Why Boris Johnson’s decision not to apologise for his disgraceful comments about Muslim women a year ago was the sign that, as a gambler, he had chosen a dangerous path simply to further his political career. It worked.
First published in August 2018.
Boris Johnson’s refusal to apologise for his appalling and insulting comments about Muslim women, comparing women wearing burkas to “bank robbers” and saying they “look like letter boxes” in his column published in the Telegraph🔒 on Sunday indicates he has now chosen to fully embrace Steve Bannon’s Trump campaign strategy where outrageous and hateful comments must increase in order for the politician to be more visible and talked about in the media.
“I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”
— Boris Johnson (Telegraph, 5 August 2018.)
As long as the Conservatives don’t condemn his comments, don’t remove the whip from him and kick him out of the party, his comments will encourage bigotry and hate crime. Following Trump’s rulebook, Johnson has decided that Leave voters didn’t suffice any longer and he must now also seduce far-right and alt-right voters and militants, whatever the cost.
Boris, the addicted gambler.
Boris Johnson is, alike a sad gambler who does not know when to stop and believes in his lucky star, currently betting on his ability to do to the Conservatives what Trump did to the Republicans in the US when he took them by storm to first win the Primary and then went on to win the White House.
Boris Johnson’s political thought is just as abysmal as the quality of the far-right and alt-right thought he now tries to emulate.
The truth is, he doesn’t stand for anything in politics, never did and just never will. A sea captain, he would follow a weathervane rather than follow a compass.
Boris, the fake-news journalist.
As a journalist, his articles were all about pleasing his Eurosceptics readers, even if it meant inventing stories and false claims about the European Union. In an article in the Guardian, as Johnson became Foreign Secretary, the European correspondent of Libération Jean Quatremer remembered: “Nobody has forgotten his activities as a journalist in Brussels, where he was correspondent for the Daily Telegraph between 1989 and 1994. The French tend to mythologise “Anglo-Saxon” journalism as the pinnacle of ethics and rigour, but Johnson was the incarnation of the gutter-press dictum: never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Indeed, this is what a grinning Johnson often remarked to his foreign counterparts when they protested about his exaggerated stories.”
And if an example was needed, Quatremer explained: “One day he wrote a story claiming that Jacques Delors’ spokesman was so well-paid (as all of these incompetent Eurocrats, of course, had to be in Johnson’s narrative), that he lived in an immense chateau on the outskirts of Brussels. This was vehemently denied at a press briefing, to the hilarity of Johnson.”
Boris, the egocentric mayor.
As the Mayor of London, between 2008-2016, he kept promoting his own persona. Remember the so-called ‘Boris Bikes’ (who Boris Johnson had pledged would be at no cost to the taxpayer), his ridiculous London 2012 stunt or his championing of the pharaonic idea of having a ‘Garden Bridge’ over the Thames?
Boris Johnson, 2012. / ITV News
Boris, the unreliable MP.
As an MP, he promised in May 2015 that he would lie down “in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway” in Heathrow. But he came under fire three years later for inventing a trip to Afghanistan in order to miss the vote to approve the new £14bn runway. That’s a happy Boris on the photos with the Afghan deputy foreign minister, by the way.
Boris’ EU referendum gamble.
In 2016, Boris Johnson claimed he had have written two articles, one in favour of Remaining in the European Union and one in favour of Leaving. Did he really struggle to choose? There were indeed two different paths with very different outcomes before him. Campaigning for Remain meant for him to remain in the shadow of PM David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne. Choosing Leave, however, meant leading from the front seat. How seriously difficult a decision for someone with an ego as big as his? So, Johnson eventually chose... Leave!
No matter what actual knowledge Boris Johnson ever really had on the whole Brexit thing – especially on the situation with the Irish border. Indeed, during a visit to Northern Ireland, in February 2016, the then Mayor of London insisted in a BBC Northern Ireland interview that Brexit would not change a thing to the current arrangements on the Irish border.
“I think the situation would be absolutely unchanged... There’s been a free travel area between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland for, I think, getting on 100 years... There’s no reason why that should cease to be the case,” Johnson said.
Sure. The Irish border: the easiest thing to deal with in the Brexit negotiations...
How about the farmers in Northern Ireland? “I can certainly guarantee that they will be absolutely no worse off, in many ways better off, You would be able to target the subsidy and we would be getting money back from the EU that currently goes to Brussels and goes on heaven knows what.”
Boris Johnson, 29 February 2016. / BBC Northern Ireland
As a key figurehead for the Vote Leave campaign, Johnson was treated like a king (he was finally recognised as a leader!) by the team. “I’ve got a great idea, my friends! Let’s have a big red bus with some funny claim written on it... something like £350m a week that could be saved by Britain leaving the EU! Who’s in? Michael? Gisela?” The Leave campaign did not seem too concerned about the money anyway (Whilst the Remain campaign would have probably let him use a ‘Boris bike’ instead...).
Boris Johnson grilled by Tom Bradby during the 2016 Referendum campaign over the £350m/w lie. / ITV News
Johnson had obviously only one thing in mind: despite the expectation that Leave would certainly lose the 2016 EU referendum, his relentless media exposure during the campaign would help him oust David Cameron rather sooner than later and eventually propel him to the position of leader of the Conservatives, thus the office of Prime Minister.
But then, somehow unexpectedly... Brexit won!
Remember those faces after the result? No smiles. Nervous. Vote Leave had won though...
Boris Johnson’s foolproof plan to reach the leadership of his party was in jeopardy. With David Cameron’s resignation and a leadership contest on its way, the former mayor of London thought the door to Number 10 was finally open to him. But he was then taken down by a greedy Michael Gove, with a last-minute betrayal. The then Home Office Secretary Theresa May eventually got the job.
Three months later, Gove told the BBC Radio 4’ World At One that he “initially thought Boris was the right person to be Prime Minister”, but he later came to the conclusion that “he wasn’t the right person to be Prime Minister at that point.”
Boris, the shameful Foreign Secretary.
Despite Gove’s betrayal and missing out on the leadership contest, Boris Johnson was appointed Foreign Secretary by the new PM, Theresa May, in order to keep her enemies within sight and probably to hold them responsible for any Brexit failure too when time has come.
As Foreign Secretary, the former Etonian finally thought he had achieved ‘global status’. Travelling the entire world, being the voice of the UK in the world... what a gift! A step closer to the ultimate aim: becoming Prime Minister. But being heard and being seen means not being efficient at one’s work. As Foreign Secretary, Johnson has indeed excelled at alienating other EU foreign ministers, pledged to help Turkey join the EU in “any way possible” despite having campaigned with the Leave campaign for Britain to leave the European Union on the basis that Turkey (and its 76 million people) would be joining the EU in the near future.
Johnson caused controversy when visiting a temple in Myanmar, caused upset by saying that the Libyan city of Sirte could be the new Dubai, though adding that “all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away”, worsened the prison sentence of British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran before promising to have her released and eventually letting her and her family down — she is still in prison today...
In October 2017, the Economist wrote that Boris Johnson’s “disloyalty is hardly offset by his skills as a diplomat”, before adding that as Foreign Secretary, “he is ridiculed abroad and disliked in the Foreign Office.”
Boris’ wrong timing.
When Brexit Secretary David Davis and Brexit Minister Steve Baker resigned over Theresa May’s Brexit Chequers plan, Boris Johnson jumped too. Why?
1. Not to be held responsible for the upcoming Brexit disaster — better leave the boat when it has not yet hit the iceberg (“It was not me... I was not there when it happened... I would have done things differently...”);
2. Not to be left out of the next Conservatives leadership contest again. Though it increasingly looks like Johnson jumped out too early, as no other senior cabinet minister has left the government, especially no one from Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ERG!
Having achieved ministerial status but having jumped out of the government wagon too early, and in order to remain relevant outside, Johnson now needs to be vocal, to behave as a provocateur. He wants to be seen as the man with ideas. The man who knows what the majority of the British people want and what the hard-working class want too. He also needs to show HE ONLY can please voters from across party lines.
How could one define Boris Johnson as a politician? An unstable mix of nationalism (sort of Farage), populism (sort of Trump) and socially concerned and liberal modern Conservatism (sort of Macron). Just writing it is already scary!
Remember his 2008 London Mayor victory speech?
“I do not for one minute believe that this election shows that London has been transformed overnight into a Conservative city but I do hope it does show that the Conservatives have changed into a party that can again be trusted after 30 years with the greatest, most cosmopolitan, multi-racial generous-hearted city on Earth in which there are huge and growing divisions between rich and poor.”
— Boris Johnson (The Guardian, 3 May 2008.)
The former Foreign Secretary will tell everyone what they want to hear (and the exact opposite a few days later), even if it is disrespectful, abusive and insulting to others as long as it benefits his career. He promises a melting pot of visions, ideas, decisions to all, which he knows he cannot and will not deliver.
Boris’ bigger plan.
Writing in the Guardian on Wednesday, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said that his language had made “hate crime more likely”.
Others Tories don’t like the idea of Boris leading the Conservatives. The former attorney general Dominic Grieve told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “If he were to become leader of the party, I for one wouldn’t be in it. I don’t regard him as a fit and proper person to lead a political party and certainly not the Conservative party ... He is somebody who seems to me to pursue an agenda that is entirely self-referential, doesn’t take account of colleagues. He wasn’t able to observe cabinet responsibility when he was in government.”
Boris Johnson’s ultimate plan is not to get kicked out of the Conservatives — other Tories have already said it is unlikely to happen anyway. Sir Eric Pickles, for instance, a former local government secretary, told The Telegraph on Wednesday that the Conservative Party “could take disciplinary action against Johnson”, but the chance of him being kicked out of the party as a result was “pretty much inconceivable. Though you never know how these things develop.”
Boris Johnson’s plan is to make it ‘acceptable’ for him (and through him, anyone) to speak that way about Muslim women, to make it ‘acceptable’ to talk people down...
As Philosopher Helen De Cruz rightly explained in an article for PMP Magazine, “Brexit is the project of putting people in their place”. It is all about “how Brexiters will be able to put anyone in their place. Anyone who is not rich, male and UK-born”. And Boris Johnson is on the driver seat of that big red bus.
After Muslim women, who will it be next? EU citizens, women, all Muslims, Jews, Catholics, foreigners, liberals, students, teachers, doctors, nurses, pensioners, people in deprived areas... It is ‘Divide and rule Britannia’.
So, there it is: Boris Johnson’s plan is to make it ‘acceptable’ to insult, vilify, abuse, ridicule and hate, because it is good for his image with his target voters. Nevermind if the cohesion of the entire British society suffers.
And guess what? It is already working: according to a Sky Data poll published this Wednesday, the majority of Britons (60%) think describing women in burkas as looking like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” is not racist.
The Guardian this Wednesday also explained that Conservative Party members “admire the former foreign secretary’s ‘straight talking’ on the controversial issue and suggested his words implied he had listened to some of their concerns about community integration.”
One association chair even told the newspaper: “He’s just saying what many people think. Boris is not the only one to feel uncomfortable about the way some Muslim women dress. His choice of language may not have been the wisest, but at least he’s talking about issues the rest of them seem too afraid to address.”
Finally, a ConservativeHome survey of party members published last week put Johnson top of the table, with almost a third of respondents backing him as their preferred choice. Second place is Sajid Javid and third Jacob Rees-Mogg. Interesting to note: he last led the ConservativeHome table in March 2016, just after his decision to campaign for Britain to leave the European Union.
Boris’ way out?
If Boris Johnson ends up being kicked out of the Conservatives though, he will undoubtedly turn his efforts towards getting together with new friends (Steve Bannon) and future new friends (Farage/Banks) in some kind of alliance or party. A Brexit party maybe? ‘A home for the forgotten’, a place for the people who feel betrayed by Theresa May’s Chequers plan and by the soft-Brexit Tories. An alliance that could bring together voters who believe only Johnson can ‘drain the swamp’ in Westminster.
Emboldened by his grassroot supporters, Johnson could lead a new party that would bring together Ultra right-wing Tories, Ultra-Brexiteers of all sides and far-right/alt-right militants and activists. At the helm of this dangerous new racist political party, a man with some crazy hairdo. Déjà vu?🔷
Share this article now:
Tell us your story:
Have you got a story to share
with our readers?
You can share your experience today
by submitting your story to us:
[This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com on 9 August 2018. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]
(Cover: Dreamstime/Katatonia82 - Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson makes a speech during a joint press conference of Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, UK and Poland - 1 March 2017.)