Friday 22 November 2019

Boris is Just William

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Yesterday I quoted Henry explaining political parties to the Outlaws in Richmal Crompton's William, Prime Minister, a fine story. Today I recalled that my friend Ruth Dudley Edwards aptly compared Boris to William Brown when he (Boris I mean) became Prime Minister. 

I looked it up on the net and found a very good essay by her on the theme
Michael Deacon had also made the analogy last year, comparing Emily, Lady Nugee with one of the female battleaxes with whom William often battles. I quote from Ruth.

'Like so many others, I’ve spent all too much time recently weighing up the qualities and deficiencies of Boris Johnson and the pros and cons of having him as Prime Minister. That involved reading innumerable articles asking who the real Boris is. It made me little wiser. Much like Boris before the referendum, I dithered about whether we should take the risk.
'Which is why I was surprised last week at how joyful I felt when I watched him standing outside number 10. Illumination didn’t strike until the following day, when I heard that he had appointed Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove to implement revolution, and I realised that the real Boris is, of cours
e, the 11-year-old William Brown, of Just William fame, who is leading his gang, the Outlaws, to take on Brussels and win. I haven’t yet decided which of
the Downing Street outlaws is Ginger or Douglas – but clearly Michael Gove is Henry – the resident intellectual.
'(May I remind disgruntled members of the Conservative party that the 17th-century word is derived from the Irish tóraidhe, meaning outlaw, so Boris is
taking the party back to its roots when its members were threatened over a constitutional row and lived to fight again. It’s one of those allusions he could try lobbing at Leo Varadkar one of these days.)

'William was my childhood hero. I read my big brother’s enormous stock of his books, and then, when he grew out of them, bought each new one myself. Among the characteristics Boris shares with William are a resentment of authority, limitless self-belief, charisma, imagination, ingenuity, audacity and optimism, as well as untidiness, mendacity, impatience with routine and set tasks, a disdain for rules and bourgeois convention along with carelessness about other people’s possessions – all of which together get him into scrapes and out of them again largely unharmed. William is recognised as a born leader (whose father fears he will end up being hung), who may fall out with his followers occasionally, but doesn’t bear grudges. That is true even where Henry is concerned, even though he has been known sometimes to want to be leader himself.'

I felt joyful too when Boris kissed hands with the Queen and he did look like William Brown doing so. I am sure most Leave Tories were joyful and many others too, though plenty were not. But I am not as joyful about Boris now as I was. The appalling Theresa May has faded from my memory.

She was after all a singularly insubstantial figure. I remember John Major becoming Prime Minister when I was in Czechoslovakia and reading an article in the international Guardian, my only source of news apart from CNN in the one five star hotel and the BBC on shortwave. The Guardian writer likened John Major to Major Major, the anti-hero of Catch 22, a book I really should read, but the comparison is more true of Theresa May.

“Major Major had been born too late and too mediocre. Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.”
Is that not Mrs. May to a T?

Much is made of Boris's lies. He lied outrageously when he denied to Michael Howard that he had been unfaithful to his wife. He did not tell the truth when he told a Labour activist in a hospital that there were 'no press here', when he was surrounded by the press, though I am not sure that was exactly a lie, because a lie is intended to deceive and that could not have deceived anyone aged over eight.  

Still these childish fibs are very disturbing, like the assertion that he had given up drink until Brexit, when he continues to drink.

Peter Oborne, who admires Boris in some ways but who seems to me to be moving away from his previous Toryism, compiled a list of his lies. Most of them are not exactly lies  and many of the untruths, about how much his opponents' policies would cost for example, are characteristic of all elections. Still Boris like William is mendacious and this is very bad indeed. 

Even tricksters like Harold Wilson were not liars.

Still, the lies which depress me most (I am not objective) are the lies his opponents trot out about the Tories intending to run down the NHS and sell parts of it off to the Americans. The worst lies of all are calling Boris undemocratic because he intends to implement the referendum result and calling him, of all people, racist or far right.

He is the man to solve the Brexit crisis and should have been allowed to do so in 2016, but he is a social liberal who will preside over a continuing massive influx of immigrants into the U.K. 

In fact we shall exchange Eastern European unskilled workers for Commonwealth ones, even as AI allows many unskilled jobs to be done by robots.

Boris's foreign policy will be equally liberal, alas. He will be as close as possible to Europe and the USA, when Lord Salisbury's good old Tory policy of free trade with the world and Splendid Isolation would serve his country better.



  2. 'The Conservatives have a new political strategy: it’s called “lying”. They edited a video of Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, to make it appear as if he had been stumped by a tricky line of questioning from Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid. But in reality he’d made an immediate reply. They’ve claimed that Jeremy Corbyn plans to extend the free movement of people not just to the workers of Europe but to the world, when the Labour leader’s attachment even to the free movement of people within the European single market is in doubt. And on 19 November, the evening of the first head-to-head TV debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, the Conservatives changed their press office’s official Twitter account to make it resemble that of a neutral fact-checking service as they tweeted out pro-Tory lines.

    'The party’s appetite for deception is particularly unnerving because, although influence on Twitter is largely trivial as far as the struggle for political power is concerned, it’s a public platform. Most at Westminster assume that the Conservatives are engaging in even bigger fibs on Facebook or in direct mail to people’s homes – enclosed spaces where rival parties cannot easily combat untruths.'

    Stephen Bush in the NS. Of course the Conservative fact checking site on Twitter was good knockabout stuff, the allegation that Corbyn favours very lax immigration rules is fair too and important to make, but deceitfully editing Sir Keir was not cricket. There is much less probity these days than ''consule Planco', when Sir Alec Douglas-Home was PM. Or when Mrs Thatcher was.