Disraeli or Churchill?
Boris Johnson is facing a national crisis like few other prime ministers. Which of his predecessors will he draw comparisons with?
In March 1846, at the height of the destructive debate over the repeal of the Corn Laws, the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, rounded on his chief tormentor, Benjamin Disraeli, and asked how it was that if, as Disraeli claimed, he so disapproved of the Government, he had solicited a place in it? Taken by surprise, Disraeli resorted to default mode: he lied. Disclaiming that thwarted ambition had played any part in his rebellion against Peel, Disraeli denied seeking office. Historians have speculated on Peel’s motives in not acknowledging the lie, but for our purposes here, what matters is the ease with which Disraeli told a lie which suited him.