Johnson is struggling with the politics of Covid, but it’s dangerous to write him off | Martin Kettle

If he can appear to achieve a last-minute Brexit victory, this shabby prime minister could well enjoy renewed confidence

Optimism is essential in politics. But the borderline between optimism and wishful thinking is easily overstepped. In one of my earliest jobs I interviewed London Labour party candidates and activists during the 1983 general election. One after another they said with passionate sincerity that Labour would win by 50 seats, and proceeded to lay out the compelling reasons why this was so. The following week the Conservatives won the election by nearly 150.

Plenty of those who frequent the palace of wishful thinking today have opined with similar certainty recently that Boris Johnson is now dead in the water. They have said he is not happy, that he is still ill, that he realises he is not up to the job, that he can’t cope with Covid. The Conservative party is said to be in ferment, Tory backbenchers are apparently unbiddable, and the public sees that it bought a political turkey last December. By spring, therefore, Johnson will be gone, to be replaced by Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak or some other freshly fashionable alternative.

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