I have a confession to make: whenever I’m at Tory party conference (I attend all the party conferences every autumn), I try and clear time to see Boris’ speech. There is no equivalent at any other conference – I have never thought “can’t miss Emily Thornberry” while at Labour.
To do this isn’t as simple as simply showing up at the hall right before he speaks either. It is so oversubscribed every year that you have to sit through whatever boring thing precedes it in order to partake. In other words, I am willing to sit through some turgid session of a Parliamentary Under Secretary taking questions from the swivel-eyed (“Hello, I’m Bob and I’m a Councillor in Northamptonshire. I’m also to the right of Ghengis Khan. My question is, could we bring back flogging in town centres as a means of dealing with youth crime?) just to see BoJo.
So I clearly have a certain affection for Boris. But as a light entertainer, not a politician. Because in essence, that is what Boris is: a television personality. Just like Donald Trump, who is great in “The Apprentice”. I just wouldn’t want to live in any country he was in charge of.
There are other similarities between the two men. Both come from privilege yet try and relate to the common man by means of “straight talking”. Both are admired for their audacious public persona as opposed to anything they’ve ever actually achieved in the political sphere. And both of them will seemingly say anything to play to a right-wing audience whose support they require yet whose beliefs they don’t actually share.
This all came to me as I read about Boris in a Commons Treasury meeting yesterday. He was asked by MPs to clarify some of the things he had said about the EU lately that, um, may have lacked veracity – Johnson responded as he always does, with light buffoonery. Boris seemingly has no way out of the “Boris persona”. Here he was, being asked to defend the things he’d said, and he could only come back with another round of quips. It seems more and more likely to me that Boris doesn’t care one way or another whether or not the UK remains in the EU. Being on the Outside simply gave him the best chance to play to the gallery, which is what he wants. Actually, I think it may be what he needs.
Both Boris and Trump are the worst kind of politican in today’s confused political landscape: the ones who have moulded personas around the idea of being unlike other politicians in that they are honest and straightforward in saying what they believe, when in reality they are simply coughing up what the crowd wants to hear. Populism posing as conviction. It is a bad time for politics in the western world, with the centre-right becoming evermore arrogant while staring down at a broken centre-left. If either Trump or Boris gets put in executive charge of one of the two leading western nations, it would be terrible for the world. If they both do, I might have to emigrate to Mars.