The Tories have a history as a party of falling for scoundrels who present as “lovable rogues”. This has always been an integral element of Boris Johnson’s popularity with the Tory grassroots. But do they really want to hand Number 10 to someone quite this roguish? And is he actually all that lovable? The spotlight has been swivelled on to his torrid personal life by the episode in the early hours of Friday morning at his girlfriend’s home. Neighbours who called the police heard banging, slamming, shouting, screaming, swearing, stuff getting smashed and Carrie Symonds complaining that a sofa had been ruined with red wine: “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoilt. You have no care for money or anything.”
That’s an unattractive character reference from someone who goes to bed with him. It fits with a theme of his life: that the least flattering descriptions come from those who know him best. Sir Max Hastings, who employed him at the Daily Telegraph, describes him as “a gold medal egomaniac. I would not trust him with my wife nor – from painful experience – my wallet… He is also a far more ruthless, and frankly nastier, figure than the public appreciates.”
Politicians can change their hairstyles, waistlines, tax policies, views on transport projects and sexual partners, but they can’t change their essential character. [Continue reading…]
Six years ago, the Cambridge historian Christopher Clark published a study of the outbreak of the first world war, titled The Sleepwalkers. Though Clark is a fine scholar, I was unconvinced by his title, which suggested that the great powers stumbled mindlessly to disaster. On the contrary, the maddest aspect of 1914 was that each belligerent government convinced itself that it was acting rationally.
It would be fanciful to liken the ascent of Boris Johnson to the outbreak of global war, but similar forces are in play. There is room for debate about whether he is a scoundrel or mere rogue, but not much about his moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth. Nonetheless, even before the Conservative national membership cheers him in as our prime minister – denied the option of Nigel Farage, whom some polls suggest they would prefer – Tory MPs have thronged to do just that.
I have known Johnson since the 1980s, when I edited the Daily Telegraph and he was our flamboyant Brussels correspondent. I have argued for a decade that, while he is a brilliant entertainer who made a popular maître d’ for London as its mayor, he is unfit for national office, because it seems he cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification.
Tory MPs have launched this country upon an experiment in celebrity government, matching that taking place in Ukraine and the US, and it is unlikely to be derailed by the latest headlines. The Washington columnist George Will observes that Donald Trump does what his political base wants “by breaking all the china”. We can’t predict what a Johnson government will do, because its prospective leader has not got around to thinking about this. But his premiership will almost certainly reveal a contempt for rules, precedent, order and stability. [Continue reading…]
Boris Johnson broke cover on Monday night, vowing he would never reveal the events that led to the police being called to the home of his partner Carrie Symonds last week, after neighbours reported a loud row between the couple.
Amid mounting criticism that the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership campaign has been dodging public scrutiny, Johnson is now understood to be rolling out a “media blitz” for the coming days, beginning with five closely controlled events on Tuesday, in an attempt to defy accusations that he is in hiding. [Continue reading…]