Wednesday 6 November 2019

Boris Johnson's Clownish Campaign

The wheels came off the clown car long before it reached the big top. I can only be talking about the Conservative Party campaign so far. As John O'Shea notes, "I've been worried for a while that we were relying on the Tories making the same mistakes they did in 2017. They very clearly aren't making the same mistakes. There's a whole new level of incompetence and deceit being mined this time round." Shall we have a refresher of the previous couple of days' worth of calamities?

Jacob Rees-Mogg strongly implies the victims of the Grenfell fire lacked common sense for abiding by the Fire Brigade's 'stay put' advice. Andrew Bridgen then wades into the ensuing row to say Rees-Mogg's comments were correct because he was clever, and we need clever people running the country. Both men were forced to make grovelling apologies.

Alun Cairns, the Welsh Secretary has resigned his position after it emerged he lied about knowing that his aide had collapsed a rape trial. Ross England, who doubles up as a Tory candidate for the Welsh Assembly at the 2021 elections, forced a mistrial by repeatedly referring to the survivor's sexual history despite being directed not to do so from the judge. England's friend, James Hackett, was later retried and found guilty.

The Tories were called out by the broadcast media (including BBC Breakfast!) for for doctoring footage from Tuesday's Keir Starmer interview on Good Morning Britain. Desperate to frame Labour's Brexit position as a hopeless fudge (it isn't), the Shadow Brexit Secretary was portrayed as hesitant and vague in the Tory ad while the actual segment saw him answer Piers Morgan's question straight away.

Speaking of interviews, Tory chair James Cleverly was empty chaired by Kay Burley. He says he wasn't booked, whereas Burley was adamant that he was. Who to believe?

And lastly, Boris Johnson officially launched his campaign in the Tory house comic, The Telegraph, with a wordy front page splash wittering about profits and Stalin. They talk of nothing else in the key marginals.

In 2017, I wrote about that being the worst Tory campaign ever. We're only a week in and Boris Johnson is determined to take the Tories to new lows. But does it really matter? Strong and stable became weak and wobbly for May, and yet she still polled 13 million votes and put her vote share right up there with Thatcher's best. What May faced which Thatcher didn't was an opposition largely united in a single party. Johnson's strategy is banking on opposition division, while hoping the Brexit Party don't revive to menace his right flank. However, the shambles we see now is characteristic of Johnson's leadership campaign and the early part of his premiership, where Number 10 careened from crisis to excruciating crisis.

What this is is not a manifestation of surreptitious genius, but is really the embarrassing mess it presents itself to be. At times, 'say what you see' does apply to politics. Why? Well, Johnson is a rubbish campaigner who has relied too long on his buffooning to advance his way up the greasy pole. He was carried into office as London Mayor off the back of his celebrity, an anti-Ken weariness and anti-Labour sensibility, and in 2019 the party handed the premiership to him - not because of his talents as an orator or an intellect, but more his Kardashian-esque quality of attracting the public eye. Yet to actually pull a team together around a common programme and take it to the country seems, at this stage, entirely beyond him.

Which is just as well he's not addressing the entire country. Johnson wants to style this the Brexit election, and by going hard on leaving the EU he's virtually given up trying to attract new voters beyond May's 2017 coalition. It was always going to be thus. Therefore the kulak nonsense, just like the other idiocies and allusions to Stalin-era Soviet history are less about persuading people and more about firming up the base. In this election, to try and counter the army Labour has out on the streets the Tories are hoping the relentless barrage of fear will, via the right wing press, mobilise enough quiet Conservatives and get them over the line.

It's a strategy that could work. However, Johnson had better be careful that his complacency doesn't consume his chances. In this election, the sloganeering of getting Brexit done is sure to be burnished with the usual Tory touchstones about competent management of the economy, dealing with crime, defending the realm yadda yadda. Yet if it persists in being this bad, if his ERG comrades keep gaffing and proning, and chaos and confusion reigns the Tory campaign will have consequences alright. Negative consequences. If you want to run the brewery, you've got to at least be seen capable of organising a piss up in it. If Johnson continues to look hopeless and the election is dogged by lying, lack of preparedness and clarity and all the rest, there is a very good chance chunks of his base won't bother turning out.

Surely it will get better than this, and indeed Johnson will have his opportunities. There will be events dear boy, like the resignation of Tom Watson from Labour's Deputy Leadership that can be exploited, and the even more egregious lying of the Liberal Democrats. But only if the campaign act sharpens up. Let us hope it doesn't, and long may the bumbling circus continue.

Image Credit


Tasker Dunham said...

Stalin! What would have been the press reaction if shutting down parliament had been described as "like Hitler"?

Boffy said...

"Johnson's strategy is banking on opposition division, while hoping the Brexit Party don't revive to menace his right flank."

Well, at least part of that strategy is falling apart with the Remain alliance formed by the Liberals, Greens and Plaid, and Remain Alliance formed in Northern Ireland, with Sinn Fein and SDLP doing deals etc.

What a pity, however, that such an alliance is being formed by those parties, rather than Labour itself having united all of those forces of Remain under its own progressive banner, so as not only to stop Brexit by Revoking Article 50, but also thereby to have gained the stonking electoral majority that will be needed if labour is to carry out the rest of its programme.

Blissex said...

«Strong and stable became weak and wobbly for May, and yet she still polled 13 million votes and put her vote share right up there with Thatcher's best.»

Property prices in the Home Counties and London were booming, and for most tory voters that's what matters; they only vote against the government party if they are outraged that they let property prices fall. She also got a million or two of English Nationalist votes.

Property prices are still doing OK in most of the Home Counties, and not so well in London, but not a crash yet, and most southern property owners still have lots of positive equity.

Speedy said...

Tories and Labour are measured differently.

This is why Ian Austin hits home. Ken Livingstone was very badly damaged by (unfounded IMHO) allegations of antisemitism in London in the eyes of non-Jews despite everyone knowing the Tories are full of excrement. Although I many not agree with everything JC says and does the sinister picture painted is absurd.

But because of these different measures, Labour will suffer much greater damage. After all, former Tories have said much the same about Boris but he just bounces back.

BCFG said...

The anti Semitism witch hunt is about nothing other than support for the brutal and continued oppression of the Palestinians.

"Tories and Labour are measured differently."

I suspect speedy thinks he is being clever when he says the Tories are judged differently to labour, the truth his he isn't.

So the Jewish chronicle says vote Tory because these parties are measured differently. For the Jewish chronicle it matters not one jot that the Tories are a cesspit of racism and fascist sentiment. The biggest crime for these people is not being a Palestinian hater.

Different standards indeed! The Jewish chronicle says let please have the racists in power!

Ian Austin would prefer Boris Johnson as leader of Britain and a cesspit if racism setting the moral compass rather than Jeremy Corbyn, I am 100% sure speedy thinks the same and almost certain 99% of Blairites think that too. Maybe I am paranoid but I sometimes feel this general election was called not to sort out Brexit but to rid politics of Jeremy Corbyn! It is telling that in Britain this thoroughly decent human being should be met with such hostility.

I believe Blairism is a Tory infestation of the Labour party, yes there had been a right wing of the Labour party for decades, my granddad was one of them, but Blairism is a different breed, this was Toryism writ large.

This is the dream of people like speedy, whoever you vote for you you get Tory.

It is good to know that Boris Johnson is aping the stupid opinions of Boffy with his idiotic and Lazy Stalin comment. I have long located the politics of Boffy as somewhere between the liberal democrats and the Tories and is always good to get confirmation.