Richard North, 13/06/2019  

Three weeks is a long time in politics but it's even longer when one is having to deal with a real life "Boris" on one's own territory.

But, where ultrasonic deterrents and other measures have failed, it's come down to brute force. Forget Mexico, the great fence of Bradford is now in place and, with luck, Boris is history. Would that the other one was so easy – I'll keep you posted.

As for the other one, he's been doing its stuff in London with the formal launch of his leadership campaign, where there's been no fence to keep him out. I'd volunteer, except that I'm too busy with my own version of Boris.

At such times though, it is hard to find solace from what is an emerging crisis – even if it isn't being treated universally as such. Bluntly, though, the prospect of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson becoming prime minister of this nation is a crisis in anyone's language.

Taking what entertainment there is to be had from the situation, one thing of note to emerge is the predictable but nonetheless extreme divergence in the media coverage. Two glorious examples serve this cause, one from the Telegraph and the other from the Guardian.

In the blue corner is Allison Pearson, under the headline, "Tories would be mad not to choose Boris for leader – no one else comes close". And, in the red, is John Crace with, "Boris Johnson is every bit as dull and evasive as his minders hoped".

In reading Allison Pearson one must take a certain amount of care. This is a woman in love. She doesn't write – she gushes, right down to her dismissal of the "multiple charges against Boris - dreadful reputation, cavalier with detail".

That was all we got from BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg during the questions at the end. Kuenssberg was, apparently "speaking with clear distaste on behalf of the Chattering Classes", but not all was lost, by any means.

"Just in time, the playful Boris millions know and love emerged from solemn statesmen mode to gently rib the sanctimonious Ms Kuenssberg. Out of 'that great minestrone of observations', he told her encouragingly, he had picked up 'one crouton, that I have been inconsistent'". And according to Pearson:
It was funny, yet, at the same time, it could not have been more serious. Boris was signalling that he won't modify either his language, or his behaviour, to please a politically correct, censorious liberal minority. He will express, in language most people understand, the ideas they hold dear. The metropolitan elite will damn him as a "populist", which is another word for a persuader and a winner. We like winners.
You could actually wonder, though, whether John Crace was in the same room, commenting about the same person, as his version of events is so different. He writes of a "crumpled, ashen Johnson" speaking in what "wasn't so much a leadership launch as a jobs fair for the not very talented". Far from being the "persuader" and the "winner", we got a completely different picture.

Crace has it that Johnson was acting on clear instructions from his minders: "Keep it dull, keep it vague and get the hell out of the room as fast as possible". They hadn't, he wrote, gone to the trouble of keeping their man away from the media for weeks on end, only for him to blow it on his first outing.

The last thing they wanted, says Crace, was for Boris Johnson to be the real Boris Johnson. "His serial dishonesty, his total untrustworthiness and sheer incompetence were best kept under wraps, at least until after he became the prime minister. What was required for his campaign launch was a hollowed-out Boris. Someone who could near enough pass himself off as credible". And thus did the "jobs fair" proceed:
"Piffle, poffle, wiffle, waffle", Johnson mumbled, tugging on a sweaty strand of hair. His minders purred. This was every bit as boring and low key as they had hoped. Most of the audience were dozing off long before their man had finished his first sentence, and even Boris was having trouble keeping his eyes open. Backstage, someone turned the heating up another couple of notches. Just to maintain the torpor.
Yet this, according to the besotted Pearson was Johnson "evoking a powerful yet simple idea of one nation where a thriving free market enables 'superb public services', where bankers support nurses and the South links hands with its friends in the North".

Through her rose-tinted filter, "his words took flight". Hope. Conservatives haven't had hope for a very long time. Honestly, they would be mad not to choose Boris. No one else comes close, she gushed: "Can he start tomorrow, please?"

And, with the Telegraph pulling out all the stops to support its man, it even ropes in serial failure Nick Timothy to excuse his "serial dishonesty, his total untrustworthiness and sheer incompetence".

"Imperfect he may be", writes Timothy, "but he has a record as a winning campaigner, twice in London and once, against all the odds, in the Brexit referendum". And while his enemies might hate him for it, "Boris knows how to play the game and win. And that is why he must be the Tories' man".

So, in Timothy's book, it is perfectly alright for this man to be accused of "serial dishonesty, total untrustworthiness and sheer incompetence" – these charges are not denied. Johnson, however, "knows how to play the game and win". And, for that, all is forgiven.

Interestingly, that actually says it all. Our political classes have so lost touch with their moral base that even a degenerate such as Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson can qualify for the highest political office in the land as long as he is a winner. Such is the utter decadence of the Westminster bubble.

But from these widely differing views, all we are getting is media-speak, reflecting its obsession with personality politics. It is hard to glean from the coverage that Johnson is already backtracking from his commitment to leave the EU on 31 October without a deal.

Instead, he now seems to be waffling, speaking in terms of keeping a no-deal scenario "on the table" so that he can go back to Brussels and renegotiate the withdrawal agreement. He doesn't want a no-deal Brexit but, by preparing for one, he can tell Brussels he's serious.

At the same time, he has privately assured "senior Brexiteers" that he will leave open the option of suspending parliament to force through a no-deal exit, should it come to that – thereby demonstrating a determination to be all things to all men (and women).

Recalling that this is a man who is also saying that he will withhold the £39 billion Brexit "divorce bill", there is not a shred of coherence in anything he has to offer – which is why he is promising to provide the clarity of vision needed to deliver the result of the EU referendum. This is just another lie to add to the rest of them.

It seems now another age when Mrs May gained the extension to 31 October and Donald Tusk urged us not to waste the time we had been given. The parliamentary Conservative Party responded by engineering Mrs May's resignation and piling into a leadership contest where, if possible, the Brexit issues have become even more obscured.

As Pete remarks, this makes further Brexit debate largely futile. The bubble is not in the business of resolving this issue and is largely incapable even of addressing it. All we can really do is build a fence round it and try to keep Boris doing his business on it.

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