Don Johnson

One of the patterns of contemporary politics is that whatever silliness happens in the US arrives on British shores a short time later. Identity politics was born in the corridors of liberal American academia from which it spread first to the political mainstream and then corporations, probably via the HR department. Now we have the likes of David Lammy ranting about white supremacists on a daily basis and British companies leaping on the Pride Month bandwagon and droning on about their trans employees.

The last few days have shown the British left have adopted something else American: mass hysteria as a method of political persuasion. Donald Trump had been a household name for 25 years when he ran for president, and as such there wasn’t much about him which remained unknown. But as soon as he declared himself a Republican the left branded him a hard-right rapist and when he got elected went into a collective meltdown that’s showing no signs of abating. It’s been almost 3 years and they still haven’t got over the fact Hillary lost and a good chunk of the country doesn’t mind Trump. The Democrats have assembled a collection of lunatics to run against him in 2020 on a platform of white people paying black people reparations for slavery, the idea that Trump is literally running concentration camps, and open borders. Good luck with that.

As befitting the pattern, the British left have now gone into hysteria over Boris Johnson who looks set to become the next prime minister. Johnson is very much a known quantity: he has been a public figure in politics for two decades and was mayor of London for two terms between 2008-16. But the left now want us to believe he’s some sort of dangerous, far-right extremist who goes around assaulting women. The latter claim – which they’ve clearly borrowed from their American counterparts’ campaigns against Trump and Brett Kavanaugh – is based on a couple of lefty neighbours of Boris’ girlfriend having skulked around on the landing outside her door, made a recording of a row they were having, and sent it to the police “fearing for her safety”. When the police turned up and said nothing was amiss, the couple sent the recording to The Guardian. And so overnight Boris Johnson becomes an abuser of women, helped along by the self-appointed spokespeople of the Metropolitan chattering classes such as The Secret Barrister:

It is quite clear that Cleverly is taking issue with the couple sending the recording to The Guardian, not reporting to the police what they might have thought was domestic violence. But a barrister’s job is to obfuscate on behalf of their client, which in this case is the mass of hand-wringing Metropolitan liberals for whom she works full time pro bono (less book sales). She is quick to point out that there is nothing illegal about recording your neighbours’ arguments and sending a copy to the police, but issues dark warnings about anyone harassing the couple who have inserted themselves into the middle of this national story of their own volition. Meanwhile, the left is now going after Boris’ girlfriend Carrie Symonds, who didn’t do anything to bring this situation about. The hard left are now camped outside her door, a tactic they’ve learned from Antifa who turned up at Tucker Carlson’s house and sent his wife into hiding. So what does The Secret Barrister have to say about this blatant targeting and harassment of an innocent individual? Nothing, of course. And what do Britain’s feminists have to say? Again, nothing: women are only deemed worthy of privacy, protection from threats, and respect if their politics align with Laurie Penny’s. Otherwise, they’re fair game for all manner of misogynistic abuse.

The harassment of Symonds takes place a few days after feminists and assorted lefties emerged from a 48-hour tantrum after Conservative MP Mark Field threw some annoying Greenpeace protester out of a place she didn’t belong. Politicians and the media squealed that it was assault and normalising violence against women, and feminists declared women deserve special treatment as they are different from men after all. Predictably, Theresa May capitulated and suspended the minister concerned instead of standing up for him, but in doing so may well have driven more party members to back Boris over anyone else. Now I don’t think Boris is a conservative, nor will he make a good prime minister. He’s proven to lack any consistent ideology, is prone to blundering, and it remains to be seen if he really is the man to take Britain out of the EU.

But there is something of the Trump in him, and he’s bringing that to his leadership campaign. He’s refused to take part in the silly TV debates Sky has put on, he’s refused to talk about what happened in his flat, and people are getting the impression he’s the only candidate who won’t simply fold like a cheap suit every time lefty launches another round of faux outrage. American conservatives elected Trump in large part because he wasn’t prepared to grovel and apologise to those who hate them, and instead stood up to them in a way which drove them insane. Now the British left have adopted American political tactics, it’s perhaps not surprising the right are willing to back whichever candidate stands up to them, his politics and character be damned. I suspect the squawking over Mark Field followed immediately by the cynical use of “domestic violence” and the staggering hypocrisy over Carrie Symonds will backfire badly, and Boris will sail into No. 10 with a Trump-like immunity hanging over him. Personally, I hope he keeps making remarks which send the left into an apoplectic rage, and then doubles down and refuses to apologise. So long as he keeps doing that he’ll have my support, and I suspect that of many others.


57 thoughts on “Don Johnson

  1. Calling the police to a suspected domestic violence is one thing, taking it to Graun is another completely different thing. The people who did it have chosen to insert themselves into a political situation.

    But beyond that, I don’t see it as particularly interesting. Johnson is a serial liar and a narcissist, even his most evangelical supporters would be hard pressed to dispute that. In that respect he is similar to Trump, nobody expects what either of them says today to be consistent with what they said yesterday, that’s just not how they behave, how they have done for as long as can be remembered. That Johnson’s girlfriend accused him of being spoiled and irresponsible during a row will come as an earth shattering character insight to precisely no one!

  2. Do we really know Boris? How many Boris’s are there? The Channel 4 What Next podcast is quite good this week. It has 2 of Boris’s biographers, one broadly in support and one pretty anti him, but they’re both quite objective.

    The daft thing about Boris Derangement Syndrome is that on social issues he really is one of them. He was at the forefront of legalising gay marriage and I’d put money on him giving them quite a lot of what they ask for on gender, feminist and trans issues (in so far as the last 2 are becoming mutually exclusive, so he’ll offend both camps but that’s their war not his).

    Its hard to say where he stands on economic issues, he doesn’t seem to have a particular ideology other than believing in grown ups having agency so he may well block some of the worst nanny state stuff, but as he doesn’t like offending people I can’t see that happening to any great extent.

  3. I think when a new political leader is about to be appointed, we run the hazard of actually thinking that it makes any difference who is the PM or President, so at the highest level it doesn’t really matter.

    I would say that Boris is the any or only port in a storm and agree that he was somehow destined to get a crack at the title, I see probation mentioned, not exactly a vote of confidence and a mandate to rule with the divine right to rule that he was born with!

    A boorish toff, Bullingdon boy but no Playboy that exhibits his upper class crassness in his exquisite and charming way. A characteristic that seems to have successfully got him through a high flying career that is chock a block full of shape changes, back flips, apologies on just about everything to everybody.

  4. Now I loathe Boris, always have, but I can’t work out why he stirs up such lisceral apoplexy on people on the left. The things I hate about him — his sexual immorality, his extreme social liberalism, his habit in office of spraying public money about like one of those water cannon he wasn’t allowed to use — are the sorts of things progressives usually admire.

    As mentioned above, he’s not a conservative, or even really right-wing at all, in any meaningful sense. Politically he seems indistinguishable from David Cameron, who only got the usual level of stick for being a nominally-Conservative PM.

    Boris, on the other hand, seems to stir up a depth of rage not achieved by any Tory leader since the Great Margaret — but you could understand with her, beause she stood and fought against all that the left hold dear. Boris, if he put a different rosette on, could quite easily hang out with the burghers of Islington.

    Why do they hate him so? Are they just scared of his popularity? Or what?

  5. cause it’s tantrum time in leftie-ville and the nearest popular blue rosette will do……
    Something is stoking this flame. Someone is coordinating the response.
    Like channel four’s leading question to the ladies who like ladies assaulted on a bus.

    Personally though, I am done voting Tory. Better they die quick and quiet. Slower Corbyn policies aren’t enough anymore.

  6. MJW–Nothing personal but you talk shite re Trump. He stops strikes on Iran because he is told 150 people would likely die– and decides that is too high a price for a drone.

    What other President in the last 50 years would have done that? Trump is a gem mate don’t doubt it.

  7. You may well ask the same about Trump

    Oh, no, it’s obvious why they hate Trump so much: it’s a class thing. He’s boorish, uncouth, he reminds them of the America they hate, that they moved to the coasts to get away from. Even when he was palling around with the Clintons they were probably sniggering at him behind their hands.

    Boris, on the other hand, is a posh privately-educated type just like the likes of Polly Toynbee, Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn, etc etc. When I say he’d fit right in in Islington I mean it — he might even have gone to school or been at Balliol with half of them.

    Actually maybe that’s it: they hate him so much because he’s one of them but he’s gone over to the other side. He’s the new version of a Class Traitor.

    But on the other hand that gets back to: why didn’t David Cameron, who was exactly the same, get the same treatment?

  8. “What other President in the last 50 years would have done that? Trump is a gem mate don’t doubt it.”

    None, as JFK is six years over your time threshold.

  9. Why do they hate him so?
    Probably because all the way through he’s been the irritating golden boy – richer, better school (albeit scholarship boy), more popular, doesn’t bother working and is still bright enough to do well. Worst of all when he is caught out he makes a joke of it and walks away.

  10. @ Mr Ecks

    I’m struggling to see how my comments about Trump’s inconsistency are talking ‘shite’. It’s not exactly a secret that his proclamations bounce around all over the place; millions of words have been written detailing how they flip around from one outburst to another. As for the fact that he ordered strikes on Iran, then cancelled them again; I’m very glad that he did, but I’m not sure how you interpret that as a refutation of my comments?

  11. The stupefying thing about this – and Trump – is the notion that being some sort of moral exemplar is what we need in a PM (or President). Our greatest prime ministers have pretty much all been scoundrels, charlatans or cads – and usually all three: think of Lloyd-George, Walpole, Disraeli, Churchill, etc.. Contrast them with that outstanding success, T.May, whose only admitted act of immoralty was running through a field of wheat.

    To put it into an antipodean context, who would you rather, Kevin Rudd or Bob Hawke? The first was Mr Goody Two Shoes and was utterly crap, the second was a fast living, womanising old soak – and a bloody good PM.

  12. Why do they hate him so?

    He’s hated by Remainers because he’s heavily associated with the pro-Brexit vote is he not? In a way that Gove wasn’t, because Boris seemed to not really care whether or not what he was saying was true.

    I’m currently in the uncomfortable position of not liking him, not thinking he’ll make a good PM, but feeling sorry for him because I imagine even the most upbeat of casual liars must be feeling exhausted by it all now, and wondering whether it’s worth it.

    The trouble with all this, as you point out, is that the left is now also adopting these tactics of truth denial and to get what they want (especially wrt to feminism, which I just do not recognise or understand at the moment) and it really, REALLY worries me. No one seems to be able to make a fair or honest assessment of anything.

    So with Boris I feel like it’s a case of chickens coming home to roost. He’s not thorough or diligent enough and he helped create this atmosphere. And I don’t see it calming down.

  13. He’s hated by Remainers because he’s heavily associated with the pro-Brexit vote is he not?

    No, it’s not that, the hatred long predates that.

  14. I’m not sure I ever looked to politicians for moral guidance so I have no issues with Boris and the Donald on that front. If however Boris does go down the Trump route and drive the lefties to distraction then he’s my man regardless of anything he does in whats left of his private life.

  15. @S (above): “Are they just scared of his popularity?”

    Yes. That is all it is.

  16. On the question of how Johnson and Cameron can have such similar backgrounds and relatively socially liberal tendencies yet Cameron is treated with a degree of respect whereas Johnson attracts far deeper opprobrium…

    Cameron has generally acted “with class”. Some of the fiercest stick he received is for the times he descended to making a cheap jibe and his “Flashman” side has come out. He hasn’t been as unfailingly polite and courteous as Michael Gove (another hate figure but for reasons unconnected to his politeness!) but his political course was based on being largely inoffensive to the chattering classes and making some effort to look like a plausible statesman-in-waiting at a time when the Tories had been in chaos for years and Tony Blair’s mask of invincibility was only just starting to slip.

    The chattering classes may not be dead keen on how Boris has treated his wives and women (though they are pretty live and let live on sexual matters these days so this need not be fatal) and his oafishness and buffoonery bring disrespect rather than hatred. Similarly his serial lying and backtracking breed distrust not detest. But there’s a “bully boy” side to him (Bullingdon, Darius Guppy) whereby you have to doubt he would stick up for the weak against the strong.

    Verbally he is antagonistic. In his writing, as if to maintain the boundaries of free (and politically acceptable) speech, the kind of verbal equivalent of a “freedom of navigation” operation at sea, he will often use words and phrases that he must surely know some people find (or will claim to find) offensive even when he is sticking up for a group. Case in point, his rather clumsy defence of the right to wear a burka where he managed to offend both cultutal conservatives by the content of his argument and Muslim women and their allies with his “letterbox” joke.

    Sometimes he seems to positively delight in causing offence, like his frontal rather than incidental attacks on Liverpool and Liverpudlians. Bit of spice and controversy does wonders for a columnist. But for a candidate for PM, not so much.

    Finally, I think a lot of people moved from “dislike” of Boris to full-on “detest” because he savaged a sacred cow during the Brexit debate. For a lot of people, EU membership reflected part of their self-identity and taking Britain out of the EU was like ripping this away from them. No different to how someone who identifies both as Scottish and British would experience a sense of loss if the SNP won an independence referendum, and feels that a component of themselves and their own identity is under attack when nationalists denounce the UK and the political concept of “Britain”.

    Moreover Johnson’s Brexit pitch was very much a rabble-rousing one, wrapped up in a flag and a vision of a Britain that not everyone could buy into or even feel comfortable in. Hence the accusations of base nationalism despite a spell as a very cosmopolitan-friendly Mayor of London. Johnson certainly wasn’t trying to play a high-minded Hannan-type role as Chief Technician of Brexit, he didn’t seem to care (still does not) about the technical details of Brexit at all.* If his campaign approach had taken a more technocratic orientation, he might just have picked up fewer haters. Truth is, somebody needed to take the high road and somebody needed to take the low road, and Boris is far better at being a populist cheerleader than a details guy. He did what he had to do. But those on the receiving end are unlikely to forgive him for that.

    * I’m rather concerned he will manage to fail to make Brexit happen through ignorance of parliamentary procedure, the state of negotiations or constitutional / international law – not that any PM would know everything about all these things but they should at least care enough about the gaps to bring in a high calibre advisory team. Boris is lazy and doesn’t seem to care so I’m worried he won’t bother and then get hijacked by events. The other risk is he is so duplicitous / shape-shifting / erratic, and lacks the deep sense of duty and perseverance that May possesses, that he is potentially capable of coming out in favour of a second referendum for remaining in a “renegotiated membership of the EU”, something he has even written about positively in the pre-Brexitref past I believe. Brexiteers pumping Boris need to be careful what they’re wishing for, though with the alternative being Hunt they don’t have a great choice in front of them!

  17. No, it’s not that, the hatred long predates that

    I seem to recall that prior to that he was simply disliked for being a bit of an ill-prepared buffoon prone to making embarrassing comments, rather than hated on quite Trump’s level, but I might be wrong.

  18. May got the job because she does as she is told. Boris on the other hand most likely won’t. That’s my guess

  19. Worth remembering there were always some people who hated Cameron too, for being an effortlessly successful poshboy Tory. More so after he got into power and became more politically associated with austerity than huski-hugging. That group of people had a strong crossover with those who hated Boris from the start for much the same set of reasons.

    The fact Boris has now triggered the British equivalent of Trump Derangement Syndrome is related to his role in the Brexitref, I’m pretty sure. It certainly got a lot of people to switch column on him, from “clown” to contempt. Some of the opinion pollsters do regular “do you have positive or negative opinions on…” questions about public figures, digging them out for BoJo would show when the worm really started turning against him.

  20. @MBE

    Great posts on BoJo, I appreciate reading a skillful and well set out hatchet job, a very rare quality indeed, you should work in the put down sector, you would make a fortune, maybe you do?

    I was staying with my brother in law in the UK when the race for leadership began. He is a Remain Scot that wants independence, yes an impossible and tortured type of a fellow indeed. He wanted BoJo to get up because that meant that Scotland would “definitely” hold a referendum to get out of the Union never mind the European Union!

  21. @MJW: Making a mistake, then correcting it quickly is not being inconsistent, it is being sane.

    Making a mistake, discovering it but then continuing on is consistent, but insane.

    Most politicians use the second strategy. Why? I dunno, maybe to save face, maybe they are so stupid they discover it late, who knows.

    How many politicos are really happy with the committed positions they find themselves in on issues like climate change and weird pseudo-gender claimants?

  22. @Bardon

    Even the most evangelical of Boris supporters have never claimed BoJo is a details man! The crux of the “coping with details” question has always been about his preparedness to seek high quality advice, not just whatever he wants to hear, and to delegate when needed. The record of his time in London is pretty mixed in that regard – the Garden Bridge farce was a big negative, and the water cannon purchase, but on the plus side he wasn’t generally a micromanager.

  23. I used to think Remain Scottish Nats were irrational, merely switching one long-distance rule for another, but I think in most cases they see the EU as embodying a European cultural and social identity that feels more congruent with them and their vision of Scotland, than the British identity associated politically with Westminster. Though I wonder whether familiarity with the more depressing and bureaucratic aspects of Brussels institutions might make some of them doubt the “EU = European” thing, particularly in terms of values and identity, I have just about got my head around how they combine nationalism on the local level with Europeanism on the continental level.

    On the more mundane level of political practicality, “remaining in or rejoining the EU” also sounds much less divisive and scary and confrontational than “splitting from the UK” so Brexit is a bit of a godsend to those who want independence at any price but are faced with the task of persuading a more cautious electorate.

  24. Both Trump & Boris share a characteristic. They’re easy to like. Which also means they’re easy to hate. The two emotions not being dissimilar. The left need to hate. It’s intrinsic to being left. To be strongly opposed to something. Both Trump & Boris are the easiest candidates.

  25. @ Fred Z

    I wasn’t criticizing Trump for pulling the Iran attack. Mr Ecks suggested I was talking ‘shite’ because I pointed out Trump is inconsistent in what he says, to quote myself on Trump and BoJo “nobody expects what either of them says today to be consistent with what they said yesterday, that’s just not how they behave, how they have done for as long as can be remembered”. There are acres of coverage detailing Trump espousing inconsistent, even contradictory positions, sometimes he flips back and forwards between them. Of course it could be that those who like him are no longer even aware of this, because it’s just so unremarkable that pointing it out is bad form.

    Funnily enough, I don’t think it’s a left/right thing really. I think some politicians manage to cultivate a particular schtick that puts them so far beyond the mainstream that their supporters no longer bother applying mainstream standards to them. Corbyn’s support for terrorists and anti-semites is one example. Nigel Farage’s ‘man of the people’ schtick is another. They have no shame, so you cannot shame them like you could a mainstream politician.

  26. MyBurningEars:
    On the question of how Johnson and Cameron can have such similar backgrounds and relatively socially liberal tendencies yet Cameron is treated with a degree of respect whereas Johnson attracts far deeper opprobrium…

    I don’t think that Cameron was treated with respect – not by the type who are really laying into Boris now. You can be sure that Cameron, if he were occupying the role currently being filled by Boris, would be facing a similar level of derangement. That’s how things have changed. A pre-Brexit Boris has been replaced by a Boris who, by the passage of time and the changing of circumstances, has become a Brexit Boris. That has transmorphed him into really bad Boris.

    P. S. Shouldn’t we be angry that an ‘American’ called Eve Leigh (educated guess: née Lieber-something, pre-Ellis Island) is poking her nose into our politics? I am.

  27. Eve Leigh (educated guess: née Lieber-something, pre-Ellis Island)

    Are you trying to imply she’s really German?

  28. MBE,

    You make some good points, but I’m not sure about this one:

    Finally, I think a lot of people moved from “dislike” of Boris to full-on “detest” because he savaged a sacred cow during the Brexit debate. For a lot of people, EU membership reflected part of their self-identity and taking Britain out of the EU was like ripping this away from them.

    A lot Remainers didn’t give it a lot of thought and just went with the Status Quo bias. Yes, the keener ones were upset with Boris and that was in no small part because they expected him to be one of them. The real vitriol didn’t start until after the result and then they started looking for someone to blame for their own failure. At this point the Remain camp pointed at Boris and the magic red bus and what is now the #FBPE crowd woke up and also wanted someone to blame.

    Brexit then became even more of a class thing and leavers are dismissed as thick, racist bigots, and working class to boot, who didn’t understand what they were doing. This made Boris a class traitor doing as well as being a Tory.

    It also didn’t help that Boris was said to have written 2 columns for the DT, one in which he declared for Remain and one for Leave. This was seen as him being opportunist – the charge being that he was really a Remainer but that when the inevitable Remain victory happened he would be able to play to the Leave gallery but secretly be thankful we stayed in the EU, one of the reasons for the duplicitous charge.

    As to the 2 columns, I just see it as a way to think through internal arguments when there’s a lot of trade-offs to be considered, writing them down helps to clarify the mind – which can you express better must be your true feelings.

  29. As to the 2 columns, I just see it as a way to think through internal arguments when there’s a lot of trade-offs to be considered

    The second, Remain, column is actually available; it was published as an appendix to the (excellent) book All-Out War by Tim Shipman. If it was a genuine attempt to work out where he stood by trying to find the best arguments for each side, then it wasn’t a very good one; you can tell his heart wasn’t in the pro-Remain article and it basically comes across as ‘yes the EU is terrible and shit but still we should stay’.

    Of course he’s an opportunist — he’s Boris! — but the claim that he secretly was a committed Remainer doesn’t stack up. He may not have been a totally convinced heart-and-soul bleeds-red-white-and-blue Leaver like Daniel Hannan or something, but he definitely wasn’t a closet Remainer at heart either.

  30. @Matt

    As I said, some people always hated Cameron, and while I think you’re correct that a Brexit Cameron would have attracted even greater vitriol (just for putting forward a referendum and losing it, Cameron lost a lot of respect despite fighting for the “right” side in it) I’m dubious that’s a valid comparison, since I don’t think there could ever have been a Brexit Cameron without also editing many of his other characteristics. It’s just not in the nature of the man nor his lukewarmly eurosceptic politics. He would (and did) resign rather than fight to take Brexit forward, at what he perceived to be a risk to business and the integrity of the UK. So this hypothetical Cameron is very much not the actual Cameron. Hard to know what else we are hypothetically changing too. We are talking about a guy who didn’t even fight hard for extensive changes to Britain’s relationship with the EU in his much-vaunted “renegotiation” so to imagine him as a buccaneer no-deal-flaunting “We must be Out by 31 Oct regardless of the Will of Parliament” type is a tough ask. I don’t think Cameron would have the nerve or backbone even if he did believe in Brexit. Boris might. Or is it just bluster? I wish I knew.

    Eve Leigh has lived over here since 2002 I believe, she’s well known in theatrical circles. Surname transformation was a bit more radical than you guessed – her dad Mitch Leigh was one of the writers of Man of La Mancha, but was originally Irwin Michnick. Not sure what the relevance of that is bearing in mind she’s religiously Buddhist, only ancestrally Jewish. And I’m sure Buddhist Americans and Jewish Americans have just as much right as any other UK-resident Americans to poke their noses into the business of the country they’ve settled in… even if you might rather they didn’t, I don’t think they’re under any moral obligation to let stuff by quietly, and certainly there’s no legal one.

    My sympathy for Boris is limited, if you don’t want your personal life to be a matter of public consumption then don’t dump your wife for a volatile relationship with a younger woman then have blazing rows the neighbourhood gossips can all listen in to. He was lucky the recordings themselves weren’t all over the Internet and news bulletins.

    My sympathy for Boris backers is also limited, if they don’t want their man to have salacious stories about his private life all over the press then they should have backed someone whose moral fibre in personal dealings they can actually vouch for. Otherwise just accept that’s what the guy is like, it is what some people will inevitably talk about, and cross your fingers that the wider electorate believes political and private affairs are distinct domains and some of the most successful leaders were morally reprehensible untrustworthy scumbags to the people closest to them. Hoping that the neighbours and newspapers would be so kind as to hush things up, because they’re too polite or too foreign or too respectful of the privacy of the man (or that of his girlfriend), is an utterly forlorn hope. Either proudly keep backing the cheating lying sex-mad bastard or go back someone else instead, don’t grouch that the highest office in the land brings additional scrutiny and people who disagree with the idea of PM BoJo won’t shut up about his flaws at his campaign’s convenience.

  31. My sympathy for Boris is limited, if you don’t want your personal life to be a matter of public consumption then don’t dump your wife for a volatile relationship with a younger woman then have blazing rows the neighbourhood gossips can all listen in to.

    Hear hear, though again I’d note that this kind of misbehaviour is something the leftie progressive types are all in favour of usually.

    He was lucky the recordings themselves weren’t all over the Internet and news bulletins.

    This is what makes me think that the actual recordings can’t be as bad as is being made out: if they were then surely the eavesdropper would have found a way to get them into the public domain, the better to achieve maximum damage (they think)?

    Actually though I think this whole kerfuffle increases his chances of winning the election among the membership because it makes it look like the Guardian are scared of facing him in a general election, because they think he might win. If your bitterest enemies are trying to persuade you to do something — in this case, elect Hunt — then you’d generally better do the opposite, right? Unless you think the Guardian are smart enough to pull off a Brer Rabbit manouevre. But I’m not sure the Tory membership thinks the Guardian is that smart. Is the Guardian that smart?

    My sympathy for Boris backers is also limited, if they don’t want their man to have salacious stories about his private life all over the press then they should have backed someone whose moral fibre in personal dealings they can actually vouch for

    I really was surprised that so many, whose judgement I would have thought was better, lined up for Boris. What on Earth was wrong with Raab? Were they really just dazzled by Boris’s media profile?

  32. “Unless you think the Guardian are smart enough to pull of a Brer Rabbit manouevre.”

    The Left have been afflicted by TDS and BDS for 2 years now, so the chances of them thinking even remotely strategically is zero. They hate Trump and they hate Boris with blind disregard for all else, and will take every opportunity to make their hatred abundantly clear, regardless of whether it makes any strategic sense. To the extent they will over-reach themselves (probably already have)and make the floating voter feel sorry for the subject of their deranged ire.

  33. @BiND

    There’s been a minority of people who would describe themselves as “European” ahead of “British” or “English / Welsh / etc” for a long time, especially among the young. Lower numbers than the equivalent in eg Germany, and even there it is a minority identification, but it has been around – there are iirc some very long-run Europe-wide polling series for country comparisons about this. There are other people for whom “European” was there but more in the background. Again more prevalent among the young, and in certain groups eg Scottish nationalists (I’ve definitely seen the slogan “We are not British! We are Scots, we are Europeans, we are Citizens of the World!” on pro-indy demo placards back as far as the 1980s).

    I do agree that the number of committed eurofederalists has always been much smaller than the number of people who saw the EU as the default option and almost didn’t think about it. Paradoxically Britain is now home to the continent’s largest, best organised and most self-consciously Pan-European movement, so the Brexiteers have awakened a sleeping dragon. (One I believe they can slay, if they pull things off correctly and over the next 20 years the EU evolves into what is clearly a “foreign” country to the UK, more of a “them” than a “wider us”. If things cock up badly then alternatives include the Union breaking down and whatever is left of the UK getting dragged back in to a federal Europe with opt-outs and its own currency stripped away.)

    Whether people have been diehard Europeans for decades or were recent converts like the FBPE crowd, the pain many of them experienced at the Brexit referendum result was deep and genuine. It wasn’t just like losing an election and facing five years of government they disagreed with, they felt it was an attempt at a permanent destruction of part of their identity and their values. That’s a place that hate can easily come from.

    As a separate issue, many black and Asian people I know didn’t feel particularly “European” themselves but also experienced a sense of shock and revulsion at the result, because they saw it as a kind of referendum on migration and the electorate’s conclusion as a rejection of immigrants and their drscendants. I think this ties in to how Boris, a cosmopolitan chap by the accounts of all who know him, has ended up being painted as a racist and xenophobe in the media. To the extent that the referendum result was interpreted by some gay people as a pushback against openness and diversity and a ressertion of traditionalism and patriarchy, and I can tell you for a fact that at least in London many social-liberal gay people psychologically experienced the referendum as the voice of the country choosing to reject them, we have ended up with a politician well-known as a gay rights advocate transmogrifying into “Boris the homophobe”. Of course there are ethnic minority and LGBT Brexiteers who will tell you this really, really isn’t what the ref was about, but if you want to understand the deep detest of Boris then I think you need to look at the psychodrama of Brexit not just the substantive issues.

    Also agree strongly with BiS that Boris is a personality politician, you’re supposed to have an emotional reaction to him and that’s how his whole shtick works. Liking, hating, or even moving between the two, are far easier with someone like that than a professional grey man like Philip Hammond – nobody can like him, almost nobody can hate him, pretty much nobody can bring themselves to have any emotional reaction either way. Cameron, in the more traditional “statesman” mold, was far more reserved, fairly rarely let his true personality or feelings out. We would have seen far more of his sense of humour or his grief over his late son if he had. Boris lets more of it out.

  34. Unless you think the Guardian are smart enough to pull off a Brer Rabbit manouevre. But I’m not sure the Tory membership thinks the Guardian is that smart. Is the Guardian that smart?

    Think the truth is far simpler than all that.

    The Guardian were the absolutely obvious choice to offer the story to, in terms of political positioning and reach (don’t point and laugh at their circulation numbers, their target audience by and large have moved on from buying news on dead trees, as indeed most of the population have, their online operation gets a lot of eyeballs and what they publish can have real political impact).

    So the Guardian got offered the story.

    And it was a great story which the Guardian were able to cross-reference with the police to confirm they weren’t being hoaxed, so the Guardian did the absolute non-brainer and ran it.

    “Smart” (and indeed, massively sinister) would have involved them somehow orchestrating the domestic row and/or providing high-tech recording equipment. The odd loopy conspiracy theorist aside, we can be confident that isn’t what happened.

    If the recording made it clear Boris had hit his partner then his career would be over (incidentally… Layla Moran after being much vaunted won’t be running for Lib Dem leader this year, possibly ever… If a woman’s career can’t survive striking her male partner, we can be pretty sure a male career won’t survive him striking his female partner). I suspect like you that the tape is tamer than its description makes it sound. More than his temper and temperament, it calls Johnson’s judgment into question – if you shack up with a younger woman whose life is in a different place to yours, do you expect everything to go calm and swimmingly?

    At this point I’d like to add to the annals of loverat national leaders, those whose ill-judgement in their personal life doubles up with ill-judgement in affairs of state. François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande, par exemple. Far too many of Johnson’s defenders have strayed from “he’s an immature, cheating rat to those closest to him, but despite that will be a great unifying statesman” to something like “he’s an immature, cheating rat so that means he is like Lloyd George and Horatio Nelson and therefore will be a great and popular leader”. I would have thought the best that could be hoped for is personal and political judgment to be largely independent, to confidently declare they are inversely related seems a stretch too far.

    There is some amusement in watching those who should have known not to trust BoJo’s judgment or discretion being boxed in to the embarrassing position of having to defend him on TV or in the press, perhaps the fact it is the Guardian or the fact Hunt is an ex-remain supporter means the likes of JRM feel little choice. Whether the membership also feel the need to double down just because it is the Guardian we will see… My guess is that it will be tighter than previously expected, if only as it becomes more obvious that Boris won’t be the great polling boost so many hopes had been pinned on, and particularly if it becomes clear he will face a significant rebellion from Tory MPs opposed to No Deal and doesn’t have a practical plan to deal with it. But it is still Johnson’s vote to lose.

  35. My guess is that it will be tighter than previously expected, if only as it becomes more obvious that Boris won’t be the great polling boost so many hopes had been pinned on, and particularly if it becomes clear he will face a significant rebellion from Tory MPs opposed to No Deal and doesn’t have a practical plan to deal with it.

    But it’s either that or Hunt, and nobody who wants to leave the EU is going to trust an ex-Remainer again, not after last time. Boris may not have a practical plan, but he’s the one who the ERG has decided can best have his feet held to the fire.

    I still wonder what the problem was with Raab. My best guess is that Boris’s team pointed out that there was no way the Remainers in the Parliamentary party would allow two Leavers onto the final ballot, and this time he was determined to fight to the bitter end, scorched earth if necessary, so either they all got behind him or they risked splitting the Leave vote and ending up with two cabinet candidates in the final two, Gove vs Hunt or something.

  36. Look, they just hate, and I mean truly, dementedly hate, anyone who is conservative. If you don’t have any serious character flaws they just invent some anyway. There is absolutely no common ground between us and them, they are utterly beyond any reason.

  37. Look, they just hate, and I mean truly, dementedly hate, anyone who is conservative

    But even assuming that’s true, it doesn’t explain why they hate Boris, who isn’t a conservative.

  38. But even assuming that’s true, it doesn’t explain why they hate Boris, who isn’t a conservative.

    I think Boris is a conservative in certain senses, and certainly wouldn’t have found a more comfortable home for his beliefs (such as he has) in the two other major parties, but there’s something in this. He isn’t Redwood or JRM. Moreover, “they hate all conservatives” isn’t a useful guide as to why Johnson gets more and deeper hatred than Cameron, Redwood or JRM. It certainly isn’t because he is more conservative than them.

    Re Raab – tactical stuff applies to some extent but also pragmatic considerations. Just didn’t have many friends in the parliamentary party? Underwhelming ministerial record, seen as “too soon” for him? Didn’t look like an election winner? Definitely didn’t have polling to point to whereas Boris or the band of MPs backing his bid would have been strong-arming colleagues with news snippets of hypothetical “Tory leader X vs Corbyn” polling where only his name was giving strong leads. (These hypothetical polls are notoriously untrustworthy as they largely depend on name recognition and concrete voter intentions differ from hypothetical ones, and Raab was doing pretty well compared to other candidates anyway, but he was way behind Boris so couldn’t really use that as an argument.)

    Raab wasn’t helped by the circular thing that MPs want to be seen to support the winner because they might get a ministerial gig, so if you don’t look like you’re a potential winner from the outset then it is hard to gather support to get into the next rounds. Raab was never a frontrunner and struggled to build momentum, so he wasn’t in a recoverable position from quite early on, pretty much as soon as Boris took the bulk of the Tory Leaver vote. The nature of his pitch wasn’t especially transfer-friendly from other candidates knocked out earlier in the process – he would have been second preference for a lot of Boris-supporting MPs, but that was no use if Boris was destined for the final two.

    I am watching politics from behind the sofa or with through my fingers with my hands over my face at the moment. If people running this country, or at least nominally running the Tory parliamentary party, honest to goodness want Brexit to (a) happen and (b) work out happily after after, potentially with some roller-coaster moments in between, and their solution to this is “let’s put Boris Johnson in charge of administering it, we can trust his commitment to the project and he’s going to do a competent job” then I jolly well hope they’re better judges of the calibre of a man than I am. Because I am seriously concerned we are screwed, and they know we are screwed too, and they are “gambling for resurrection” with the high-risk high-reward option precisely because they feel they have run out of sensible choices. It’s as if their glance has been flitting back and forth between the worsening parliamentary arithmetic and the godawful opinion polls and they’re now sufficiently desperate to reach for the last throw of the dice.

    Having said that, I can see there being a decent argument Johnson (or potentially Gove) should have had a shot at PM immediately after the referendum instead of May. Would have made a degree of sense for someone who campaigned for the prospectus to have a bash at implementing it. But it is too late now to negotiate a fresh deal from scratch, and May blew the Conservative parliamentary majority. It is a different set of problems and it isn’t clear to me how BoJo represents a solution, for his party or the country.

  39. why Johnson gets more and deeper hatred than Cameron, Redwood or JRM

    Actually I think of current Tory MPs, Rees-Mogg is the only one who does inspire the same level of sheer visceral loathing among lefties as Boris.

    But with Rees-Mogg it’s obvious why: he’s a Catholic and not one of the ‘say they’re a Catholic but actually are fine with divorce and gays and abortions’, a proper Catholic (these days, I guess that makes him more Catholic than the actual Pope — actually, has anyone checked whether that bear that was found curled up in the wardrobe had been using the indoor toilet? Such things seem to be of the moment) kind. He probably also isn’t entirely on board with the idea that your gender is whatever you decide it is. So obviously the left are going to hate him with all the burning fury of a thousand flaming suns. He is their literal Devil.

    Boris? Boris just wants to ameliorate a bit of fiscal drag. Yet out the claymores come.

  40. Re: Raab: Obviously as soon as Boris come out looking like a winner he was toast, because his Leaving policy was practically the same as Boris so they were directly competing for the same pool of voters, and obviously if one looks like by far the most likely winner they’re going to fall behind him, that’s only sound tactics. But it wasn’t obvious that that was the way things were going to go before the first round of voting; that’s where the skullduggery must have happened. That envelope, and all. Team Boris must have run an amazing operation.

    Are we screwed? Well, there’s a higher chance of us being screwed than at a lot of times, definitely. But I don’t think it’s necessarily as awful as all that. I suppose it depends what you think will happen after we leave without a deal. I actually don’t think it will be that bad. Yes, there will be bumps; but it’s in everyone who is directly involved’s interests to keep most things running smoothly. By ‘directly involved’ I mean not the politicians, but people like the managers of airports, the managers of the ports at Calais and Dover, the supermarket logistics managers, etc etc. Those sorts of people are very good at finding ways around problems.

    That’s the great thing about capitalism: capitalism is basically the theory that if you give enough people the right incentives, at least one of them will find a way around any problem.

    Yes, absolutely, if you had a Soviet-style command system where some central committee had to figure out how to solve all the myriad issues that Brexit will throw up, it would shatter under the pressure. But we don’t. So ways will be found around the problems, ways that would be impossible to predict or to plan in advance, ways that will be spotted by people on the ground that simply wouldn’t have occurred to civil servants in Brussels or Whitehall.

    And in this I think it will be helped by the dispelling of Project Fear. Whatever problems there are, there won’t be mass starvation or food riots, there won’t be blackouts, aeroplanes will keep flying, hospitals won’t run out of medicines. so whatever does happen, it will still look blissful compared to what people were promised.

    So I think we might see: an exit with no-deal in Octobet, swiftly followed by a bunch of small bilateral agreements to keep things ticking over, and then a general election in the spring: long enough for the initial shock to have settled down and Boris to be able to say, Look, see, I did it, and it wasn’t that bad, not long enough for any real problems (if there are any) to manifest. A general election which returns a decent Conservative majority due partly to the Boris bounce, but mostly due to the fact that the Brexit Party vote will fold back into the Conservatives while the Left are still split, with Remainers hating Corbyn for not preventing Bexit so swinging to the Lib Dems in a lot of marginal constituencies not enough to win them but enough to let the Conservatives through the middle.

    Madly optimistic? Maybe. But it’s a possibly ‘not immediately screwed’ scenario. Of course, then we start a new Parliament with Boris in charge of reshaping our economy to make a successful post-EU future. Now that is a scary thought.

  41. “Seems Carrie & BoJo’s spying neighbours have a Left EU Funded Remain agenda”

    Ha! Not a surprise now is it? How long before we find out they have been listening in for months looking for something to run to The Guardian with?

  42. “Even when he was palling around with the Clintons they were probably sniggering at him behind their hands. ”

    Can’t prove it without a time machine of course, but if they hadn’t had a [D] after their names, the Clintons might well have had the same treatment.

  43. Just seen a headline in the ‘Indy’ decrying Boris’ ‘bizarre private life’.

    Since when are we allowed to be judgemental about unconventional relationships again?

  44. MBE

    “…and the water cannon purchase…”

    You can blame the Blonde Buffoon for many things, but not the water cannon purchase. In the aftermath of the London riots, Johnson was advised that the purchase of water cannon would be prudent. He discussed the matter with the PM who gave the go-ahead, but Theresa May prevented the licensing of the equipment….

  45. Mrs May prevented the licensing of the equipment as much to make one of her opponents look bad as for any other reason.

  46. “But even assuming that’s true, it doesn’t explain why they hate Boris, who isn’t a conservative.”

    There’s no logic to their hate, its purely tribal. If by some Corbynesque series of events Rory Stewart had become Tory leader and thus PM, they’d be calling him the same names they are Boris today. Its all about power – anyone, regardless of their actual views,who stands between the Hard Left and power will be attacked mercilessly on any and all grounds possible. Look how the Left treated John McCain in the US – latterly he was their darling, as he was opposed to Trump, previously when he ran against Obama he was the devil incarnate. Same man, same views, different treatment, depending on whether he was useful to the Left.

    Any person who is given any praise by the Left is by definition useful to them, and anyone who is attacked is a danger to them. The level of vehemence will tell you the level of danger they feel.

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