Richard North, 08/07/2019  

"Boris Johnson generates enthusiasm of a kind I don't recall seeing for any other Conservative politician", writes Lord Ashcroft, adding: "On the other hand, he drives his many opponents nuts".

But, whether he understands it or not – or even cares – what really drives some of us "nuts" is the use of fundamentally unserious language for what are serious and sincerely-held views. There are many of us who regard Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as a disgusting, degenerate man, totally devoid of the skills or a moral base which would make him suitable for high political (or any) office.

You can agree or not – that is your privilege – but no one, not even Lord Ashcroft, is entitled to debase and trivialise people's genuine concerns. Johnson does not drive me "nuts". That is the sort of description you would apply to an errant child (which, in some respects Johnson is).

In equal measure, he disgusts me, infuriates me and fills me with acute concern for our future as a nation. To thus aver that he drives me "nuts" is wholly to misrepresent the strength and gravity of my feelings for the loathsome man.

And while on the subject of debasing the political vocabulary, one is fully aware of the adoption of "bollocks to Brexit" by the Lib-Dems as one of their official slogans. This marked a further deterioration in the standard of political discourse, as its users embraced the juvenile, for want of grown-up dialogue.

Nevertheless, a special hate of mine is the use of the word "bonkers" – never far away when Johnson comes to be discussed. This is a fundamentally unserious word, demonstrating the extent to which the metropolitan élites have captured the political vocabulary and trivialised it, emptying it of the gravitas that should attend the affairs of state. With its use, politics becomes just another reality show - part of the entertainment industry.

Another absurdly trivialising use of the language is the oft-used assertion that Johnson or his team, in causing still more offence with their crass, ill-considered behaviour, have simply "ruffled feathers", as if well-founded criticism has no more substance than the transient disturbance of birds in a roost.

Put this all together, with the carefully cultured image of disarray and we have the jovial, friendly "man of the people", loved by all except for those unfortunates who are immune to his charms, whom he drives "nuts", with his "bonkers" interventions, as he so winsomely "ruffles their feathers". All of a sudden, politics takes on a wholly different tone.

Nothing, however, can compare in levels of unacceptability than Johnson's resort to pure, unadulterated hypocrisy, a trait which has had him recently assert:
I think the Conservative Party needs to understand the moral case for conservatism again, and to speak powerfully about why we think that supporting business and supporting wealth creation and supporting home ownership is actually a morally good thing, because actually, what you'll produce is a society where people have a stake in it and where people are engaged in wealth creation [which is] vital for everybody
This is a man to whom the terms "dishonest" and "liar" are frequently applied, without the slightest hint of a libel suit, and one whose many less than desirable characteristics lay witness to the fact that, if morality was oxygen, Johnson would long ago have become an etiolated husk, his dusty remains blown away to the oblivion that he so justly deserves.

Here is a man who would lay claim to speak for the morality of conservatism, when a woman who knew him from his Bullingdon Club days says of his intimate association with the club:
The whole culture was to get extremely drunk and exert vandalism. Every time someone was elected, they had to have their room smashed to pieces. People talk about the Bullingdon Club "trashing’ places", but it was serious criminal damage.
"Boris", she says, "was one of the big beasts of the club". He was up for anything. They treated certain types of people with absolute disdain, and referred to them as "plebs" or "grockles", and the police were always called "plod". Their attitude was that women were there for their entertainment.

She said there was a "culture of excess" in the 1980s in which the activities of the Bullingdon Club felt "normalised". They had an air of "entitlement and superiority".

One incident she recalled at Magdalen College involved "a large galleried room that had just been refurbished with expensive wood panelling". Every piece of furniture that could have been broken was broken, she recalled. Every liquid sprayed around the room, the panelling was cracked, and everything was piled in a heap in the middle of the room. The college door to Magdalen was smashed to pieces.

"I remember the clerk of works looking at the mess in complete dismay. The college had spent a great deal on the refurbishment", she said.

This is about as closely acquainted with the morality of conservativism that Johnson might get. After all, the work at Magdalen having to be repeated must have doubled its notional contribution to the GDP, "a morally good thing" because people were "engaged in wealth creation".

The odd thing about Johnson, though, is as much the way people respond to this bumbling and rather ugly man. According to the egregious Lord Ashcroft, people tend to think that he is more likely to be a strong leader, take Britain out of the EU with no deal, win a general election for the Conservatives – and to make promises he knows he can't or won't deliver.

Unsurprisingly, when people are asked to pick words and phrases to describe Johnson, the top five were: "arrogant", "dishonest", "dangerous", "unreliable" and "amusing". This is the man who tells them he will take us out of the EU with no deal and, despite their actively branding him as "dishonest" and "unreliable", with a penchant for making promises he knows he can't or won't deliver. And yet they still believe him?

What probably keeps the Johnson show on the road more than anything is the weakness of Jeremy Hunt, but it has to say a great deal of the modern Conservative Parliamentary Party that this is the best it can offer its members as a choice for party leader and prime minister.

When it comes to his politics though, this is where Johnson's lack of touch with reality really shows. In a patsy interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he insists that he is "not bluffing" about delivering a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

This is part of his increasingly inane public pitch where he seeks to convince us that he is diligently striving for a renegotiation, using the no-deal threat as leverage in the event that Brussels refuses to respond, as it undoubtedly will.

Despite this, he has urged European leaders to "look deep into our eyes" and understand that the UK will leave the EU with or without an agreement on Halloween, if he becomes prime minister, thereby pretending to signal that he is in the business of looking for a genuine solution to the Brexit impasse.

Yet his reliance on Shanker Singham's implausible AAC plan shows that he doesn't have the first understanding of the dynamics of modern border management, or the politics of the subject. He is therefore, merely establishing in advance an alibi for his failure to reach a solution, intent on pinning the blame on Brussels for his inevitable failure.

This, in many respects, underlines the ultimate degeneration of our politics into a child-like pursuit of fantasy solutions to serious problems. Where we no longer have serious politicians who can address issues in an adult fashion, it is no wonder that the vocabulary of politics has descended into the nursery.

With a puer aeternus for a prime minister, the nation (and its media) certainly needs a vocabulary to match, as the child-man takes up residence and leads the government into a state of perpetual childhood.

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