Studies history and politics at the University of Warwick. Member of the Young European Movement and currently doing erasmus at at the University of Vienna.
Rumours of Boris’ suitability for PM are nothing new, and the referendum campaign has only served to catapult him closer to the goal. Rather than genuinely seeking to leave the EU, Boris’ management of the OUT campaign is acting as one huge publicity stunt to solidify the idea of him as a leader in the minds of the electorate.
Not only have the last few months set Boris apart from other potential Conservative leadership candidates, but they have also given him significant airtime and a chance to prove himself as a man in charge, and - should he become Prime Minister - an excellent fall-back strategy for when things inevitably go pear-shaped.
As visions on a dastardly yet ingenious plan are conjured, it’s important to look at the wider effect it’s having on Great Britain. The outrageous comments, the populism, the misleading information and, of course, the distinctive whiff of a career politician are all adding up to mean that the UK’s long-term interests are not being catered for, and the trust of the nation is being given to the wrong man.
Back in 2015, the David Cameron told BBC news that he would not be seeking a third term in office. Speculation both within and outside the Tory party has been brewing for some time, and though there are many potential successors, Boris is tipped for the post. What better way to secure it than positioning himself in a campaign the Prime Minister’s equal? A stab at the role of PM is not something Boris is ruling out, so will he go for it? He’s certainly setting things up nicely for a clear shot at the goal.
Setting Himself Apart
Assuming that (and I’m cautiously confident), that IN wins, when the post-referendum buzz has died down and most campaigners and advocates crawl back into the nationalist woodwork from whence they came, Boris’ name will linger and the OUT crowd will reminisce about how one man fought a brave and noble battle. If nothing else, the EU referendum has been a massively successful branding exercise for BoJo. Not only is his reputation known the length and breadth of Britain, but he’s now become a household name on the continent. In a political world of leaders with all the charisma of tea towels, Boris comes as a breath of fresh air to disenfranchised and frankly quite bored voters (after all, very few politicians are bestowed with the honour of being referred to affectionately by only their first name). Right now, all eyes are on British politics, and Boris is belting out the solo.
BoJo is ensuring that his 15 minutes of fame are drawn out for as long as possible. Basking in the glow of the spotlight and his own impossibly bright hair, Boris now has the attention of the world and is using it to demonstrate his leadership skills.
Whilst most people usually jazz up their CV with a thesaurus and a slight over-exaggeration of their proficiency in French, Johnson has gone all-out and manoeuvred himself into a position where he is seen as Cameron’s equal in the debate. Driving the gaudy “Battle Bus” through the streets of Britain and flanked by swarms of journalists and campaign supervisors, there’s a certain familiarity when the mind is cast back to the recent general election and the idea of the bumbling, laughable ex-Mayor of London as Prime Minister suddenly doesn’t seem so unlikely.
“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and if in doubt, lead a multi-million pound Brexit campaign” – as the famous phrase goes.
I Told You So
Obviously, if OUT wins, Johnson can ride the wave of praise all the way straight to Number 10. But Boris doesn’t think that OUT are going to win, so this is instead a project to make his leadership bid better and his time as PM far easier.
The idea that the UK is not pro-European is ridiculous. We love it, or -more accurately – we love to moan about it. The most popular scapegoat since the witches burned at the stake for crop failure, the EU is a get-out-of-jail-free card for apparently Eurosceptic politicians. Housing crisis? EU immigrants! Terror attack right under MI5’s noses? Damn EU Free Movement! Bus is late? Bloody Brussels.
Fast forward to the 24th of June and if Boris has lost, he goes down in Eurosceptic history as the noble lone warrior who fought the enemy valiantly, despite being abandoned by the rest of his division – something akin to the historically-questionable budget war movies played on TV on rainy Sunday afternoons, and equally as distorted. Now, any political problems in the run-up to the leadership bid and during his time in office, Boris can blame on the Brussels Dictatorship – he’s the only one who can say (and he of course will say it) “I told you so”.
A smart move from a cutthroat, House of Cards-style point of view, but a bad move for the future of Britain and the un-demonisation of the EU. Scaremongering to fuel private ambition is not a trait desirable in a PM.
Throwing Europe Under the Bus
BoJo’s cunning yet simple plan combined with the farcical and frequent gaffes are shaping up to be perhaps the greatest real-life episode of The Thick of It ever witnessed, but the consequences for Britain are far from funny.
Whilst laughable, Johnson’s repeated slip-ups (intentional or otherwise), risk turning the British government into a laughing stock. Mostly harmless now, yes, but if he were to become PM, will a head of state with the tendency to over-reference the Nazis and strange fantasies about the regulations surrounding bananas really pack a formidable punch on the global stage? With the prospect of President Trump on the horizon, we need someone with weight to throw around.
On top of this, is a man motivated by self-promotion the kind of character for our country? Is it wise to give power to a man whose ambitions Britain will always come second to? We should be cautious of branding people “career politicians”, but a man who flipped from being pro-EU to being the one leading the OUT campaign and its army of nationalists is clearly not one governed by staunch loyalties. To say that good politics requires morals would be naive and over-ambitious, but it does at least require convictions – something which BoJo has proven himself to be lacking.
The third and final reason Boris’ leadership of the OUT campaign is problematic for Britain is that it is fulfilling its function. People are beginning to believe him. Aside from the obvious fact that I believe the Britain is better off in the EU, this is an issue beaus Boris himself is not sold, yet he’s willing to throw to throw something invaluable under the populist bus to further his own interests. A strong political move, but not one with Britain’s best interests at heart.
In short, it’s not Boris’s stance that we should be most critical of, it’s the fact that he chose to take it as a well-calculated and probably successful attempt to secure the keys to 10 Downing Street and his place in political history.
Whatever the outcome of this referendum, Boris is a winner and he’ll have climbed over the ruins of the EU’s reputation, his own convictions and the good of the British public in order to claim his victory.