George W. Bush once profoundly observed: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me … er, you can't get fooled again."

What the eloquent former president meant to say was: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." In other words, if you get tricked by someone once it means they're an a**ehole. But if you get tricked twice it means you're a sucker.

This handy saying came back to me amid the rolling wall-to-wall coverage of Boris Johnson's "humiliating defeat" this week, reports


Indeed, the phrase "humiliating defeat" was used so universally you'd think a memo had gone out. Not even the Chinese media has such remarkable editorial consistency.

Needless to say, it is not the first time the media and political commentariat has reached such a consensus. It pretty much universally declared that Donald Trump could not be elected US President and Scott Morrison could not be elected Australian Prime Minister.

I should know — I was one of those commentators.

And of course, it was only three years ago that virtually the entire UK political establishment was convinced that the Brexit referendum would not succeed — indeed, so convinced that they were the ones who put it to a referendum in the first place.

Now those same voices are saying that Mr Johnson's Brexit plans are in tatters and his prime ministership has been dealt a crushing blow. As George W. Bush said: "Fool me once …"

In a world where all the smart people keep getting it wrong, sometimes it takes an idiot to get it right. And this is where I come in.

I am far from an expert in the ancient art of British politics, but for the life of me I cannot see a scenario in which Johnson's position isn't manifestly stronger after his supposed "humiliating defeat".

Indeed, it is hard not to suspect that Boris planned the whole thing himself.


Before the predictable accusations of bias come out, let me state yet again that I am anti-Brexit, I have always been anti-Brexit and even if I was pro-Brexit, I would be anti-Hard Brexit. The only difference between me and the current rump of Remainers is that I am also pro-democracy.

And it seems to me that a bunch of politicians trying to stop the result of a referendum being enacted, trying to stop an election being called to resolve the matter and, failing that, trying to make one of its two potential outcomes illegal is not exactly democratic. But we'll get to that later.

There are three very good reasons Boris Johnson would dearly love an election.

The first is the natural human instinct of a newly installed party leader wishing to give his prime ministership legitimacy, an instinct that is obviously amplified in both narcissists and populists (and Boris is at least one of those two things).

The second is that by almost every measure, the Conservative Party is enormously likely to win majority government under Mr Johnson — something it spectacularly failed to do under Theresa May in yet another poll shock that defied all expectations.

And, thanks to the expulsion of all the Tory MPs who crossed the floor, all newly preselected Conservative candidates would be, by definition, Johnson loyalists, thus tightening his grip on the party.

Theresa May's final speech outside 10 Downing Street. Photo / AP
Theresa May's final speech outside 10 Downing Street. Photo / AP

The third, and most critical, is that an election campaign under Mr Johnson would serve as a defacto second referendum on Brexit and give him an undeniable mandate to press ahead with Britain's departure from the EU under any circumstances — not to mention the numbers to do so — without having to resort to an absurd "do-over" referendum that would be harder for the Leave camp to win.

And so an election for Mr Johnson is the ultimate magic bullet. It would strengthen his leadership, his party and his cause. It would be his political Holy Trinity.

The only thing standing in his way is that the UK has fixed five-year terms and so Mr Johnson would need an extraordinary trigger for being able to justify calling one. Something like, for example, a "constitutional crisis".

This is almost certainly what Mr Johnson intended to manufacture when he announced his shock parliamentary shutdown and, sure enough, the hysteria of his opponents gave him precisely the crisis he wanted. They even christened it for him.

Now, instead of looking like he's making a cynical power play to prop up his parliamentary numbers, Boris can play the reluctant hero, appearing befuddled and besieged and attempting to resolve this historical impasse by humbly submitting to the judgment of the people — a judgment that virtually every poll shows will deliver him a thumping win.

But Boris' bonanza doesn't end there. The technical process for forcing the election requires a two-thirds majority of parliament, a safeguard designed to ensure it is a bipartisan decision and prevent precisely the sort of political opportunism Mr Johnson is trying to engineer.

Any half-smart political leader would of course deny an ascendant opponent the chance to go to the polls, which was the genesis of Paul Keating's magnificently sensual pledge to John Hewson: "I want to do you slowly."

Hand-in-hand with this concept goes the other universal rule of Westminster politics: that is, you want to avoid an ascendant opponent in the first place. You want to keep your opponent weak enough to get beaten on polling day but not so weak that their own party replaces them with someone who could beat you.

This is precisely why the Coalition never went for the jugular on Bill Shorten.

But of course both these concepts are far too complex for Jeremy Corbyn, a man whose density is rivalled only by the bottom half of the periodic table.

The UK Labour leader's refusal to co-operate with Theresa May on a soft Brexit both dramatically increased the likelihood of a hard one and rendered her position so untenable that it effectively ensured her replacement by the far more popular Boris Johnson.

Not only that, Mr Corbyn's own position on Brexit was so hopelessly compromised and confused that his only tactic of the past two years was to loudly and constantly demand the Conservatives go to the polls, apparently blissfully unaware of the possibility that when they finally granted his wish, it might be under a different leader.

Now of course his bluff has been called and sooner or later, he will have no choice but to send himself to his doom. Honestly, anyone who ever gets the chance to play cards with this guy should immediately take him up on it and chuck their car keys in the pot. A five-year-old could beat him with pair of deuces.

As a result, Corbyn has already been forced to declare that he will support the election bill once another bill has passed — banning the UK from "crashing out" of the EU — which is a rather strange caveat given that that's precisely what a huge number of people voting in the election will be voting for.

Yet even this oddly anti-democratic act — waved through in a bizarre tableau of sleeping bags and toothbrushes by the House of Lords — is utterly meaningless.

Notwithstanding the UK's somewhat unusual understanding of democracy, a re-elected Conservative government with a majority in the House of Commons could simply reverse the legislation — and it would take a very suicidal or very sleepy Lord to stand in the way of that.

In short, it appears right now that Mr Johnson will get the election he wants, will win that election with party unquestionably loyal to him, will have a mandate to do what he wants and will have the numbers to do it.

If that's a humiliating defeat then I'll have a double.

The only thing it looks like Mr Johnson might not get at this stage is his preferred exit date of October 31. Hopefully he will be able to come to terms with this with therapy and time.

The far more disturbing thing to emerge from this whole sorry sh*tshow is the outrageously elitist attitude that the masses were not educated enough to know what they were voting for in the 2016 referendum and their error must be corrected by their intellectual betters.

Even Orwell himself would marvel that in 21st century Britain, supposedly enlightened politicians are arguing that people should be able to vote any way they want as long as it's the right one. Some pigs are indeed more equal than others.

The good news is that if these people really want a government that decides what's good for them without the pesky nuisance of democracy, then there's a very big and powerful country they can move to.

The only catch is it's not in Europe.