I do not oppose Boris Johnson because he is a Conservative – liberals have survived Tory Prime Ministers before, even worked with them. I oppose Johnson for the reasons that many One Nation Conservatives also oppose him. Because of what he is, because of those pulling his strings and because of what he may do.

Summarise Boris Johnson in one word and Denis Healey’s description of David Owen will do – he’s a Shit. Like Owen he was blessed with many advantages, and like Owen his arrogance, his disloyalty (private and public) and his naked ambition makes him an unreliable friend, husband or colleague. Nobody has ever been able to trust Boris.

Johnson the marionette may seem a curious idea but be under no illusion the political Right have put him where he is and even as Prime Minister they will be pulling his strings. Years ago I was told by those on the Tory Right that Johnson was their preferred leader. This was nothing to do with his beliefs, these were unimportant and opaque anyway. No, Johnson was seen as a vote winner and pliable. He had beaten the popular Ken Livingstone twice in the London Mayoral Election. This without having had any coherent ideology or policies to speak of – just bluff and bluster. The Australian electoral guru Lynton Crosby had helped, he made Johnson electable – even in London, not a natural home for conservatives.

Initially the Tory Right in the Cameron years was in retreat, but this soon changed. David Cameron was seen as a “Wet” – and the coalition with the LibDems was the final straw for many of them. A few made common cause with Nigel Farage and it became clear to many that the UKIP populist positioning, rabidly anti-Europe, nationalist and libertarian had strong appeal. Membership of the European Union, Farage’s obsession, was actually not universally seen as the main target by the Right although for some of them leaving the Union had been a lifelong personal goal. John Redwood, Daniel Hannan and (somewhat more quietly) Michael Gove were “Leavers” most of their political lives and long before the term gained its current meaning. But low taxes and reducing the power of the State were more conventional Conservative Right ambitions for many and the EU wasn’t strongly in their sights. Then UKIP won the 2014 European elections which not only scared Cameron but suggested a route to power for the Right. An In/Out Referendum commitment was given by Cameron in the 2015 General Election manifesto and the route became clear. Win the referendum, dump Cameron, install Boris Johnson in Number 10.

As stated Johnson was not favoured by the Right because he was “one of us”. His politics were as confused as his personal life and his loyalties equally unpredictable. As an ex Journalist (and still a well paid columnist) he wrote gracefully but not consistently. He preferred the elegance of the rhetoric to its power to persuade. He was not a standard bearer of the Right or of any other political position. But he became increasingly famous for being famous. Brand recognition is the essential prerequisite and if that can be turned into brand preference well you’re home and dry. When Cameron lost the Referendum and resigned the Right were, of course, cockahoop. The final step in their ambition was to get Johnson in Number 10 in 2016 after the “Leave” campaign won the referendum. But Boris blew it and the Right had to suffer three years of Theresa May. During the Referendum campaign Johnson had reinvented himself as a flag-waving Brexiteer – much to the distress of his own family – father, brother and sister no doubt. Was his anti EU position sincere? Of course not. It was a means to an end.

So Boris Johnson as Prime Minister gives the Right, the Neocons, the Eurosceptics, the Tax Payers Alliance, MigrationWatch and the rest their first real chance since the fall of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 to legislate to shift the UK’s political balance firmly to the Right. Leaving the EU is a necessary condition for much of this. European institutions provide checks and balances on extremism. Which is why the extreme economic liberals, the passionate supporters of privatisation and opponents of state “interference” and the anti-immigration brigade who would restrict Cross-Border freedom of Movement are celebrating. Johnson commits unequivocally to leaving the EU on October 31st – something almost certainly only possible with a so-called “No Deal” Brexit. The idea that a sane nation would leave an institution of which it was been a member for  50 years with no negotiated settlement as to what would replace membership is unprecedented and was never intended – but it is to this, is seems, that Johnson is leading us.

The fallout form the 2016 Referendum has been utterly toxic. Britain is divided as never before. Both main political parties have senior politicians at one another’s throats. Senior politicians have left both main parties and more may follow – the resurgent anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats will give them a warm welcome. The irony of all this is that if you ask a prominent Brexiteer what the real advantages of Brexit are they can never give you any practical examples. They talk about “Sovereignty” and “Taking back control” but these are intangible and largely nonsensical concepts or ideas. It’s all a flag-waving faux-patriotism taking place on a high wire. Rather like our new Prime Minister a few years ago !

 

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