Ban the Boris? │ Tom Bedworth

Here’s my issue with Boris Johnson: he’s not an idiot. Johnson is a remarkably intelligent man, having graduated with a 2:1 in Literae Humaniores (aka “Classics”) from Balliol College, Oxford University. Before his time in parliament (and during) he was a prominent journalist, and also a historian. Involved in politics from an early age, Johnson was elected President of the Oxford Union, following his position as the Secretary – not to mention his involvement with the infamous Old Etonian-dominated Bullingdon Club.

With his education and prominence as a journalist behind him, it’s abundantly clear that (whether you like him or not) Johnson is incredibly intelligent and has a fantastic command of the English language. Which makes you wonder why on earth he is… well, Boris Johnson.

During his time as Mayor of London (following his stint as MP for Henley, from 2001-2008), Johnson was seen as the bumbling, likeable mascot of the Conservative Party; he defeated ex-Labour Party member Ken Livingstone (twice) to hold the office of Mayor, and championed London transport, infrastructure, business and presided over the London 2012 Olympics during his second term of office. Johnson was often seen as a socially and economically liberal Conservative, which made him incredibly popular with voters in London.

In 2015, Boris Johnson once again became an MP, this time for the constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Johnson became the figurehead of the Vote Leave campaign, during the EU Referendum, and was later appointed as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Foreign Secretary) by Theresa May upon her election as Prime Minister in 2016. Johnson remained in the cabinet position for two years, until July 2018, when he resigned following disagreements with Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

History lesson over. That’s all the context you need; Boris is a politically savvy man, with a high intellect, and is very far from stupid.

“If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree[…] I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes[…] if a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber [he would ask her to remove it]” – Boris Johnson

When I first heard the news about Boris Johnson’s comments in his regular Daily Telegraph slot, my first reaction was filled with expletives.

The more I thought about it, the more alarmed I became; this wasn’t an off-the-cuff remark, or something he let slip when he thought his microphone was off. This was a premeditated, edited and published opinion article; not just a social faux-pas. So, with all the evidence above that suggests Johnson is an incredibly smart person, what could’ve driven him to make such blunt and, frankly, inflammatory comments?

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them – Napoleon Bonaparte

It’s public knowledge that Boris has entertained the idea of becoming the leader of the Tories, and Prime Minister. Anyone who disagrees with that is, bluntly, a moron. If you truly believe Boris Johnson is a selfless public servant doing his civic duty for the nation, then seriously reconsider your views of the world, you poor, naïve soul. After running in the 2016 leadership election, and subsequently pulling out of the race, Johnson showed his hand. He wants to lead the party; nothing more, nothing less.

Theresa May knew that Johnson would be a powerful, dangerous backbench MP when she became Prime Minister, therefore she promoted him to become Foreign Secretary to keep an eye on him (a cunning plan, to be sure… the only problem? It didn’t really work). Johnson has a lot of support from the grassroots of the Conservative Party, with MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg throwing their weight behind him in recent months.

On Donald Trump: “He’s friends with Mr [Piers] Morgan and Mr Putin, so he keeps very fine company.” – Jacob-Rees Mogg

Johnson’s resignation from the cabinet was a stroke of political genius. I’m no fan of his, but to give credit where it’s due, he played an absolute blinder with his withdrawal from the Cabinet. As the figurehead of Vote Leave, he was expected to favour a “hard Brexit” and when Theresa May’s “Chequers Plan” for Brexit was filled with compromises that would ensure a “soft Brexit” he chose to resign. He wouldn’t have been criticised by many had he stuck around after the plan was published, however with him quitting his role as Foreign Secretary, he has solidified his position in favour of a “hard Brexit” and therefore appears like a principled man, to both his supporters and detractors alike.

Moving ahead to 5th August 2018, and Johnson publishes his Daily Telegraph article condemning Denmark for banning the burka, by law. Boris chose a fantastic topic, something he knew would cause a major guffaw in the public eye. He has, again, played a blinder. To liberal Conservatives, he has stood up for the religious rights of an individual, and their right to choose how they dress; to the grassroots Conservatives, he’s brazenly heading towards a slippery slope that ends with Islamophobia, after likening the burka to “letter boxes” and those whom wear them look like “bank robbers.” Moreover, this language that mocks a religion is akin to the language used by some members of society whom hold bold opinions towards followers of Islam.

If Johnson is criticised by left-wing media outlets such as The Guardian, then right-leaning media such as The Times may defend him in the manner Blackadder-creator Rowan Atkinson did and claim that demanding an apology for a “joke” hinders one’s freedom of speech.

All jokes about religion cause offence, so it’s pointless apologising for them – Rowan Atkinson

Ultimately, what Johnson’s comments did were twofold:

A.) Promote himself as socially liberal, as he disagrees with a burka ban.

B.) Show himself to be a “man on the street” who can make “jokes” without displaying “political correctness gone mad.”

To conclude this rant, I believe that Johnson is a fantastic politician – that doesn’t mean I believe he is a moral politician, a la Jeremy Corbyn (whom I find fault with, but he stands by his morals, so it would seem).

We should all be vigilant in these times to come; when somebody intelligent acts as if they are baboon-like, we merely shrug off their unsavoury acts with “Oh bless him, how silly was that?!” Whereas if he says something that is actually rather reasonable, everybody will meet him with thunderous applause.

If we are to believe Johnson is an idiot, he can get away with anything. But if we evaluate his decisions as an intellectual, then his support will surely dwindle, and he’ll be seen for what he is – ambitious, ruthless, and self-interested.

But let’s give the man his dues; he does come across as somewhat, though I hate to say it… likeable? Watch this 40-second video, and you can see how he comes across as slightly charming:

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