A Prime Minister called Boris
Desperate times need desperate measures and whatever else you say about Boris Johnson, he is a desperate man. In every sense of the word. If they can keep him locked up and silent during the next few stages of candidate selection – no mean feat, mind you – it is possible that he will become Prime Minister of Britain. Ken Clarke will burn in his cigar. Churchill will turn in his grave. Life will never be the same again. It is difficult to overestimate the change that will come about if Boris enters No 10 as tenant. Difficult, but we must.
First, the signs are that the world’s financial stability is shaky. Truth is, nobody knows how shaky. Mountainous, un-repayable debt, money printing, severe over-leveraging and a ‘risk and compliance’ system completely out of control do not bode well for good money management. The IMF Chief, Christine Lagarde, is almost reduced to uncharacteristic silence for not knowing where we are headed. Economists propose outrageous irresponsibilities like printing money forever, who cares its value. Stability is not a word to use about future finance.
Second, populism as a way of truly democratic life is something we must get used to. Emily Pankhurst must be quietly rejoicing in whatever is her heaven. It’s what she fought for. She might not like the consequences but then we often don’t like what we ask for, when we get it. Until we have the courage to change the way democracy is effected to something more equitable we must put up with it. It will mean that whatever takes the public’s fancy, and for however long it keeps it, we will have tsunamis of oversimplified strategy to contend with.
Third, the short-termism we have become used to will soon look like long and thoughtful planning. Even in the last few years we have become accustomed to thinking in millennia where previously decades were our measure of time. It is a result of our greater ability to see the past plus a recognition of the speed of today’s world. Get used to fast changes from now on.
Fourth, vulgarity. It’s a word usually associated with lewd jokes and foul language. Its origin is a description of the behaviour of the masses. Its adoption has allowed a level of impoliteness and crudeness in human relations I would never have thought possible. When people say – as they increasingly do – that civilisation is going backwards they mostly mean that we are becoming cruder and less sensitive in our relationships with others. The essence of a civilised society is that its behaviour is more gentle than rough, more considerate than brutish.
Boris Johnson didn’t invent all – or, indeed, any – of these things. He spotted them as Father Christmas spots The Rednosed Reindeer, a vehicle of such preposterous incredulity that the only possible course of action is to board it. Believe me, Johnson is determined to do so. Is there a brighter aspect to his lurching over the side and splashing into Downing Street? Curiously – and not a little perversely – I think there may be.
Just as the extreme Left always goes Right in office so the paranoically Stupid usually turns Sane. Boris Johnson is not a fool, he just behaves foolishly. The clown at the circus keeps a wary eye on the lion. Thus Boris will keep a good lookout for his friends Trump, Xi, Putin, Duterte, et al. He knows which side of the butter his bread is. Unlike some of his personal relationships, the Premiership, even of a distracted and incoherent Britain, is not something he wishes to slip in and out of quickly. Once through the door Boris will want to stay awhile.
His ability to unite is forgotten in the dazzle of his ability to frustrate. When Mayor of London he did several things thought by his predecessor to be impossible. As Mayor of Britain he may turn out to have the same ability even though it involves a fair bit of sleight of hand. You need that in a job like the one he aspires to. Even my honest friend Harold Macmillan wasn’t above a bit of political card-sharping to get his policies adopted. It’s the nature of the job. Boris won’t be a Harold Macmillan but he might be a Harold Wilson.
Above all, we must never forget that the Mantle of Office is a sobering robe for even the most frivolous. Tough times require iron fists and velvet gloves. Who knows but that Boris Johnson may have just that equipment even though it is hidden from view at present.
We have just finished with the most disastrous Prime Minister in British History. Perhaps as the wheel turns it’s time for a better prize from the lucky dip.
It is much to be hoped for.