Many years ago, what I thought I knew about a tsunami was that it was a monstrous wave; a wall of water tens of feet high which smashed down on a coastline that was only prepared for waves of everyday size, and therefore caused much destruction. It made sense: a grotesquely scaled-up version of the first wave to hit a child's sandcastle on the incoming tide. Easy to envisage.
However. More recently, when every person and public building has a camera permanently primed to capture whatever happens, we learn that it’s really no such thing. It's a wave only a little greater in height than usual, if at all - but instead of being a big ripple with nothing behind it (except the next wave), it's the front of an entire body of forward-moving water, all of which is a few feet above normal sea level. And it's inexorable, with the most epic volume of advancing water directly behind it, extending back into the ocean for miles.
Being water, it does various things on reaching land. Sure enough, against some obstacles it rears up into the legendary thirty-foot wave. But against others, it just flows around, powering inland, on and on, with unstoppable force that demolishes and sweeps up trees, vehicles, light buildings, indeed everything not fully anchored to stable rock. It's no more to be stopped by regular sea defences than was the surging crowd at Hillsborough to be held back by mere crush barriers.
What's this to do with Boris? Think back to May's fairly determined efforts to get her Deal through. We noted at the time that relentless slog is a strategy with something to commend it in certain circumstances - even if it's unattractive to watch, and unsatisfying to those who favour the bold and sudden stroke of a blitzkrieg or dashing, decisive flanking maneouvre.
But May's resources petered out after four or five months.
It seems to me, though, that Boris may yet be more relentless still. His whole career is one of being unstoppable - by setback, scandal, shame or scruple. The "greased piglet" moves, this way and that, around barriers and through attempts to lay hands on him. We're seeing this in his willingness and ability to pivot instantly in front of the roadblocks and tripwires hastily erected against his every move. Ordinarily, the cheap cries go up of "U-turn!" and "but, but last week you said ...". And Boris, knowing that nothing ever sticks to him with the great voting public, he cares as little for consistency as did the legendarily shameless editors of the Sun when the time came to declare "reverse-ferret".
And as he moves, this way and that, it's always somehow net-forward.
The XR-wallahs, just as the HK protesters, have adopted the old strategy-slogan, "Be Water". (They attribute this to Bruce Lee, but old Mao got there first; and Soviet military doctrine for the offensive could be described in a similar way.) Boris "Tsunami" Johnson, too, knows how to be Water; about swirling and flowing around obstacles, always surprising and outflanking the blocker, always relentlessly moving forward. His stamina for doing this has seen him past quite a few apparently insuperable roadblocks over the decades.
Let's see where the waters stand by Christmas. And what counts as 'forward', so far as Boris is concerned.
PS - gotta love Polly’s latest: "Even if the Tories win an election, Brexit will finish them".
From the sports pages: Even if England win the RWC, the Welsh are still very scary ...