IN June 2019, the historian and former Daily Telegraph editor Max Hastings described Boris Johnson in such disparaging terms that you wondered if perhaps he’d suffered a grave personal slight from him.

Writing in The Guardian, Hastings said: “I have known Johnson since the 1980s, when I edited the Daily Telegraph and he was our flamboyant Brussels correspondent. I have argued for a decade that, while he is a brilliant entertainer who made a popular maître d’ for London as its mayor, he is unfit for national office, because it seems he cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification.”

Hastings was just getting started on the Prime Minister. “We can’t predict what a Johnson government will do, because its prospective leader has not got around to thinking about this. But his premiership will almost certainly reveal a contempt for rules, precedent, order and stability.”

And then this: “Dignity still matters in public office and Johnson will never have it. Yet his graver vice is cowardice, reflected in a willingness to tell any audience, whatever he thinks most likely to please, heedless of the inevitability of its contradiction an hour later.”

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Not long after that column was published I asked around a few Tories of my acquaintance to establish whether it was indeed something personal with Hastings and Johnson. I was assured there was nothing in their shared history that might have caused Hastings to be especially disobliging about the man who had just been elected Prime Minister. Hastings, they said, was not known for sparing high connections from his withering candour.

This was apparent from reading his book about his days as a national newspaper boss: Editor: An Inside Story. It included tales of how he had to turn down several entreaties by Tory establishment figures to look the other way at their assorted malfeasances. Hastings is a reliable witness and, it would seem, a prophetic one.

I struggled to attain peak outrage at the initial spate of stories about the Johnson administration’s relaxed approach to the lockdown rules during Christmas 2020. Compared with several of the Tories’ iniquities during the pandemic – the PPE scandals, the new hostile environment for refugees and asylum-seekers – having a few low-level festive gatherings didn’t seem very important in the grand scheme of their knavery.

Last weekend’s “bring your own booze” revelations, though, about a planned “socially distanced” drinks party for more than 100 Downing Street staff spoke of something much more insidious and dangerous.

A leaked email showed that Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s most senior government adviser emailed staff in May 2020 inviting them to a drinks party to celebrate the “lovely weather”.

In an adjacent Downing Street chamber, even as this invitation was being circulated, government ministers were re-inforcing the message to the rest of us that breaking restrictions could cost lives and jeopardise the ability of the NHS to treat not just Covid victims but people suffering from other life-threatening conditions.

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The planned nature of this event and the fact that – according to several eye-witnesses – Johnson and his wife Carrie were also in attendance introduced something chilling to the familiar “one-rule-for-them” narrative which, let’s face it, you can apply to many other Tory vices in any given year.

This was contempt for the electorate of such brazenness that it made the approach of Tories like Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron seem almost beneficent. It’s often said that power corrupts, but this aphorism is rendered meaningless when corruption is already present. And besides, when the word “corruption”, like “lies”, is too often used to describe mere bad faith or inaccuracy the term loses much of its impact.

Not here though. Proof of authentic corruption is its capacity to corrupt those who, hitherto, had seemed incorruptible.

Now I don’t know if Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary, has led a blameless professional life. But you don’t get to scale the heights of the British civil service unless your record of conduct in public office is one of irreproachable rectitude. Reynolds is not the first senior government official who might have cause to rue the day Boris Johnson slithered into 10 Downing Street.

Much more troubling than the reputation of previously unimpeachable public servants are the implications of the Prime Minister’s personal and professional conduct for the security of the realm. This tends to matter to Tories. When an individual who lies as much as Boris Johnson does and who seems indifferent to the consequences of his actions reaches high office he becomes a security risk and a potential target of enemy states.

It’s why Vladimir Putin was scarcely able to disguise a smirk whenever the name of Donald Trump was mentioned in his presence.

In May 2020, Britain was facing its greatest mortal peril since the Second World War. And we now know that those tasked with ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the population were actively working against this and undermining it.

If this country were ever threatened by an overseas power intent on destroying our way of life you simply couldn’t be sure that this man or his accomplices in the Cabinet and high civil service wouldn’t seek to betray us.

Max Hastings is one of the UK’s finest military historians. Look again at that 2019 article of his: “He cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification.”

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What is it with the UK aristocracy and their propensity for betraying the country? The Cambridge spy ring – an assortment of psychotic narcissists who thought themselves too superior to be bound by the simple conventions of the masses – willingly endangered the security of their sceptred bloody isle.

Only the 100-year rule prevents us knowing what other members of the royal family besides Edward VIII sought favour with the Nazis.

Britain in 1940 would have been absolutely friar-tucked if this shower had been in charge. Their natural instincts would have placed Britain in jeopardy then and, eight decades later, they’re placing the nation in jeopardy once more.

It’s not trade unionists or socialists or Extinction Rebellion who pose the greatest danger to what Her Majesty’s Daily Mail might call “The British way of life”. It’s always been the aristocracy and their lickspittles. Boris Johnson is maintaining a wretched old tradition.

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