Rod Liddle

Why I’m not convinced by Boris

29 June 2019

9:00 AM

29 June 2019

9:00 AM

I had never heard of Mark Field until he was suspended for removing, in a commendably vigorous manner, the Greenpeace protester Janet Barker from a black tie event in London, where guests had gathered to listen to a speech from the man who is still Chancellor for a bit, Philip Hammond. I wondered immediately if Field could be shoehorned into the leadership contest somehow, given his decisiveness and admirable restraint. Faced with Ms Barker, I might have acted with less restraint, even if I agree with most of the stuff she’s protesting about. She posed a possible danger to guests and for feminists to say that she didn’t, because she’s a lady, seems to be having one’s cake and eating it.

But it is not that that enrages. It is the sense of entitlement on her part, the preening narcissism. Mind you, on the other hand, if I had been listening to a speech by Philip Hammond I would have welcomed any interruption — even plague, pestilence and locusts. Free me from this interminable bondage! With the possible exception of Barry ‘Chauncey’ Gardiner, is there a more boring man in British politics?

It has been reported that 92 per cent of left-wing protesters in Berlin still live with their parents. In other words, they haven’t grown up. They have no real stake in the wider society, just — like Ms Barker — an epic sense of entitlement, the right to be serially indulged, to be spoon-fed and assuaged in their confected anger at the world and their need to feel important, without being manhandled from the room. I assume the proportions are pretty much the same over here, and that maybe the 8 per cent who don’t live with their parents live instead in accommodation bought for them by their parents, which is kind of the same thing, no?

Such is the status, I suspect, of that repulsive couple Tom Penn and Eve Leigh, who called the police when they heard an argument coming from the flat next to them, which was occupied by Boris Johnson and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds.

Motivated by a deep concern for Ms Symonds, they recorded the row and gave the tape to the Guardian, as you do. They are both ‘playwrights’, although it is unclear if Mr Penn has ever had a play put on stage anywhere, by anyone. Ms Leigh has had a few staged, usually via the expense of public subsidy, including EU subsidy. In other words, people with proper jobs subsidise this woman in her belief that she is the new Strindberg (sans the toxic masculinity, natch), even if her plays, without subsidy, would get put on nowhere at all.

Is she grateful? Nah. They live in a flat valued at £750,000 and contribute — I would argue — absolutely nothing of value to the world. But once again, they feel entitled to be obnoxious to people who vote Conservative, to shriek their infantile middle-class leftism from the rooftops.

Penn and Leigh are high up on the list of reasons why I hate London: it’s full of people like them. Anyway, mentally they are both about 13 years old and in hock to mum and dad. ‘You can do anything you want to, my darlings!’ And of course they are possessed of the view that only they are right about stuff, especially the perfidy of the Tories, their wickedness.

And so to Boris. It would be remiss, in an article which is basically about that most defining trait of our times, self-entitlement, not to mention our next prime minister. Boris has been dodging the cameras with the same deftness with which he presumably dodged those plates flying around his girlfriend’s flat (which signify less than nothing). This is a wise move. If I were Boris’s keepers, a job I would not wish on anyone, I would enjoin upon them a campaign in which he does absolutely nothing and says absolutely nothing and talks to nobody whatsoever, and preferably sits out the next month in a padded cell. Partly because he has nothing to gain from exposing himself to scrutiny — his votes are all in the bag. But more so because while the idea of Boris being prime minister seems to be a good one, Boris being prime minister is not itself a good idea. By which I mean that the reality of Boris is rather less persuasive than the image we have of him.

Right now, for the Tory activists, that image is of a man with great ebullience and charisma who can carry all before him and swat aside Jeremy Corbyn in a general election, and that furthermore he is a determined Brexiteer who will finally extricate us from that needy and clinging supranational institution.

On the last point, I wouldn’t be too sure. The maths in the House of Commons is much as it has been these past two years: Boris changes nothing.

And like many others, I am not convinced that his commitment to Brexit is terribly fervent. He took his time to make his mind up which way he would campaign, and the decision was basically a roll of the dice — what’s in it for me, either way? It has been said before, but that strong and inviolable commitment to self-interest seems to be Boris’s defining characteristic.

Nor am I convinced that Boris would win an election, despite those opinion polls which reckoned he would lead the party to an enormous victory — much as they suggested Theresa May would do in June 2017. Boris does not play terribly well north of the Wash. The Billy Bunter stuff is amusing, but not compelling. And if he is to defeat Jeremy Hunt, he should at all times be stopped from appearing on the Nick Ferrari show, or in a debate. Subject him to scrutiny, and you begin to understand that his words are all writ in water.

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