A sleek car, polished to within a millimetre of its life, is chauffeur-driven away from the imposing building and heads to the airport. Police outriders, lights flashing angrily, clear a path through the traffic, while armoured SUV’s full of security staff are front and rear. In the back of the car, lounging in comfort, his personal body-guard by his side, sits a VVIP. He sips a drink, champagne, perhaps, or fizzy something, as he contemplates the imminent luxury of a private ‘plane which will take him wherever he wants to go.
Am I describing someone from the Russian/Soviet nomenclatura? No, but I could be. I fact, this is Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson, Britain’s newest occupant of Number 10 Downing Street. He is basking in the luxury, the attention, the power and the glory of finally making his dream come true. His dream. But is it a dream we can share? Back to examine the echo chamber – am I being unreasonably prejudiced against A B DePf J?
Consider prejudice: it means pre-judging, forming an opinion about something or someone without having the facts to back it up, without knowledge, or without sufficient knowledge. And there lies the problem with johnson – he is a publicity hound of the highest order, and no-one, including me, can even pretend not to know who is is, what he is, how he thinks, what he wants. He keeps telling us. And what he does not tell us in so many words we can easily discern from his actions and what lies behind his words. Or sometimes right there in plain sight.
He is an Eton and Oxford-educated toff. Far from the first PM or MP to be, nor, sad to say, the last. A member of the Bullingdon Club, whose sole purpose is to get as drunk as possible, and then trash everything in sight, mostly everything belonging to other people. As an MP before he became Mayor of London, almost invisible and ineffective because, according to one constituent, “he really did not give a damn about us.” Then as Mayor of London, elected twice because each time he was up against Ken Livingston, London’s Hugo Chavez of whom London voters had had enough. Any Conservative candidate for the Mayor’s job would have won. As Mayor, most Londoners are happy to forget him.
Then after two entirely unremarkable terms as Mayor, remembered mostly for his eccentric behaviour and buffoonery, re-returned to the Commons as MP for Henley, where a baboon wearing a blue rosette would be elected MP, so tribally entrenched are the Conservatives in that area. A “safe” Con seat, in a party-poisoned democracy, where such phenomena as safe seats ought to be impossible.
Then, into government, where Theresa May appointed him Foreign Secretary for reasons that defy any understanding whatsoever. The worst For Sec in the history of that exalted job. Unable to understand a brief, embarrassing public appearances in various places – and directly and personally responsible for prolonging the Iran-imposed agony of wrongful imprisonment of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Gaff after gaff.
Then the 2015/2016 Referendum campaign. Until almost the last minute, there was no sign from him as to whether he would support Leave or Remain. According to colleagues in the press, before he made up his mind which way to go, he wrote two pieces for the Spectator, two self-cancelling pieces, one of them to be published after the vote, one congratulating the winning Remainers, the other praising the winning Leavers as he was not sure which one he was going to support. He knows a great deal about covering-the-arse.
Finally, to his credit, he saw that supporting Leave would become a self-fulfilling prophecy because he knew that he could out-perform the Remain public figures with his on-stage brilliance and camera-candy-ness. So he waited, and pounced, waving anti-EU slogans with panache, and telling whopping great bus-borne porkies about money-saving, the NHS and much else. Leaving the horrible farage to play the racist and xenophobic cards, johnson stormed on, convinced now that a national focus on brexit would do what he so badly needed; the destruction of his arch-enemy Cameron, and the downfall of May, leaving a gap that only he could fill. He knew, from up close and personal experience, how the Conservative Party leader-selecting system works, particularly the “popular” vote element thereof, and knew that he was a shoo-in once the hopeless, hapless May had eased herself out, the second PM to commit political suicide in succession.
Personally, johnson is a known liar, adulterer, lothario, cheat, exaggerator. He revels in it. Taking several leaves out of the trump book, he shrugs off all such accusations because he knows that denial is completely unnecessary. The loveable rascal, ha, ha, what a boy, good old Boris. He’ll show those filthy foreigners in Brussels a thing or two.
Once his feet were under the cabinet table, he started making promises, as though he were fighting an election. Every promise involving the expenditure of massive sums of public money, with not even a hint as to where that money is to come from. He sounds more socialist than O Jeremy C. But of course, he is fighting an election campaign. He is going to call a general election as soon as he thinks he can, and he will rely on his ability to hypnotise not only his Con Party followers, but others as well.
Brexit will either have happened, or not, by the time he calls the GE. If it has, without a deal, he’ll depend on his xenophobic adherents, blaming the evil EU for refusing to renegotiate. If it hasn’t, he’ll depend on his xenophobic adherents, blaming the evil EU and Irish intransigence. And he’ll wind up his internal parrot, which will repeat ad nauseam “no brexit means the end of British democracy … no brexit means the end of British democracy.” And he’ll depend on a still-surviving democratic vote for a general election win. Somehow, a dead democracy will still function.
What’s on the positive side of the Boris balance sheet? He is a great communicator, with all the orator’s tricks. But in his case, style is not matched by substance. Like trump, how he says what he says is more important to him than what he says. His groupies in the Con Party don’t care – he is putting on a show, and the show must go on. I’m struggling here – my genuine desire to be as objective as possible is tilting me inexorably towards the things about him which disqualify him from being anything where he has his hands on the levers of power, but I keep thinking ” come on, he can’t be all bad, can he?” But the plus side of the balance sheet remains stubbornly thin.
A B DeP J was born in New York and he only gave up his US citizenship in 2016. That means he could, I believe, stand for election as the next president of the USA. No, actually he can’t. The US Constitution says he has to have been a US resident for 14 years. Pity. Once he loses the PM-ship here, and resigns as an MP, it would be good to have him go to the USA and see what he could screw up there.