Monday 9 January 2023

Bring Back Boris

We've recently seen efforts at The Telegraph to will Reform UK into relevance. This is aimed at trying to keep Rishi Sunak on the right tracks, as if the Tory party under him isn't indulging exactly the same racist, anti-immigrant and anti-woke idiocies of his predecessors. And because populist fires are getting stoked, that means a certain Boris Johnson and an appearance of calls for his return. This weekend, it was number one fan Nadine Dorries and long-time Murdoch henchman Trevor Kavanagh who were talking up what might happen if Johnson spent his time rewinning the premiership instead of writing after dinner speeches.

Of the two, Dorries's article was so short and content-free I wouldn't be surprised if she got ChatGPT to write it for her. Smarting from Sunak's abandonment of her plans to privatise Channel Four, she makes the bold claim that without Johnson at the helm the Tories will surely die. While it's good to see Dorries acknowledge that the days of majority Conservative governments are numbered, she seems to think Johnson has magic that will return more MPs at the next election than any other leader. There might be some truth to this, but she forgets his miserable personal ratings and how Johnson polarises opinion. Because he is more widely despised than admired, Johnson is likelier to drive up the turnout of opposing voters in greater numbers than any dissolute Brexity types that can be tempted back.

Kavangh's incoherent Sun piece reckons Johnson could still lead the Tories to a fifth election win. Johnson wasn't turfed out because of his appalling behaviour, but because he gave his enemies weapons. Um, how are these at cross purposes? After more amateurish excuses for Johnson, we come to the killer line. Sunak is nice and, apparently, "honest", but in the age of instant gratification he's not suitable. Then comes an unhinged digression on the young. The under 40s are fat, addicted to porn and drug dealing on their phones, and where they don't refuse jobs they work from home instead. Even worse, "The woke generation has embraced divisive race, gender and climate change issues as a new religion." These are the people who are going to be voting in greater than ever numbers in 2024, so Sun readers had better batten down the hatches! Sunak's got his work cut out mobilising Tory voters in the same way Johnson could.

Both articles are piss poor. If memory serves it was Kavanagh who'd regularly use his column to call for Thatcher's restoration when things turned south for John Major. What this demonstrates is the Tories and their cheerleaders are casting around for a way out of their predicament. Sunak isn't offering anything, whereas apart from Brexit Johnson's levelling up rhetoric at least demonstrated an awareness that people needed positive reasons to support the Tories. Scapegoating and flag waving does not improve the standard of living and millions can see it for the toxic distractions they are. For Dorries and Kavanagh, never the sharpest knives in the political drawer, theirs is a case of voluntarism that would impress Maoist cadres. Second time round, Johnson would be different. All the issues that stymied him last time would vanish, he'd smash Keir Starmer, and the public would adore him through sheer effort f will. It's truly excruciating stuff, but when nothing short of a thoroughgoing reinvention can rescue the Tories over the medium to long-term, we can expect more cries of desperation.

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