Featured in Comment Central: Ted Jeffery argues Boris will always have a liberal-Tory ideology just like his political idol, Sir Winston Churchill – another progressive Tory of his time.
Boris Johnson is by no means a nationalist pariah. He is, if anything, a liberal opportunist. He may slip into the tendencies of a Trump-esque character, but when he does, you should remember it’s all a part of the Boris act.
An act which started all the way back in the establishment riddled halls of Eton. A prestigious public school that in many ways was an economic class above the Johnson household. It was only because of a bursary that Boris managed to secure himself a place at the notorious Prime Ministerial factory. Eton provided a highly competitive environment, which taught a young Alexander (Boris) about how to make the most of life’s opportunities. Whether it was becoming The Telegraph’s top man in Brussels, or by bumbling his way through a grilling on ‘Have I Got News For You’, Boris has launched himself at these gigs, which in return made him a household name.
So what about his frankly less than liberal columns? Well, like most journalists, Boris knows how to provoke his audience and how to turn a slightly dreary topic into a controversial talking point. For instance, look at his ‘Burka letterbox’ piece. Yes, it was tasteless and didn’t do much for standing up against oppression. However, I believe the reason Boris made those remarks is no different from the reason he wrote about the EU wanting to inflict Nazi-style “punishment beatings” on the UK. For him, it’s about the thrill factor. Boris doesn’t believe a great deal of what he says. He alludes to the fact that he might for his very own ‘shock genre’.
Each column that Boris writes reads as if he is delivering a speech to the Oxford Union. He always seeks to invigorate his audience. Every journalist knows that to ensure regular readership week after week, you’ve got to have 60% of your spectators viewing your content because they agree. Meanwhile, the remaining 40% look on in the hope of being brassed off by your rhetoric. Boris understands this better than anyone else. This is why he continues to be contentious: because he knows it’ll bring in the traffic. It’s very unlikely you’ll see this trait during his time as PM, mainly because he isn’t fighting for anyone’s attention.
The truth is his pro-immigration, pro-same-sex marriage and pro-Union mantra is something that still solidifies him as a progressive, One Nation, Cameroon Tory. His self-appointment as Minister for the Union stands out as a principal liberal value that some say has been lost over the past four years of Brexit discourse.
By creating this role, Boris has cleverly sent out a message saying that he won’t be the Prime Minister for just the 52%. He understands the importance of the Union and won’t see it fall under his Premiership. It’s all just one more reason why the PM has been spending time touring the north, fighting for the Northern Powerhouse legacy.
Although the future of HS2 is still up in the air, this hasn’t stopped Boris from announcing a £39bn transport plan to help rejuvenate the railway network in the North of England. On top of this, he is looking to invest £3.6bn into some of the most deprived towns in the UK. So as opportunistic as he might seem, his liberal values of caring for some of the most culturally and economically damaged places in the UK have not been lost. Boris is by no means an Angel from the Heavens above, but he does understand the importance of investing in some of the UK’s most neglected regions.
Even Boris’ unpublished Pro-Remain piece is awash with liberal values that I can hardly believe he has lost over the past four years. He wrote about the benefits of the Single Market, saying:
“This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms. The membership fee seems rather small for all that access. Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”
Boris understands and appreciates the liberal nature of the Single Market. It is visible through his ability to bask in the deferred gratification of receiving access to a convenient trading model that offers us so much, in his own words, for so little.
It’s precisely the kind of ‘dirty talk’ that Anna Soubry and Chukka Umunna get off on. So why did Boris chuck these principles in the bin? Because he wanted to ride his populist horse straight into Number 10. However, Brexit was never a battle Boris expected to win. It was merely seen as another opportunity for Johnson to create some havoc for the then Prime Minister, David Cameron. But once Dave had resigned, the doors of 10 Downing Street were left wide open for Boris to stroll into eventually. That was until his Vote Leave chum, Michael Gove, notably the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, stabbed him in the back. Boris then had to wait an arduous three years before fulfilling his dream.
It’s difficult to tell whether or not Boris is going to have enough capital to inject into issues like policing, housing and the NHS. With a potential recession on the horizon, there will undoubtedly be an impact as to whether or not Boris can begin any form of a spending spree. It may also be a matter of this Tory PM having to increase borrowing to pay for all these pledges. Funnily enough, this is all starting to sound less and less Tory.
Boris will always have a liberal-Tory ideology just like his political idol, Sir Winston Churchill, a progressive Tory of his time. And, just like Churchill, the only way Boris will get through the next few months of party disunity, Commons warfare and voter fatigue is likely to be to “Keep Buggering On”.