We have (almost) rid ourselves of the turbulent priest – though what religion Boris Johnson is a priest of remains a mystery. There are few signs in his past of an intellectual struggle deciding which political belief he should embrace. He’s not Cardinal Newman, or even Liz Truss !
The “isms” are very confused these days. Socialism, Liberalism and Conservatism mean what the user wants them to mean, especially the latter. It’s partly because of the post war triumph of the “mixed economy”. Occasionally a politician pokes his or her head above the parapet and demands that we privatise, or nationalise, everything. They soon go away though and the norm toddles on.
On the Left one of the lesser terms of abuse is “centrist” by which term the user means Tony Blair. Jeremy Corbyn hated Blair and the “Centrists” far more than he hated the Conservatives. But Corbyn’s statist socialism went away – which is a bit of a shame because there was, and is, a pretty good case for tighter state control of many public services like gas and electricity, the railways and water. Victims of Margaret Thatcher’s anti state ideologies.
Jeremy Paxman refers in his Sunday Times article today to “Johnsonism” – I suspect that he is being ironic because he knows that there is no such thing. Of course Boris is a Tory in the sense that, for example, every home counties golf club bore is also a Tory. What else would they be? And posh people as well – I doubt that many in that infamous Bullingdon photograph became roaring Marxists, or even social democrats.
There has never been a Johnson ideology. His chance was to be a modern day John Ball and to appeal over the heads of conventional leaders and politicians with a populist message. Thereby the “Red Wall” was broken. Without Europe Johnson wouldn’t have made it to number 10! The “ism” of choice for Boris’s Conservatives became a xenophobic “Nationalism” the principal driver of Brexit.
The political world pre Thatcher was cosy. And to a large extent the cosiness returned after the Blessed Margaret’s reign. Major, Blair and Brown were not revolutionaries. And nor would David Cameron have been without Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell. The former scared the pants off Dave and his complacent gang and the latter, and others, emphasised that the threat was within the Conservative Party as well as the “fruitcakes”, “loonies” and “closet racists” outside it.
In segueing to the Right by calling the disastrous EU Referendum in 2016 Cameron inadvertently changed Britain more than any other leader of modern times, not excluding Thatcher. And so Conservatives and Nationalists became the same thing. As Chris Patten has put it the Tories are now an ‘English Nationalist Party” – the “One Nation” Conservatives walked away or were sacked.
The years after the referendum paved the way for Boris Johnson. He had seen that a populist, nationalist movement of the Right could be his route to power. The Tories became UKIP Lite – and not that “Lite” either. Britain is traditionally a conservative nation with a nostalgia for the past and a love of patriotism and its symbols. The Union Flag became mandatory for every government minister on every occasion.
Boris Johnson is irredeemably shallow with no consistency in either his private or public behaviour. That he is unhinged is obvious but defining the nature of the obvious lack of balance is more difficult. I’ll leave that to others more qualified in mental health than me!
We are (or soon will be) well rid of Johnson. This is not a time for “Après moi, le déluge” for unlike Louis XV (who he much resembles) Boris’s successor cannot possibly be worse than him. Can they ?