Slightly bonkers toff Boris fits the English electorate’s  bill

Posted By: September 14, 2019

Boris Johnson is pursuing a risky Brexit strategy

Alex Kane. Irish News. Belfast. Friday, September 13, 2019

I wonder if there comes a point at which we run out of uncharted waters and sail into the territory that used to be marked on maps as ‘Here be Dragons’?

So far, even if we haven’t sailed in the waters before, there’s always been a sense that we’d be able to navigate our way through; even if there was no certainty as to where, exactly, we’d find ourselves afterward. But all bets seem to be off. Nobody—and I really do mean nobody—has any idea what’s going on. Every day brings another crisis. Every headline brings more news of plots, counterplots, subplots, and plots within plots within plots. Conventional wisdom has been binned [dumped in trash-can ] and bedlam has become the new norm.

We used to reassure ourselves with the ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ mantra, but even that means diddly squat nowadays. The only man to have come forward is Boris Johnson, an odd mix of Baloo the Bear and Tigger, yet without their affability, understanding of loyalty, or ability to think through a crisis. The man who sold himself to Leavers as Churchill reincarnated has turned out to be nothing more than a bag of wind; a flapping, squawking corncrake who believes that noisy petulance and a spluttering, garbled, arm-waving, make-it-up-as-you-go-along gibberish that sounds like he’s just finished smoking a spliff [ marijuana], is preferable to a reasoned argument. It isn’t. His flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach is complete pants and no flight.

Yet, oddly, he doesn’t seem to care. He simply runs a hand through his hair, makes a “crikey, jeepers” noise, heaves his shoulders and pushes on through the chaos and carnage all around him. While other leaders would probably try and find a way of building bridges and mending fences, he prefers to pick another fight. He likes fights. Indeed, he seems to thrive on them. It’s a tactic he’s employed through most of his career, knocking his opponents down and steamrollering over them; the very thing he’s now trying to do with the House of Commons, the Speaker, various courts, the EU, the wets [not sufficiently right-wing] of his own party and most sections of the media.

He doesn’t care that half the electorate loathes him. All he cares about is that the sort of person most likely to vote for him—and there are clearly millions of them—have plenty of reasons to vote for him. These people want someone who is not afraid of a fight. They want someone who doesn’t give a damn about offending, standing on toes, saying something ‘politically incorrect’ or rolling his eyes and mocking anyone who disagrees with him. These people want someone who prefers clear-cut to compromise. Put bluntly, these people like a slightly bonkers toff; and there are no toff more bonkers than Boris.

They like the noises that Nigel Farage makes but they’ve never really warmed to him. Ukip and the Brexit Party serve a purpose—a way of venting anger—but most of their supporters prefer Boris to Nigel. That’s why Farage has never made it to the Commons—and may never make it there. For all of the working-class anger within English nationalism, they still seem to prefer toffs and intellectuals like Johnson, Enoch Powell, and Oswald Mosley, to people with the same roots and socio/educational limitations. I wonder if that’s why that sort of nationalism has never really gained much electoral traction and why the Conservative Party has always been willing to indulge some mavericks within its parliamentary ranks.

David Cameron tried to squash Ukip’s Euro surge in 2014 by offering a referendum he expected to win. And, insofar as he demolished Ukip at the 2015 general election, the strategy made sense. May did something similar in 2017 with her ‘Brexit Means Brexit’ election. But it’s a different game now. The Brexit Party will not be fooled again. They want their purist Brexit and they sniff blood. So Johnson’s job is to control that nationalism by turning the Conservative Party into a posher form of the Brexit Party.

But it’s a very risky strategy. So risky, in fact, that he is in real danger of destroying the Conservative Party altogether and putting a deeply unpleasant, England-only nationalism at the very heart of UK (or what’s left of it) politics for a generation; or much longer.