Parallels are miraculous.
Soaring inflation, political turmoil, economic instability, industrial turmoil, and the prime minister abroad seem oblivious to the problems he faces back home.
For Boris Johnson in 2022, read Jim Callahan in 1979.
The Conservative Party leader is currently 4,000 miles away in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, and will not be back in the UK for another week.
Meanwhile, his party is on fire again after Thursday’s by-elections in Wakefield, Tiverton and Honiton, which the Conservatives lost to Labor and Liberal Democrats respectively.
This was soon followed by the resignation of Oliver Dowden as Conservative Party Chairman, with a scathing letter to the Prime Minister stating: “We cannot continue business as usual. Someone must take responsibility and I have concluded that under the circumstances, it would not be right to stay in office.”
Meanwhile, inflation is mercilessly heading into double digits, while the RMT union braces for a third day of strikes this week and others threaten to follow suit.
Despite all this, and even as Michael Howard calls for him to resign, Johnson resolutely ignores his demand to leave.
The prime minister showed incredibly self-confidence or naivety, insisting he was not worried that Tory MPs were plotting to bring him down while he was abroad.
And he avoided any hints that he took responsibility for the defeats in the by-election by repeatedly saying,we You must listen to the electorate’s judgment and respond to their concerns.
Pressing his future, the prime minister said: “We have to realize there is more that we have to do, and we will certainly do – we will keep working, addressing people’s concerns until we have this correction.”
To older political observers, the parallels with former Labor Prime Minister Callaghan are staggering.
Back in 1979, Britain was going through a “winter of discontent”, with rubbish piling up in the streets and the dead going unburied while strikes brought the country to a standstill.
At the same time, Callahan was attending a summit in the Caribbean. On his return to the UK, the Prime Minister was asked about his response to the “escalating chaos” crippling the country.
He replied, “Well, that’s your judgment. I promise you that if you look at the matter from the outside, and you’re probably looking narrow-minded at the moment, I don’t think other people in the world would share the view that there is a growing chaos.”
This led to Sun’s famous front-page headline: “Crisis? What crisis?” Although Callaghan never uttered the phrase, it perfectly captured his seemingly deaf attitude to the turmoil all around him.
The similarities with Johnson don’t end there.
In an attempt to give the impression of business as usual, Johnson’s doctor told press release yesterday to political journalists traveling in Rwanda that the Prime Minister had enjoyed an early morning swim in the Kagali Hotel pool while absorbing the dismal news from home.
At his fateful press conference in 1979, Callahan told reporters, “You know, I actually swam.”
Within months, Callaghan was pushed out of the 10th place as Margaret Thatcher led the Conservatives to victory in the general election.
Amid growing anxiety within his own ranks, it is becoming increasingly likely that Boris Johnson will suffer the same fate.