As many of you already know, I’ve never been a fan of Boris Johnson. I don’t hate the man or even really dislike him; I just think he chose the wrong line of work. There is an alternative universe where the Boris Johnson Show on BBC1 is keeping the nation warm during the crisis, as Boris interviews celebs and MPs via Skype, with the usual technological breakdowns adding to the standard Boris shenanigans. I’ve always seen Johnson as an entertainer, not a serious bloke. Certainly not someone who should be prime minister at the best of times – and God help us for the worst.
Yet I now want to take the time to be as objective as possible about how he has handled this crisis so far. I’ll start off by saying that on my Twitter timeline – and digging deeper into FBPE Twitter in general, because I have that sort of time at the moment – a widely shared video clip showed what appeared to be the draconian punch back awaiting anyone in China who defies the authorities over any aspect of their CoVid policy. It ends with the victim having a net forcefully fitted over his head before he is dragged off mercilessly by the authorities.
I don’t speak Mandarin or any other Chinese language, so I have no idea what’s being said in the video. What I can comment on is the left/FBPE/anti-Boris section of social media’s response, which to summarise was: you see, Boris? This is how you deal with CoVid! Which is interesting since only last week, a lot of these same people would have been calling Boris a proto-fascist who is looking for any excuse to grab power. Hell, some of them are still claiming that while simultaneously sharing videos of what goes on in a dictatorship and being upset that Boris isn’t doing the same thing and grabbing all the power for the state available. All while never beginning to grasp the irony.
If this crisis undoes Boris Johnson as a politician, it will be because he was too unwilling to grab power for the state; he was too liberal in the most basic sense. He is clearly fighting against a lot of his cabinet at present, who want to introduce heaver measures like full lockdown. Now, it may be that, given the circumstances, those calling for more restrictions on movement are right and Boris is wrong in an objective sense. What cannot be said is that Boris is the fascist here. To keep saying that in the face of clear evidence is nonsensical.
Boris has fought against depriving Brits of their liberties as much as possible since the beginning of this crisis. I still don’t think he’s the right man to be prime minister because, more than ever now, I don’t see him as a serious enough figure to be prime minister, particularly in a time of crisis. But it’s clear where his instincts lie and that is in favouring personal liberty to a fault. Liberals should at least acknowledge this, even if they think that perhaps he’s been too liberal given the circumstances. The “Boris is a fascist” thing never held any water for me but has now been disproven to everyone who doesn’t want to wear very thick partisan glasses.
In fact, I’ll close by saying that I actually fear for Boris, as in, for the first time since he became leader of the Conservative Party, I’m conflicted about wanting to see him stay in the job. I used to take it as a given that I’d be happy if almost any other Tory MP took the job but now I’m far less sure. Even if Boris has massively screwed up by not being authoritarian enough over the last couple of weeks, I fear for what happens if Johnson goes only to be replaced by a Tory MP who will have no second thoughts about grabbing as much power as possible. It may get us through the crisis in a way Boris wouldn’t have managed – but what happens after we’re through this horror show and are left with someone truly authoritarian in charge? Jesus, shows how bad things have got that I now have some shred of hope that Boris Johnson hangs onto his premiership. But that’s where we are.
In a few weeks time, I have another book coming out. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
It’s out on April 9th, but you can pre-order here: