Inventor of the bicycle;
Master of Wiff Waff;
Master of Rugby Football;
Master of Association Football;
The British sense of self-deprecating humour in flesh incarnate and undisputed King of the Olympics.
In her biography of Boris back in 2011, Sonia Purnell described him as “Beloved by millions and recognised by all.” The British people have something of a strange relationship with Boris. His bumbling demeanour and smiling, vivacious nature means that he appears to be a different type of politician, far removed from the over-coached, weird-Yoga pose-standing, vox-pop spouting politicians that fill our airwaves and newspapers.
There has always been a yearning for something different within politics, recently demonstrated to an alarming effect by Brexit, Trump, and the rise of fascism within Europe, all of which imply dissatisfaction with the status quo. Boris was a breath of fresh air – the man who didn’t care about his appearance, who spoke his mind, and who entertained us with his many rap-on-the-knuckles-worthy faux pas.
However, over the last couple of years, Boris has seen his stock fall considerably. His direct association with Brexit and being one of, if not the leading Brexiteers within the Conservative Party saw his popularity plummet. Additionally, his subsequent bid for the party leadership saw his vast political clout take a huge blow after his eleventh-hour betrayal by that bastion of justice and truth, Michael Gove. After being made a surprise appointment to the Cabinet, in the role of Foreign Secretary no less, Boris’ continuing trend of faux pas started to lose their comedic touch, becoming considerably more offensive or problematic instead – the epitome of this being his absent-minded turn of phrase resulting in the Iranian government doubling Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentence.
In the last few weeks Boris has been in the headlines once again. Having resigned his post in July following the Brexit-strategy meeting at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country house, he seemed as though he was poised to become a serious rival for the leadership, given the precarious (or, if we’re being less generous, chaotic) nature of the Brexit negotiations. Over the last few days, however, his long-standing (read: suffering) wife, Marina Wheeler, announced that they would be getting a divorce and had been separated for some time. This comes after a slew of alleged matrimonial misdemeanours over the years and it appears as though an affair with a young, blonde, ex-public-school PR spin doctor has become the straw that broke the camel’s back (and honestly, who can say that they haven’t been there?). I feel like this is something of a defining moment for Boris – he will either come bounding out from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix (if it was crossed with a mal-coordinated St Bernard) or he will finally tumble into the shadows, succumbing to the murky depths of political apathy until even his hair cannot be seen through the unremitting darkness.
“Drained of all ego, Mr Johnson deflated to such an extent he fell through the gap in a manhole.”
I would argue that the latter would be the most beneficial for the country. Let’s go through what I like to call the B.O.R.I.S. analysis and see what’s happening with old Bojo.
Boris’ unabashed support for Brexit has driven a chasm between him and some of his supporters, many of whom, like my parents (and, for a long time, me), enjoyed Boris being the approachable face of conservatism within the country. He was a close ally of David Cameron’s supposedly liberal form of conservatism and, as such a recognisable character from his appearances on Have I Got News For You and other entertainment programmes, was largely popular with the British people.
Especially as he was apparently a very generous scorer.
However, his outgoing persona is somewhat at odds with his actual political beliefs. We’ll look at his voting record in general later, but solely with regards to the EU he has been one of the Conservative Party’s leading Eurosceptics:
- He has voted against more EU integration;
- Voted against a right to remain policy for EU nationals already living in the UK;
- Was in favour of the referendum;
- And he voted for stronger enforcement of immigration rules.
His stance was brought to the light by Brexit and he is now leading the charge against Theresa May’s softer-Brexit approach that was agreed at Chequers (or at least he was until his extramarital misdemeanours took the limelight somewhat). Given the divide across all corners of the political spectrum about Brexit, many of those who saw Boris as speaking for them feel massively let down by him.
Boris has always had a special way with words. Speaking about his own style, he came up with one of his choice quotes:
“My speaking style was criticised by no less an authority than Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was a low moment, my friends, to have my rhetorical skills denounced by a monosyllabic Austrian cyborg.”
He’d probably still do a better job as Foreign Secretary.
I have even experienced it first-hand – I attended a debate that he was in back in 2006 and when questions were opened to the floor, I asked him, “Do you think that your political success is because of your appearances on Have I Got News For You?” This was in front of around 600 people, many of them also prominent politicians, and the question sparked a murmur in the room (and suddenly made me very conscious that I needed to pee). However, he simply chuckled and then gave his answer, all the while making welcoming, non-threatening eye-contact with me and cracking jokes which were warmly received by the room before him. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t listen a word he said – it was like being under a spell of joviality and warmth and I just found myself smiling and nodding. His ability to make people feel at ease is not to be underestimated and his sense of humour and heavily-cultivated messy style endeared him to the nation for many years.
However, a number of blunders in recent times have meant that his style actually grates far more than it entertains. Aside from the aforementioned catastrophe with the Iranian government, (where, if you weren’t aware, he absent-mindedly said that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalism, which is a crime in Iran), he has come under heavy fire recently for describing May’s Chequers plan as a “suicide vest,” which is about as appropriate as walking into a Centrepoint shelter and asking peoples’ opinions on where to buy a holiday home. He seems to be relying on his former largesse to carry him through these blunders, though it seems as though he has failed to realise that he is no longer bullet-proof.
When he was a front-bencher for Cameron’s government, Boris held a considerable amount of political clout. Over the years, the general consensus from within Parliament seemed to be that he was a man with an enormous number of allies, constantly winning over votes and support with various members of the party. Through this strength he has been able to be a highly disruptive voice in Government, being outspoken about things he disagrees with and, until Gove’s Great Deception (it’s still funny), he had a very good chance of being elected Party Leader.
However, Gove’s et-tu-Brute moment eroded much of his clout and it appeared as though he was appointed to the Cabinet by May as something of a “friends close, enemies closer” move. While he is still extremely vocal about Brexit and other matters, his words seem to be ringing slightly hollower, despite support from the tweed-wearing, bible-bashing, still-thinks-immigrants-should-be-fetching-his-tea, Conservative twatrastrophe Jacob Rees-Mogg. He still has his allies, but the reveal of his true political inclinations has not helped him to garner support within the ranks as his popularity with the electorate decreases.
I: (Political) Inclinations
Despite being a prominent Conservative MP and Cabinet minister, Johnson managed to swerve the ire of many of the more libertarian and socialist corners of British society through his affability. However, with the swing to the right that the Conservatives have seen under May’s government, a greater spotlight has been put on those prominent Conservatives within it – Boris included.
Despite being a seemingly “friendly-face,” his wider voting record suggests that he is far from a social libertarian. Over his years in Parliament:
- He abstained from voting on gay marriage;
- Voted against laws to promote equality and human rights;
- Voted against higher benefits for those unable to work and voted in favour of reducing spending on welfare in general;
- Voted against higher taxes on banks;
- Voted for reducing rate of corporation tax;
- Voted against a wholly elected House of Lords and against removing hereditary peers from it;
- Voted for a stricter asylum system and stronger enforcement of immigration rules;
- Voted for mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities;
- And he voted against measures to prevent climate change.
In other words, while he is consistently in favour of a strong, centralised government (which is not necessarily a bad thing), it is clear that his social views are also very right-wing, which does not sit well with swathes of the electorate. Amongst the young, in particular, the political tide seems to be largely turning towards libertarianism or socialism, demonstrated by the large gains the Labour Party made in the last general election.
Look, let’s face it – Boris is a moron. Or at least, that’s what his shambolic style would have us all believe. Part of why he was so liked by the public is that he seemed to be somewhat harmless, a friendly albino chinchilla that flitted around the edges of politics and the media but would ultimately only be a sideshow. His recent ambitions have been made very clear with his unashamed leadership challenges and it is obvious that he has aspirations to be the Prime Minister, despite once saying,
“My chances of PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.”
I found an image to represent this sentiment but I wish I hadn’t.
His bumbling style is now at odds with his ambition and Joe Public is starting to realise this. While he appeared to be a breath of fresh air, deep down he is starting to seem more and more like the same kind of politician as the others, ambitious and ruthless, just with sillier hair. This, above all else, is where the difference lies between Boris now and Boris a few years ago – he maintains the charade, yet more and more people are seeing through it.
Boris will always do his best to be in the headlines. His bombastic nature is simply too alluring to resist for editors and journalists trying to find stories around prominent celebrities and politicians. However, we would do well to remember that underneath his affable style lies an exceptionally driven right-wing politician – I’m not sure that he is what this country wants or needs right now.
On the other hand, he’s still better than Rees-Fucking-Mogg.
What ho, plebs.