With the elimination of Michael Gove from the Conservative party’s leadership contest, we are down to the final two, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, on whom the Conservative party membership (incidentally, a minuscule slither of the electorate) will vote. Given Johnson’s popularity with party members, it seems as though another old Etonian coronation is inevitable. Here’s a few reasons why that should worry you.
It’s no wonder that Donald Trump has taken such a liking to Johnson, as Johnson is often so Trump-esque in his behaviour. Seemingly career-ending gaffes make no dent in his popularity: from his careless comments to a select committee which led to the imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran, to his remark that the Libyan city of Sirte would make a lovely resort once they’d ‘[cleared] the dead bodies away’. Just as Trump’s infamous ‘grab them by the pussy’ tape did not deter many of his supporters, it seems that Johnson’s supporters just do not care what he does, as long as he remains a flag bearer for their little Englandism. And, moreover, the Conservative party itself rewards Johnson’s incompetence with promotion after promotion, which is testament to the superficiality of their belief in meritocracy.
Another notably Trump-like trait of Johnson’s is his wild, undeliverable promises and his weak grasp of the truth. For instance, though he positions himself as the man to sort out Brexit, his plans are not viable. The BBC fact-checked his claims that we could trade under GATT 24 in case of a no-deal Brexit, and found them wanting. Furthermore, Johnson is patently aware that the parliamentary arithmetic just does not add up when it comes to pushing through a no-deal Brexit- yet he still floats it as an option.
Finally, and possibly most troublingly, is Johnson’s history of Islamophobic comments. He likened Muslim women in burqas to letterboxes, and when challenged about this in the BBC leadership debate, he began to wax lyrical about having a Muslim great-grandfather (this must be the 2019 iteration of ‘I can’t be racist because I have friends that aren’t white’). At a time when Islamophobic hate crime is rising in the UK, the installation of Johnson in number 10, Downing Street, is deeply worrying.
It seems that the adage ‘we get the politicians we deserve’ holds if Johnson wins. The rising tide of far-right nationalism in the UK is truly reflected in his record. I dread to think what his (likely) tenure as PM could hold.
Words by Kate Newby.