Boris Johnson managed to surprise commentariats and colleagues alike today when he used his supposed leadership launch to announce that he was actually bowing out of the race. Johnson’s allies feel that he was forced into the decision after his fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove announced just an hour earlier that he would stand in his own right. With Johnson believing that Gove was helping rally support for his leadership bid, this has been viewed by many as the ultimate betrayal.
Although the former Mayor of London is yet to directly comment on his one-time friend’s betrayal, was there in fact an oblique reference to it in his speech? There was one line in particular that spiked Mr S’s attention:
‘A time not to fight against the tide of history but to take that tide at the flood and sail on to fortune.’
The line appears to take inspiration from a speech by Brutus in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
From Act 4 — after he has turned on his friend Caesar and become one of the assassins who stabbed him — it sees Brutus make the point that he and his co-conspirators must act quickly if they wish to keep their grip on power — otherwise they may find themselves stranded in miserable shallows.
So could Johnson be making a thinly-veiled reference to his friend-turned-foe? Of course Steerpike could be reading far too much into his choice of words. However, given that Johnson is currently writing a biography of the bard, Mr S suspects he knows exactly what he’s doing…