At the first run-off Leadership Hustings for the Conservatives in Birmingham, self-styled ‘Man of the People’, ‘anti-Establishment’ and populist Boris Johnson told party members that he always stuck up for the very people he, until recently, turned his back on. Fact-checking Boris Johnson...

First published in June 2019.

A defensive Boris Johnson today boasted before a room full of Conservative members in Birmingham that he has always “stuck up for the bankers”.

“I don’t think... I can’t give you any other politician, even Conservative politician who, from the crash of 2008 onwards, actually stuck up for the bankers... Can you give me anybody who stuck up for the bankers as much as I did? I... I... I defended them day in, day out, against those who frankly wanted to hang them from the nearest lamppost... because... because... actually, it is financial services that contribute about £72 billion in tax to our economy.”

Boris Johnson at the Conservative Husting in Birmingham, 22 June 2019. / Sky News

Thus, gone are the days when, as one of the leading figures of the Leave campaign during the 2016 EU Referendum, Johnson called the very bankers he claims to have always stuck up for “the people who engineered the biggest financial disaster of the last century” in the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

When asked by Andrew Marr about warnings that banks would move jobs and operations to the EU if Britain voted to leave, the former Mayor of London replied:

“I don’t believe that to be true at all. I think that – we’ve had the same sorts of threats time and time again. Actually London has such a massive concentration of skills and talent here in this city that I don’t believe – if you talk to serious bankers they don’t think that...”

“They were all saying that we had to join the euro or the British economy would be overwhelmed. We would be isolated. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.

Boris Johnson, 6 March 2016. / BBC One - Andrew Marr Show

Sadly, and contrary to what Boris Johnson claimed would not happen back in 2016, banks and financial firms have indeed been fleeing the UK – even before Brexit has actually happened.

According to a Business Insider roundup of the financial exodus published in March 2019, so far:

  • US bank giants Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup have moved 250 billion euros ($283 billion) of balance-sheet assets to Frankfurt because of Brexit.
  • Bank of America is spending $400 million to move staff and operations in anticipation of Brexit, and is trying to persuadeLondon staff to move to Paris.
  • Barclays last week won permission to shift assets worth £166 billion ($216 billion) to its Irish division. Barclays is set to become Ireland's biggest bank.
  • France's BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, and Societe Generalehave opted to transfer 500 staff out of London to Paris.
  • UBS has chosen German financial center Frankfurt for its new EU headquarters.
  • Swiss peer Credit Suisse is moving 250 jobs to Germany, Madrid, and Luxembourg among other EU 27 countries as well as $200 million from its market division to Germany. And in December Credit Suisse told its wealthiest clients to hurry and move their money out of the UK before Brexit.
  • Germany's Deutsche Bank is also considering shifting large volumes of assets to Frankfurt as part of its Brexit plan.
  • HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, has shifted ownership of many of its European subsidiaries from its London-based entity to itsFrench unit.
  • Australia's largest bank by assets, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, has set in motion plans to base around 50 staff inAmsterdam, and has applied for a banking licence in the country.
  • Other Australian lenders Macquarie, Westpac, and ANZ are also in talks to move operations to Dublin and continental Europe.
  • Europe's biggest repo trading venue, called BrokerTec, is being moved to Amsterdam from London, meaning a $240 billion a day repo business is leaving the UK.
  • More than 100 UK-based asset managers and funds have applied to the Irish central bank for authorization in Ireland.

Remember when Big banks were amongst Boris Johnson’s long list of monolithic institutions on the Remain side, which he even equaled to Goliath?

"We can be the 'heroes of Europe' by voting to Leave", 14 May 2016. / The Telegraph

What about when Johnson wrote in The Telegraph about bankers and FTSE100 executives, that these people have so much more money than other people in the same company that they are flying in private jets and building subterranean swimming pools, while many of their employees cannot afford to buy any kind of home at all.”

Not very bankers- and CEOs-friendly, is it?

They are only too happy to parade through Downing Street and declare their undying devotion to the EU. They happily sign letters to the papers, explaining how vital it is that we Remain. They must think that the EU is good for their business.”

“Of course, the FTSE100 fat cats will sign up for remaining in the EU: they are getting personally richer and richer...”

Vote Leave on June 23, and give this cabal the kick in the pants they deserve.

"Of course our City fat cats love the EU – it’s why they earn so much", 15 May 2016. / The Telegraph

Remember when Boris Johnson and Michael Gove claimed that bankers were going to cash in on UK taxpayers’ money through the EU if Britain voted to remain?

"Boris promises cheaper household gas bills if Brits back Brexit", 30 May 2016. / The Sun

Stop banker-bashing!

Let’s be fair to Boris Johnson: he actually showed support to bankers in the past, when he was the Mayor of London.

In a piece for The Telegraph, back in 2012, Boris Johnson indeed wrote: “It is time for British politicians to say it loud and clear and in unison: we need bankers, my friends! We need bankers who are not just cautious, owlish Polonius figures. We need bankers who are willing to take punts and put their necks on the line.

"Stop bashing the bankers – we have no future without them", 9 July 2012. / The Telegraph

Boris Johnson is the Establishment

Boris Johnson proved this afternoon that he is not the self-styled anti-Establishment he claimed to be during the 2016 EU Referendum. He is the embodiment of the Establishment.

He fooled the Leave voters then, he is trying to fool the entire Conservative Party now.

The problem with Johnson is that he keeps changing position on everything all the time. He is the embodiment of a weathervane that turns in the wind and shows a different direction depending on where the popular wind is blowing from.

The populist politician by excellence. Ready to promise everything to everyone.

Imagine him as the Prime Minister of Great Britain... taking decision, not according to a set of political principles he believes in and his party manifesto, but according to a combination of opinion polls, popular trends and street protests.

The man is probably totally incapable of having an opinion on whether the UK should switch to a proportional representation voting system, for instance, and would only take a decision on the issue after conferring – not with his advisors and experts, but – with market research and data analytics firms. Is the decision going to make him look good to the voters? Will he benefit out of it electorally?

As for Brexit, Boris Johnson is one of the Opportunistic Brexit Believers. This type of Brexiter can be as extremist as the True Brexit Believers on occasions for the simple fact that their belief in Brexit is more opportunistic. If you scratch the surface, you quickly realise that they don’t actually believe in Brexit at all and are rather more interested in their prophet’s crazy hairdo entering Number 10 and imposing their will over the people of Britain.

Does Britain need such an unpredictable type of Prime Minister at a time of constitutional and institutional crisis? 0.34% of the electorate will soon decide.🔷

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[This is an original piece, first published by the author in on 23 June 2019. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Gif of Boris Johnson at the Hustings in Birmingham.)