‘Arise, Sir Stanley Johnson of Outrage-by-Sea, for services to moral corruption’

Nothing screams ‘give the man a knighthood’ quite like breaking your wife’s nose and sending her to hospital.

Nothing will embellish a reputation quite like refusing to comment on it, then being said by a third party to “deeply regret” it, and finally landing on a claim that he was just “flailing back” during a row.

And absolutely nothing will do as much for the sticking power of that stain on a man’s character like nominating him for a knighthood, which is guaranteed to fire up every domestic abuse victim, perpetrator and campaigner in the land.

But then there’s nothing Boris Johnson has benefited from as much as public outrage, which is perhaps why he’s done it.

“My dad’s the best dead cat there is!”
Getty Images)

Stanley Johnson’s name is not only among 100 others on his son’s unprecedentedly-long resignation honours list, he’s not even the first person who shares the PM’s genetic material to be so favoured.

His other son Jo, a former minister, was made a lord in 2020, after a grand total of 9 years as an MP, 4 of them in government. On those criteria, Larry the Downing Street cat has a greater claim to a peerage.

Stanley’s list of achievements is equally sparse. The greatest appears to be winning 124,414 votes to become a Tory MEP in 1979; Boris won his last election with just 25,351. Combined with a stint on I’m A Celebrity, Give Me Attention in 2017, Stanley is officially 5 times more popular than the last Prime Minister-but-one.

“It’s the popularity with the ladies that worry me”

Stanley campaigned for Remain, but changed his mind to back Brexit a year later. He went to Greece during a Covid travel ban, sought and won French citizenship after Brexit, and has been employed to write and speak by people for whom he is a second-class version of Boris.

He’s been accused of groping by a Tory MP he claimed not to recall, and a journalist who bumped into him at a party conference. He denied both, after a fashion, but it would come as no surprise to anyone if he is the sort of chap who is in the habit of calling women “fruity”.

Married twice, a father six times over, he’s spoken repeatedly of the need for the rest of the world to stop having so many children. Presumably, so his own very wealthy offspring can have more of it.

“Look, we’ve already got enough kids for a couple of football teams, but if we keep going we could manage a whole league”

This begs the question of what, exactly, Stanley has done to merit a knighthood. He’s won a poetry award, but then so have most 6-year-olds. He’s won some prizes from the RSPCA and RSPB for environmental campaigning, but the average 6-year-old would be awed by that for about five minutes.

The best thing he’s done for Boris is all the things Boris can’t do. I’ve seen him meeting Tories in the Commons tea rooms where his son never bothered to build alliances. He goes on telly talking about what the government should or shouldn’t do. He’s been found meeting the Chinese ambassador and emailing government to pass on concerns Boris hadn’t picked up the phone to discuss Covid.

That last one came about because Stanley accidentally cc’ed the BBC. The family brain cell was obviously out on loan at the time.

By being a blond, blustering buffoon, he has made his son look like less of one. By increasing family notoriety, flouting Covid rules, changing his mind on Brexit and becoming more friendly with Europe, he has made his son’s efforts on all those points look less bad. When Stanley blunders around the airwaves, Boris seems more statesmanlike – and these two probably know it.

That may be the one reasonable explanation for Stanley’s inexplicable inclusion on what is certain to be a disgraceful honours list. It’s a great deflection for all the other names who have done worse, or who may enrich Boris in the years to come. If you want to get a load of cronies honoured by a system reviled as corrupt, it’s easier to amplify that corruption than to fix it.

Imagine who else you could sneak onto an Honours List, if the names included Beelzebub, Scar from The Lion King, or Biff Tannen. Just a suggestion of a knighthood for dad, with all the moral corruption that involves both in nepotism and achievement, is enough to cause so much public outrage that everyone is too distracted to a notice a worse candidate or two being snuck in behind him.

It’s absolutely right that Stanley’s knighthood be complained of, and blocked as most expect it will be. It’s probably fair that the whole Johnson clan be fired into space for the sake of population control. But remember to give the rest of the list more, not less scrutiny – and to give Boris a small nod too, for doing something which means his mother’s broken nose is still not forgotten.