Two things inspired me to write this article, although the basic idea behind it has been swirling around subconsciously for a couple of weeks now. One was another of Boris’ innumerable, inane, Leave orientated stunts last week. He was in a car with “Vote Leave” on the side of it; while the driver of the vehicle spun the car around and around in circles, Boris shouted “We’re taking back control!” As far as unintended visual political metaphors go, this may be the best one ever in the history of the human race.
Second was an article by Katie Hopkins in the Mail – even she thinks Boris has been bad for the Leave campaign. I think we can safely say now that Boris has been a net negative for Vote Leave.
This is a major shock when seen from the point of view of back when Boris first announced he was taking a pro-Brexit position in late-February. Many Brexiteers were beside themselves with excitement – having such a popular Tory figure looked like it gave them a real chance of winning the referendum. Me, I thought that Boris would use the referendum campaign as a chance to show that he could be a statesman and thus prime minister. Gone would be the Buffon antics (or at least seriously downplayed) as we saw the serious side of Boris.
It looks like we were all wrong. All we’ve seen from Boris over the last three months had been the usual Boris shtick: stupid stunts, jokes aplenty, quotes meant to shock. What Boris doesn’t seem to get (or doesn’t care about) is that mentioning Hitler is a good idea if you just want to create a stir. If you want to win people round to the viewpoint you are aspousing, it is a terrible thing to do.
Beyond hurting the Vote Leave campaign, Boris has blown his chance at being prime minister with his behaviour over the past few months. I can see Tory members blaming Boris a fair bit if Leave loses big. The narrative is emerging already: Gove, IDS, Grayling, all of them played a straight bat, desperate to win, while Boris clowned around, seemingly only interested in gaining as much publicity for himself as possible.
Things like Boris winning the Ergodan poem competition in the Spectator is a good example. I, for the record, rather liked the idea of the contest – Ergodan needs to be ridiculed as much as possible. But Boris openly calling another world leader a wanker is, well, not very statesmanlike. I think the Tory members will have been watching all this and been unimpressed. I mean, they’ll have found it entertaining I would imagine, but not very prime ministerial. Which if you want to be prime minister is an important thing to get right.
In the end, Boris can only do the Boris thing it seems. He is a clown at heart. Which looks as if it will turn out to be a tragedy for those who wish to see Britain leave the EU, and a very lucky coincidence for those who want the country to remain in.