapunzel’s knickers by way of her scalp. We’ll see a wolf dressed up as Red Riding Hood, a goblin offering to spin straw into gold for absolutely no fee at all, a mushy pea apologising for disturbing the princess’ duvet.
And he’ll probably be despised for it on right and left, but he won’t care. All Johnson has ever cared about is the right to rule – an emperor who genuinely couldn’t care less that there are no clothes to hide his fakedness.
The issue will be whether Biden sees it, and whether it matters.
Because as the previous president melts into a rancid puddle of Orangina and dissolved doritos during his final 72 dog days in office, the next one is going to hit the ground running. Biden has 47 years of statesmanship behind him, and access to the White House bleach stockpile that nobody drank.
He’s also enough of a grown-up to realise that Johnson has already lost the next election, and the relationship is between countries with mutual interests, not people with differing personalities.
And as for Johnson, he’ll know that Biden is not his problem. A US trade deal was vital only to threaten the EU with. Now the US and EU will be on friendlier terms, Johnson will find it easier to blame the soft Brexit that was the best anyone could ever have hoped for on the “ancestral dislike” of the Irishman in the White House.
In the next year, Johnson will chair the G7 as well as COP26, the climate summit. Like every bully, he will be utterly servile to the bigger, better boy who just entered the playground. If he is careful, he could present global decision-making as a deal he brokered, then retire from the hard work he hates with plaudits he doesn’t deserve. The lies are for his own sake; our indulgence a form of sympathy for a creature who knows no better.
In the real world, the wolf wins, more often than not. The lesson for us in this dark fairytale, is the danger inherent in going for a walk with him in the first place.