You probably remember that famous Enoch Powell quote. No, not that one – I am referring to his observation that all political careers end in failure. He was right, of course (as he was on most issues), as Boris Johnson’s dramatic defenestration has shown. But how and why did Johnson go from general election glory in 2019 to Downing Street Götterdämmerung just 2½ years later? Boris himself clearly doesn’t get it, but he couldn’t be expected to. No doubt a believer in 19th century historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle’s ‘Great Man’ theory of history, Boris’s overweening sense of self-importance does not permit self-scrutiny. His resignation speech therefore placed the blame entirely on those “eccentric” Conservative MPs who had acted as a panicking “herd” and had stabbed him, Julius Caesar-like, in the back.
This interpretation of events airily dismisses the fact that Johnson has become a populist who is no longer popular. Where previously he was mobbed by crowds who wanted selfies with him, he is now booed in the streets. He has gone from electoral asset to liability, and ditching him was the logical thing for the party to do. But why have the voters turned against him? Priggish and sanctimonious left-wing commentators are equally wide of the mark when they claim that the public were repulsed by Boris’s dishonesty and disregard for the rules. But hang on – in 2018 a survey found that 54% of those polled wanted “a strong, rule-breaking leader”. Boris’s disdain for conventional norms and his perception as an ‘anti-politics politician’ is precisely why he was able to build a cross-class, cross-party coalition of voters in the first place – the ignored mass of ordinary, common sense patriots who believed they had finally found a politician who was ‘on their side’.
No wonder they were so angry when they found out they had been deceived and that he is not ‘one of us’, but just another ‘one of them’. The public are happy for a prime minister to break the rules if these get in the way of doing what’s needed and breaking them will benefit us, the British people, but Boris’s Downing Street rule-breaking parties exposed the fact that far from being the radical disrupter they yearned for, he was a vacillating voluptuary, instead of being the champion of the common man, Boris was merely a carefree carouser, a profligate, party-going pleasure-seeker. The people realised that he did not have their interests at the forefront of his mind, only the interests of one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. He was only ever in it for himself. When he was eight he declared he wanted to be “world king”, and fifty years later he thought that he was, indeed, the master of all he surveyed. I wonder if now, feeling stabbed in the back, he will recall Caesar’s words: “It’s only hubris if I fail.” Well Boris, you have failed.
He failed because despite winning a thumping majority in parliament Boris did nothing to please his followers. That is the reason his support melted away when his spendthrift, sybaritic scandals hit the headlines. As Ronald Reagan, in his folksy way, used to say: “You gotta dance with the one that brung ya”. The voters that put Boris Johnson in Downing Street were the socially-conservative, Brexit supporters. But what has he done for them? Boris won the election with just one promise: to “Get Brexit Done”. But he failed to achieve even this very limited objective, as can be seen with Northern Ireland, fishing and the eye-watering payments we are still making to the EU. His hero is Winston Churchill, but in his shameful appeasement of the EU he was more like Neville Chamberlain. Why should we be surprised? As I have said before, Boris never was a real Brexiteer; before deciding to support the Leave campaign he wrote two articles, one for Leave and the other for Remain, and only decided which way to go at the last minute.
So what has Boris Johnson done? He has increased fuel bills (and hence inflation and the cost of living) with his cretinous green taxes; he has allowed increased, uncontrolled, and unlimited immigration, both across the Channel and for jobs that should be done by British citizens; he has broken manifesto pledges (by increased taxes and cutting pensions); he has unilaterally and unnecessarily brought forward the Net Zero date (creating huge costs for industry and individuals); he has failed to invest in British industry; he has failed to support British farming; and he has failed to ‘level up’ the North (a promise that was so meaningless he didn’t even know what this meant in practice when he said it).
Boris Johnson is good at campaigning but he cannot govern. He has no political ideological lodestar to guide him in a consistent strategy or direction. He would probably respond that ‘consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds’, but the truth is that if you don’t know where you are going you end up being buffeted in all directions and going nowhere – as his plethora of U-turns clearly demonstrate. He once said that he had “absolutely no convictions except one – and that was from a long time ago, for speeding.” Well, as we all know, he now has a second criminal conviction!
The tragedy is that with his large majority in the House of Commons Johnson could have been a great success. But he needed to first destroy the social-marxist establishment ‘Blob’ in the civil service, the judiciary, the quangos and the educational system that is now the true ruler of Britain – regardless of which party is in government. This left-wing cabal despises traditional values and British history, and a serious politician who genuinely wanted to change society would have understood that it needed to be defeated. Boris’s former political adviser, Dominic Cummings, certainly did and had made it clear that tackling the civil service Blob was his next goal, but once he’d gone that plan went with him, as did any chance of Boris achieving anything worthwhile. Lacking any political convictions Boris also lacked the will to fight the Blob and said so explicitly: “I don’t want to engage in a political culture war of any kind”. Boris clearly failed to grasp that the Blob has been waging a culture war for many years and if you don’t fight back then you will lose. And lose, of course, he did. Was this down to stupidity, cowardice, laziness or just a lack of interest? I suspect a combination of all four.
Boris Johnson was never really a politician; he is a clown. He is the Groucho Marx politician: “These are my principles and if you don’t like them, I have others.” For him politics is just a form of entertainment. He is a narcissist fantasist who refuses to knuckle down to the nitty-gritty of governance: he is nonchalant about man-management, can’t be bothered with details, is indifferent about facts, cavalier with the truth and insouciant over performance. Other leaders have a political philosophy named after them – Thatcherism, Reaganism, etc – but there will never be talk of ‘Johnsonism’. Boris once wrote: “The beauty and riddle in studying the motives of any politician is in trying to decide what is idealism and what is self-interest”. I think that in his case there is no riddle: it is solely self-interest!
The British people thought they were electing a libertarian, anti-woke warrior, but instead they got a man who supports every politically-correct shibboleth going. He is, by his own admission, “pro-immigration”. He described Vladimir Putin as “a perfect example of toxic masculinity”; no real conservative (let alone a man) would ever dream of even endorsing the existence of such a Marxist, misandrist concept. He went along with the nonsense of ‘transgender rights’, when any sane man would know that your sex is fixed at birth and cannot be changed: if you have a Y chromosome you are a man, and if you don’t you’re a woman. And that’s it. A man can no more decide to be a woman than he can become a giraffe. He attended a Pride march wearing a pink Stetson and banned ‘gay conversion therapy’. And his obsession with climate change – over which the UK has no control whatsoever – is akin to some bonkers fundamentalist religious fanaticism.
The Covid virus cruelly exposed Boris’s chaotic incompetence for all to see. He was clueless, indecisive and panic-stricken. He blew with the wind and made all the wrong calls. The lockdowns were completely unnecessary (to say nothing of their fundamental breach of our rightful freedoms) and required £70 billion in furlough support. Then there was the ‘Test and Trace’ programme, probably the most pointless, ineffectual and expensive waste of money of all time. Even the Public Accounts Committee concluded that it had failed. And it cost the country £37 billion (yes, billion). That means that over one hundred thousand million pounds was, as Boris himself likes to say, “spaffed up the wall”. And that’s why we are now paying for all this madness with rocketing inflation and tax increases. He will plead that he was only ‘following the science’, but even that is a lie, as there never was just one, settled, scientific opinion on how to deal with the pandemic – just as there isn’t on climate change, for that matter. Boris chose which scientists to listen to and which to ignore, and he must accept the blame for having chosen wrongly.
Boris was only ever successful as a political leader when he surrounded himself with the right people and let them get on with the work. His 2019 election victory was actually down to the Machiavellian nous of Dominic Cummings, and Boris’s downfall can be traced back to his uxorious pandering to his wife, Carrie, and his sacking of Cummings on the unpropitious date of Friday 13th November 2020. Carrie partied the night away to the sound of Abba’s The Winner Takes It All. I wonder if she is now playing their song S.O.S.? As for Boris, he is a classicist and is planning to write a book about Shakespeare (he will now have plenty of spare time to do so). But perhaps he first needs to read Henry IV, part 2 once again; he should have known that the characters of Falstaff – the merrymaking mountebank – and the King do not go together. Not even the king of the world.
But the king is now dead. So let us bury and forget him. I shall write a review of his likely successor when the choice becomes clearer.
The actual quote, for those who appreciate accuracy, is: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”
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