Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Theresa May and Boris Johnson are caricatures of themselves, but Boris does it well


"Perhaps we all eventually turn into caricatures of ourselves. As time went on, May certainly appeared to. That childhood-learned sense of duty seemed to narrow to a resolve to cling on in office; the commitment to others, a conviction that the country needed her. The game was clearly up by mid-March, when MPs crushed the Withdrawal Agreement for the second time and a vote on extension was announced. The Conservatives’ poll ratings began to fold that week. These have not reached 40 per cent since.

"If you promise over 100 times that Britain will leave the EU on March 29, and it doesn’t; then say that you are not prepared to delay Brexit later than the end of June, but do; announce that it would be “unacceptable” for European elections to take place, but they happen; and if you denounce Jeremy Corbyn as a threat to the country, but then seek to work with him over Brexit, you will poison the well not only for yourself, but also for your party. Conservative MPs opted for Boris Johnson for simple, sole reason that they think he has the best chance of cleansing the waters."

I agree with this except that trying to do a deal with Labour was common sense and should have happened three years earlier. 

However, I see no redeeming feature in Mrs May.

Many of us become caricatures of ourselves. Boris deliberately crafted himself into a caricature to start with and it has served him very well indeed. 

It is not clear who said life is not about finding yourself but creating yourself. Mahler attributed it to Sir (St) Thomas More but I wonder if he said it. Whoever said it, Boris is an example of it working. 

But Boris is not an actor in the sense that Harold Macmillan was the 'old actor-manager' or even the sense in which Tony Blair is a very good actor. Everything with Boris is an act. Understand that and you understand everything.

An elderly socialist told me the best speaker he ever heard was the Tory leader Sir Austen Chamberlain,  but that was in the era of big public meetings. William Hague prepared himself to be a political leader in his precocious childhood in the 1970s and by 1997 that was out of date. Mr Anthony Blair had invented a new style of discourse for television. 

In the present era Prime Ministers and Presidents are becoming reality television stars. We want them to entertain us. Boris was born for this era. Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt were not. 


  1. It’s curious that most of the British public believe they know Boris already. Many probably think of him as a brash, self-centered wag who dominates every conversation with a string of anecdotes and routines – like an albino Oscar Wilde.

    Not at all. He’s modest and even shy at the dinner table. He restricts himself to his immediate neighbors and he never turns a social event into a solo performance. He’s a great listener. He draws people into his confidence by offering a personal revelation.

    People say he can’t ‘do detail’. But nobody spends four years studying classics at Oxford without the power to absorb and retain a mass of abstract information.

    The point about detail is that Boris finds it easy to master. It doesn’t occur to him that others might struggle. Perhaps it bores him too. Grappling with minutiae is for wonks, after all.

    His mission, as leader, is to project confidence and optimism from the top. After three years of Mrs Dithers we need a bit of courage and guts in Number 10, a sense of purpose and a relish for attack.

    Boris Johnson will soon be the most popular leader in the world
    Lloyd Evans

  2. @ Paul
    Who is this "we" of which you write?
    I don't want HMPM to entertain me, I want him/her to govern competently.
    I am happy to find my entertainment elsewhere.
    But each to their own.

    1. 'I want him/her to govern competently'


  3. The motion was deadly serious—“This House Would Reintroduce Capital Punishment”—yet almost everything that came out of his mouth provoked gales of laughter. This was no ordinary undergraduate proposing a motion, but a Music Hall veteran performing a well-rehearsed comic routine. His lack of preparedness seemed less like evidence of his own shortcomings as a debater and more a way of sending up all the other speakers, as well as the pomposity of the proceedings. You got the sense that he could easily have delivered a highly effective speech if he’d wanted to, but was too clever and sophisticated—and honest—to enter into such a silly charade. To do what the other debaters were doing, and pretend he believed what was coming out of his mouth, would have been patronising. Everyone else was taking the audience for fools, but not him. He was openly insincere and, in being so, somehow seemed more authentic than everyone else.

    Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man: A Profile of Boris Johnson
    written by Toby Young
    Published on July 23, 2019