The dissonance between the new realities and the recent past is now huge. Instead of the old contempt towards experts, competence and seriousness, there is now a craving for all three to help steer a safe course through the Covid-19 crisis. The idea that the government’s post-pandemic priorities might include lighting fires under the BBC, the civil service and the universities therefore seems even more destructive now than before. The idea that Britain should be a Brexit buccaneer, turning its back resolutely against Europe and throwing itself into the arms of Donald Trump seems even more irresponsible.
As one former minister put it to me this week: “The party that was being created in the wake of the election was a new one. It was based on a cultural backlash against liberalism and established elites at home and abroad. But that doesn’t feel to me like what the country wants now. It doesn’t want divisive politics. It doesn’t want a culture war. This feels like a moment to step away from a lot of that.” Whether to take that step away will be very much Johnson’s own decision. But it is a decision with momentous implications for the Tory party and for the whole of British party politics.
• Martin Kettle is a Guardian columnist
TAP – Boris post assassination attempt might decide to opt for the easier life. Or he might come back doubly determined to create the Golden Age.