Sunday 21 February 2016

Boris Johnson: Vanity and Opportunism

The part-time Mayor of London, part-time MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and full-time self-promoter Boris Johnson shocked nobody earlier today when he came out for Vote Leave. It was said he'd been wrestling with the decision for some time. Yes, it's tough when a berth in Number 10 could be the prize for going against long-established and well known views. Indeed, as recently as two weeks ago today, Johnson was writing "the single market is of considerable value to many UK companies and consumers, and that leaving would cause at least some business uncertainty, while embroiling the Government for several years in a fiddly process of negotiating new arrangements, so diverting energy from the real problems of this country – low skills, low social mobility, low investment etc – that have nothing to do with Europe." As a slippery customer, Johnson goes on to list the bad things about the EU, which are virtually the same as Michael Gove's complaints.

While the left typically agonise over ideas and values, the Tories never place principle before power, and so Johnson has proven no different. But there are a number of troubling qualities fans of his ever-so-funny routine have to watch out for.

In the first place, as anyone who's had contact with Johnson knows, it's all about him. It's his show. And in the 57 varieties of Leave, well, there are some pretty gargantuan egos that are not going to lean back and keep the limelight to himself. Whatever one thinks of George Galloway, for instance, he is a man not noted for his retiring modesty. Ditto with UKIP. Nigel Farage has established himself as the preeminent motormouth on all things EU-related, and has helped take his party from nowhere to third place in last year's general election - no mean feat. As such he probably, and not unjustifiably, might bristle at the circus now surrounding and amplifying Johnson, especially as it's pretty likely he'll do no campaigning work beyond the odd media appearance and set piece.

And that comes to the second point: his laziness. Anyone possessing a passing acquaintance with Johnson's biography knows him to be an idler. Everything he has achieved has been through leaning on people, having doors opened and ladders dropped for him - be it as Telegraph hack, Spectator editor, or during stints as an MP and mayor. Like a layer of politicians who've entered the Commons in the 21st century, struggle is something other people have to do, and upto and including on their behalves. If it's too much work and doesn't interest him, he's not arsed. In that case, Leave are welcome to his unique gifts of hot air and baseless hype.

There is then his self-obsession. Some in the Leave campaigns might look at it philosophically and think why he's decided to throw his lot in with them doesn't matter: the fact established is one of the best known and most-liked politicians in the land is backing an exit. Firstly, they're overestimating his pulling power. As incredible as it may seem, the only figure whose position mattered as far as a significant chunk of the voting public were concerned was the Prime Minister's. A snake oil salesman he may be, nevertheless Dave is seen as someone who is polished, competent, and fair-minded. Few are going to trouble themselves over his theatrical wheeling and dealing this last week. If staying is good enough for him it's good enough for others. Never underestimate the legitimacy of his office. Second, everyone knows this is Johnson's pitch for the Tory leadership. His pro-EU comments are the stuff from which a thousand Remain leaflets can be made. Everywhere he goes between now and June, he will be asked, nay plagued with questions about his ambitions - so don't expect him to take on any debates or tough tete a tetes with Andrew Neil and co.

Lastly, it's self-evident from the standpoint of the short, medium, and long-term interests of British capitalism that it retains free, unfettered, and stable access to European markets both for the continued health of the country's home grown businesses and as the key destination for foreign direct investment from outside of the EU. In the classical understanding of sectarianism as outlined by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto, Johnson has put his petty ambitions before the interests of his class. And in so doing has shown himself ill-suited to lead a Conga line, let alone a government.


Robert said...

If we Brexit Bo Jo has a very good chance of becoming PM. If we don't Bo Jo will have endeared himself to the Tory masses and Eurosceptic MPs and will have enhanced his chances of becoming PM.

Speedy said...

Give him enough rope....

Gary Elsby said...

I can't disagree with anything here Phil I just hope the out campaigners tell me how much it will cost me to leave.

On the subject of Boris having doors opened and ladders dropped by friends to gain a shoo-in, I think that Stoke-on-Trent should not raise this subject.

BCFG said...

It has to be false consciousness that a privileged buffoonish toff's words should carry such weight.

In a Sky poll a third said they were more likely to vote to leave the EU now Boris had confirmed his position, the pollsters may well have just asked, "Are you a moron".

The value of the pound dropped after this bumbling eccentric stated his position. We see starkly the idiocy of Mayoral politics!

The right wing never state their real reasons for leaving the EU, i.e. so called red tape on business.

Nigel Farage thinks we should leave the EU because Nigel doesn't believe in global warming and ergo all those environmental protection laws are a waste of space. Forget the mountain of scientific evidence to support the theory of global warming, Nigel said it doesn't exist so there.

The anti EU campaigners are a bunch of nutters, reprobates and scoundrels but their toxic mix of narrow mindedness, bigotry, ignorance and reaction may trigger the biggest constitutional crisis in history as Scotland and Wales and possibly Northern Ireland say bugger to all that if people vote to leave the EU. Then we really would have Little England in all its glory.

A little part of everyone would surely like to see that happen!