While on a trade mission to America, Boris was asked the kind of questions politicians always get thrown, but almost invariably fumble (to use an Americanism). He was asked to imagine a scenario in which he was in a rescue dinghy that had room for only one more person: which one would he save? David Cameron or George Osborne? This was Boris’ answer in full:
“I’d immediately plunge, dive overboard, and offer them the dinghy in the knowledge that I can swim heroically to land myself. That’s what I’d do.”
That’s a great answer, and the reason I start this article citing it is to demonstrate how able Boris is as a politician. In other words, the public facing stuff he does very, very well – perhaps better than anyone in recent memory. He’s the only political figure whose speech to party conference, at any of the party conferences, genuinely makes me laugh every year without fail.
However, this is the crux of why he scares me. When you combine his talent with his, how shall I put this, fluidity in regards to what he stands for, you end up wondering what he might be like were he ever to become leader of the Conservative party. Let’s take his position on immigration as an example. Here are two quotes:
“How would people feel if the population pressure was caused entirely by white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant babies?….do those who favour population controls want forced sterilisation or a one baby policy?”
“Britain is now the America of the EU; the place people want to come; the magnet for the hordes at Calais. It is only reasonable for us to have some kind of further protections — involving points or even quotas, agreed with business — so we can manage that pressure.”
One comes from a speech in which Boris also said that “there will be an economic price to pay” if we limit immigration; the other in which he made reference to “the hordes at Calais” like some UKIP councillor let off the leash. And you know what? They were only two months apart; one from October last year, the other from December 2014.
This leads me to ask: which is the real Boris? The bike riding, liberal mayor of London? I kind of like that guy – I even gave him my second preference (although that was more of an anti-Ken Livingstone gesture, if I was being completely honest). Or is the real Boris the one ranting about the hordes at Calais? Because that guy really scares the crap out of me. Or is it perhaps neither?
Upon reflection, it’s actually the last possibility that scares me the most. The worry that if Boris became the leader of the Conservative party, he would be beholden to whatever ideological bent was in the ascendancy at the time. So if they were in a mind to get the Kippers back and thus have to bend to the right, fine with BoJo. If a more liberal air is flowing through Millbank, that’s cool as well – whatever.
I really do hope the real Boris is the liberal guy and that he just feels the need to throw some nutter meat to the right of his party now and again to keep his leadership hopes alive. However, I have no idea if that’s the case. And that’s what frightens me.