All throughout history the ability of the human race to self harm and self destruct has been well documented and we seem to be living through quite a spectacular renaissance. The phenomenon in the western world is ever growing and we are not alone in taking a path that seems destined for disaster. However, the ‘hold my beer’ attitude of the UK when ever any other country does something stupid is truly astounding.
Before I continue, and I wish I did not have to caveat this but it seems people cannot grasp the nuances of any commentary these days, I do not think all right wing people are idiots, I do not think everyone who voted Brexit is a racist or a facist, and I do not think polarising soundbites are helpful. But I do think we have taken some decisions as a nation recently that are not in our own best interests.
And so onto the new PM, Boris Johnson.
I too fell for his charms years back. I believed his buffoonery to be real and endearing. I felt that what politics needed in this country was someone who spoke their mind and was not too serious. I thought he was one of those Tories I could get on board with and that he was a centerist and could bring people together.
What I had not realised at that time was what Johnson’s comedic persona and likeable facade was just that, an artificial persona and a truly deceptive facade. What he presents in public is an act. One which I once fell for and one which many people still believe in now.
How do I come to the conclusion it is an act? Well, unlike some I look at the evidence.
Back in 1998, when Johnson appeared on Have I got News for You for the second of quite a few appearances, he was outed by Ian Hislop for trying to help a friend, Darius Guppy, plot to have a journalist beaten up. There is a recording of the conversation easily available on line. At the time I knew about this recording as I read Private Eye but this being discussed on a hugely popular TV programme, with Johnson left with no option but to admit it, should have been a warning to us all.
I am not a fan of cancel culture however, and this recording, even then, was about eight years old, and maybe just the idiocy of youth. Still it is a key part of the narative on what Johnson really is, or more importantly isn’t. He is not the lovable bumbling idiot he portrays.
Further evidence that Johnson is putting on a act to gain popularity rather than represneting what he really believes can be found in his attutude towards the European Union.
Back in 2003 he said this in the commons, “I am not by any means an ultra-Eurosceptic. In some ways, I am a bit of a fan of the European Union. If we did not have one, we would invent something like it.” There are further examples that his views on the EU changed rapdily when he realised that in order to achieve his ambition of the premiership he needed to nail his colours to the Brexit mast. An article on Business Insider by Adam Bienkov covers a few of his contradictory views.
So what? you may ask. All politicians change their minds or position when it suits them. Look at the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, who was one of the 27 Lib Dem MPs who voted for University tuition fees, then said she was for reducing them, and then voted against reducing them. But there are nuances here, and she chose a side that made her less popular, not more, to try and influence other policy in the Con/Lib coalition. Not that that worked out well!
Other examples of such blatant changes of position, like Johnson’s sudden shift, on such key issues are hard to find from many MPs.
One story that really sums up neatly the act that Johnson has developed, and lets face it developed with some skills, is the story shared by Jeremy Vine recently on his Facebook page and further shared across many platforms. I won’t ruin the punch line for you if you have not seen it before, but I recommend reading to the end. In another career I would be sat here applauding Johnson for his skill, unfortunately he is not a stand up comedian or an actor, he is our Prime Minister and supposed to represent us as a country.
This leads me onto a plea to the Johnson haters. Please stop questioning his intelligence. He is not Trumpesque in this matter, there are other Trump similarities which are far more relevant and at least as dangerous.
He is clever.
He has pulled the wool over many people’s eyes and to then call him an idiot is to insult those people, many of whom are intelligent human beings themselves (granted more than a few are not!) You risk alienating further those people who see Johnson as representing them. We already suffer the title of ‘elite’ when we oppose him, and yet he is the Old Etonian and Bullingdon Club member, and I did not even mange to finish university due to financial constraints.
Johnson is manipulative and clever. Accept that and we can move on to the fact that his failures in his time in office (Mayor of London, Foreign Office etc etc) are due more to laziness, naivety, and in some cases being bested by others. Once we begin to focus on that we have better grounds in which to push back. He needs strong and capable Civil Servants and Cabinet Members around him to be successful in his ambitions. From what I have seen so far he has missed the boat on capability in the cabinet but that’s for another blog post. We can hope that the incompetence many of them have already shown will scupper his plans.
Oh and one more thing. Stop calling him Boris. We did not call Prime Minister May, ‘Teresa’, we did not call Cameron, ‘David’, and we baulked at calling Blair, ‘Tony’ as it felt naff and contrived. Calling Johnson by his middle name, a name he has selected from a few choices (his first name is Alexander and his other middle name is de Pfeffel) further endears him to those in the electorate who have no time for or interest in politics and just vote for the person who they believe is like them, or speaks for them. Boris is their mate, Johnson is a penis.
The cult of personality is strong and before you come at me with points of process that people don’t vote for the Prime Minister, they vote for their local MP, it is that naive belief (although technically accurate) that got us here. People, normal working people, quite often don’t have the time or inclination to investigate the policy of the parties they vote for, or the referendum choices they make. Many have a quick look at a leaflet or two, but more then you think will look at what the leaders of the party are doing and saying and take their lead from there. They pay attention to the TV and Social Media, and they live in echo chambers of their own beliefs. If we fail to recognise this we will fail to respond to the threat Johnson poses.
So here’s hoping to a vote of no confidence in the Autumn and a General Election. Who is the better outcome at that stage it is hard to tell. I only hope that we begin to move our politics back into the middle a bit. Less extremes of views, and please, please a focus on something other than Brexit. Whilst we argue, about exiting or not, people are suffering, the country is falling on it’s knees, the world is striding into conflict, and the planet is dying.
Johnson, in my opinion, is a threat because he will focus on the wrong things. Brexit will dominate and he will continue to polarise the country, all the while wearing the mask of a clown. A clown that goes out to represent us all on the world stage, and that is one stage where his type of comedy should not be seen.
Image of No 10 Downing Street taken from gov.uk.