Saturday 22 June 2019

Letting Johnson Be Johnson

Mark Field must think he's the luckiest man in British politics at the moment. His forcible ejection of/assault on Greenpeace activist Janet Baker made it look like it was curtains for his ministerial career and, by association, embarrass the Jeremy Hunt campaign with which he's closely involved. Then the fates threw a 500-pound dead lion onto the table. The press are wall-to-wall with the news that police were called to Boris Johnson's residence in the early hours of Friday morning following a row, of which the Graun claims to have a recording. Ouch. This will no doubt work its way into the public domain in due course, but we don't really need to hear it. The commentary provided by a concerned neighbour reinforces the impression of Johnson as pampered, thoughtless, and selfish. Exactly the kind of qualities one should avoid in a Prime Minister, and a headache Johnson could have done without as he faces his first hustings in front of the Tory party membership. Which is why he avoided answering questions on this completely.

While this also keeps the unfortunate news that the Tories are facing a by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire following the unseating of Chris Davies for a false expenses claim from troubling the popular consciousness, it hasn't been a kind 24 hours for the Conservative Party. The key question though is does any of it matter? Well, yes, of course it does. If you are a domestic abuse survivor, if the coarsening of public life appalls you, if you are sickened by how our so-called betters get away with awful behaviour while the rest of us are held to much higher standards, if you are angry about how this shit is normalised and trivialised, it matters a damn deal. But is any of it going to change minds about the party and, crucially, shift members' votes away from Johnson?

I very much doubt it.

There are a few of his supporters who look fondly back at how Have I Got News For You launched his career as a post-irony banter politician, but that was 15 years ago. Still, we shouldn't be surprised many Conservatives prefer to dwell in the past. Nevertheless, some find his trying act entertaining and genuinely thinks it connects with people. Their problem is that thanks to his antics in more recent years, you're just as likely to find as many abhor him as adore him. However, Johnson's getting away with it is more than just media coverage being favourable (seriously, would you call this morning's reporting positive for his campaign?). As we've recently noted the relationship a large chunk of members have with the Tory party is entirely instrumental. You see something similar with Trump in the US. Despite behaviour that should have America's waning fundamentalist Christianity community clutching their pearls in horror, they duly trooped to the polling stations and back for him in the belief he'll hasten the coming of the lord or some such quasi-theological nonsense. The same is true of a Johnson-led Tory party and Brexit. Indeed, a chunk of those backers are resigned to the view his no deal rhetoric is just that and a betrayal is coming, but at present he's their best bet.

As such, whatever character defects Johnson has is irrelevant. And for the same reason, revelations about Nigel Farage's commercial activities, dealings with Russians or whatever, and everything else thrown at him bounces off because, in a political sense, both are tools. They are means to particular ends. Johnson's many faults are priced in to the Tory imaginary. The yellowing grassroots think they're getting a step closer to their Brexit fantasy, and those around him get the positions they desire while Johnson indulges the thing that matters the most: himself. As such it's very difficult to see what could possibly stop Johnson from getting in to Number 10, short of him withdrawing from the contest.


Dipper said...

lots of people getting this wrong. Boris Johnson is not the problem, and getting rid of Johnson is not the answer.

The problem is that three years after voting to leave the EU in a referendum, Parliament has put us in a permanent holding position of not being able to Leave. The much sought after answer is not a second referendum, but to get Johnson in and let him take us out. Take Johnson out, get some nice guy like hunt in, and you maintain this position until complete political collapse. Not a good move.

And this Mark Field stuff. Seriously, if you think protestors should be allowed to march into private meetings and go up to whomever they please, then you need your heads examining. If ever I'm in a place where there are hostile people intent on coming in, I'd like Mark Field by my side.

This is what happens when you decide that public votes can be overthrown, that children going on strike and walk outs, that disruption to civil life is justified if you believe in the cause enough. Laws are there to protect you, as in all you folks who read this blog. Whatever behaviour you think is reasonable for Climate protestors to use you are implicitly allowing the EDL to use too.

Dipper said...

"think they're getting a step closer to their Brexit fantasy"

on a technical point, this 'fantasy' was offered as an option to the country by Parliament in a referendum they promised they would implement. So I'm just keen for them to do the thing they promised, that's all.

In all the things that get said about it being a mistake, people not knowing what they voted for, now we know, and all that bollocks, lets not forget Parliament chose to ask us.

BiggerDave said...

Dipper, Everyone at that dinner was aware that the protesters were there and who they were, this was not a lone woman who looked like she might gun everyone down.

I can guarantee you that if the person was any real threat that Mark Field would have been the last to go near her, if she had been a man then he wouldn't have either (aside from the fact that there are trained security people who would have stepped in if there was any actual threat)

The only time I would like Mark Field by my side is down some dark alley, so I could give him the pasting he richly deserves.

As for Johnson and Brexit, you're deluded. Johnson is so unreliable that anything could happen with him in charge, including us becoming the 51st state (he is an American, after all!)

The reason we haven't left the EU isn't because we're in a holding position, it's because nobody, anywhere, can agree on which way we should leave. Just because you're getting your jollies by thinking we'll get a no deal, doesn't mean the majority are with you.

Dipper said...

@ BiggerDave

because no group ever gets infiltrated, and no-one decides if they get close to someone ... oh hang on you just said yourself about having violent intent towards someone. And where were those 'trained security people'? I think whoever provided security for that evening should be looking for another career. I'm not sure 'as part of our service, we will let protestors invade your private party and accost your invited speaker' is a compelling sales pitch.

There are a few people who think no deal is the best outcome, but the majority of 'no dealers' think that, to use a phrase, no deal is better than a bad deal, and that without a realistic threat of no deal we will get a bad deal.

I'm pretty sure that at the time of the referendum no-one said that if we vote to Leave the EU we will ask them for good terms to go and if they don't give us terms we like we will stay. I haven't got a full compendium of things people said and write, but I'm quite sure the number of people who said that is zero.

just your weekly reminder, that no matter how bad things look now, they can get a lot worse.

Anonymous said...

I think it’s an open question as to whether the Mansion House is a “private party” or not. Yes, guests are sent invitations. On the other hand, by convention the Chancellor of the Exchequer (invited by virute of their position and not as an individual) and the Governor of the Bank of England (ditto) give their professional assessments of the state of the UK economy in speeches that are widely covered by news outlets. This is a public event that is designed to shape public discourse.

@Dipper. I know your main role in the Comments section is to troll the rest of us: but in politics you need to will the means and not the ends. One of the reasons that many Remainers see the Leave vote as an illegitimate vote, apart from the criminality, the undisclosed funds, the connections with Putin, and the manipulation of the electorate to exclude millions of people who had a legitimate and democratic interest in thee outcome, is because the Leave campaign at no point said what they meant by “Leave” (other than some vague assurances that have since been backtracked from) or therefore how they would achieve their goal.

Dipper said...

@ Anonymous "@Dipper. I know your main role in the Comments section is to troll the rest of us" I like to think of it as a free Educational service ": but in politics you need to will the means and not the ends ... the Leave campaign at no point said what they meant by “Leave”"

well, yes and no. Yes, but I would argue that many Leavers were of the view we should prepare for No Deal from day 1 as a prudent measure, and look for a trade deal of the Canada ++ variety. The key 'what on earth!!' moment came with Chequers when it became clear that despite that trade deal having been offered by the EU, May and robbins had gone behind Davis's back and negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement which was a long way short of what many leavers regarded as an acceptable version of Leave. Nevertheless, I would have voted for that just to get us out.

No, because Parliament asked us punters a yes/no question. I did not vote for a version of Leave, or to make Nigel Farage PM, I answered the question that Parliament asked us - what more were we meant to do? IMHO every MP who voted for the referendum is duty bound to deliver that outcome. To say that they cannot because when we answered that Yes/No question they don't know what that answer meant, well, they asked the question ...