June 17, 2019 9.55 am This story is over 29 months old

Barry Turner: Boris is Boris, but should he be PM?

The entire history of Boris Johnson is summed up in a simple concept

A poll published in The Guardian shows that 69% of Britons are feeling pessimistic about the state of national unity and democracy. And while the roots of the causes involve different issues, Brexit has been found to be leaving many Brits anxious and worried — and more worryingly — polarised and angry.

According to this poll Britain is split far more than it has been for decades. This split is marked significantly by social class, geography, wealth and of course Brexit.

Some 75% say that Britain’s political system is “not fit for purpose” and less than 6% say that politicians understand them. As the Brexit crisis continues and the Tories indulge themselves by electing a new leader, only 21% of respondents believe that no matter who is prime minister, that they will be up to the tasks facing the country.

This is a staggering indictment of our political system and the quality of those elected to serve in it. The Tory leadership race is developing, as was expected, into a personality contest for personal aggrandisement, rather than any real bid to reunite the British people or to plan a sensible future for the UK outside of the European Union.

The current front runner in this absurd pantomime, Boris Johnson, is acting in his usual self-serving and dishonest fashion avoiding all detailed debates and making rehashed, largely unstructured and bombastic comments about leaving without a deal, simply to pander to what he sees as the way to gain most of the votes from the rank and file party members in the final round of the contest.

He can afford to. Not only is the main question being avoided by Boris himself and not forced on him sufficiently by our media, but he knows that come the final vote, that simply making veiled threats, even hollow ones will be enough to get many in the rank and file membership on his side. He is that hard man that will make the EU think again, where all others have failed to make them.

It is of course preposterous, the EU will not give in to him anymore than they would to Mrs May and probably won’t have to anyway. There are a number of outcomes from the elevation of Boris Johnson to unelected PM. The most obvious is a general election caused by his appointment as PM, splitting the Tory party further. That will lead to a wipe-out of the Conservative government, and if many are to be believed, an exile into the political wilderness for a decade or more.

On an optimistic note perhaps, he will reunite the party and the British people. Maybe his fatuous buffoonery is all that it takes to achieve an outcome that everything else has failed to do. Perhaps his cloak and dagger and disingenuous political scheming is what the UK needs to heal its political and social wounds. Could it be possible that his stern scolding and finger wagging at the institutions of the European Union will be all that it takes to make them see sense?

There is of course another option that few of the media and even fewer of his own supporters have considered. Perhaps when he gets the job he has wanted since being a spoiled schoolboy, he will simply change his position. Once in number 10 he will find it relatively easy to pull back from his ‘no deal’ posturing. There will be plenty of time for this before the 31st October deadline.

The entire history of Boris Johnson is summed up in a simple concept iterated by Tories challenged about his behavior for years. “Boris is Boris”, which means in a nutshell it’s all about Boris. The only thing that matters to him is getting that job. Not repairing the hideous damage to national unity, not even restoring the Tory party to its former one nation status he now invokes.

Once in the job, he will do what he sees fit to keep it. If that is storming out of the EU without a deal, he will of course do it, but if it means extending the deadline, accepting the backstop, joining the customs union etc. the promises he has made to the Faragists still dishonestly holding Tory membership will be thrown out the window.

“Boris is Boris” and loyalty to the party members, to the people of the UK and the keeping of promises forms no part of being ‘Boris’.

The reality is nothing he says can be trusted, so voting for it does not mean getting it. The night before the vote for the next Tory leader we can be sure of one thing. He will have written two alternative stories for the following day’s Daily Telegraph. Many of his loyal supporters are going to be seriously disappointed with what they wished for.

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Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.