With Boris Johnson now settling into Number 10 as our new Prime Minister, InQuire’s very own Newspaper Editor, Bill Bowkett, and Online News Editor, Alejandro Javierre, give their opposing views on this political milestone and their hopes and fears over our new leader.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors' and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Inquire Media
Bill Bowkett: ‘The Boris Factor’ Makes for a Great PM
"We are once again going to believe in ourselves, and like some slumbering giant we are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity."
Those were the emphatic words of our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, as he celebrated his momentous victory last week. Whilst it was not surprising to see Johnson come on top of Jeremy Hunt (a third of MPs backed him in stage one), it signals the significant backing that Boris has from grassroot members, and how they have been willing for a leader who would take control of the prevailing issue of our time, Brexit, with credence and conviction.
Johnson’s moment has come and already his impact is beginning to show. He has slipped into the executive with speed and decisiveness, with the sole aim of uniting country and defeating Jeremy Corbyn.
The blonde bombshell is a tour de force in British politics. His personality is so strong and unique it’s easy to forget how smart, strategic and intelligent the former journalist is. More importantly, he enchants with the greatest trait that any statesman can have: character.
In a masterful Commons debut as PM, Johnson set out an inspired vision for making the UK “the greatest place on Earth”. A nation he sees as having lower taxes, super-fast broadband, fantastic transportation, and 20,000 more police officers. He also announced amnesty for 500,000 illegal immigrants currently in the UK , which intrigues me to know which Boris we’ll get: the cosmopolitan, pro-gay marriage, pro-immigrant Whig who managed to win the London mayordom on two separate occasions; or the opinionated populist who is critical of burka and fearful of European bureaucrats crippling the economy with red tape. All these measures, the liberal policies and impassioned language, is part of a programme which neatly sets the stage for an election, which at this rate may be in less than six months.
Johnson has a willingness and ability to listen and respect others, something Theresa May was criticised for not doing. He has appointed not only the most neoliberal cabinet since Thatcher, but also the youngest and most diverse, giving prestigious cabinet positions to ethnic minority representatives like Priti Patel (Home Secretary), and Sajid Javid (Chancellor).
Behind all the teddy-bear looks and public gaffes lies a deadly political animal, one who, as a little schoolboy, wanted to become “world king”. An admirer of Winston Churchill, Johnson was quoted in the Observer stating he “emulates [him] with comparable panache” as he is faced with the daunting task of securing a better deal with Brussels; something all too difficult for his predecessor, Theresa May, who was condemned to political incompetence and unwilling to compromise in order to preserve the little power she had.
I am sceptical of our new man in Number 10, I will not deny. Aside from his “lazy” organisation (especially his handling of the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe) and record for telling the truth, I continue to question the antics of his ever-frivolous private life and extravagant lifestyle. And whilst it is in bad faith to decontextualise the comments Johnson has made in the past while simultaneously branding him a bigot, it may come back to bite him if he wants to do well in key battlegrounds like Canterbury.
Ultimately, he chose to “Take Back Control” and has stood by that decision, even jumping ship as Foreign Secretary. While the consequences of Brexit look daunting and economically disruptive, Johnson knows that with the right preparation and investment (this week announcing £2 billion for World Trade Organisation) provisions -we will survive.
There has always been a noteworthy quality to Johnson, a ‘Boris Factor’, and at times it is hard to put your finger on it. Now that he’s in the driving seat, let us see if he is the box office hit fans make him out to be.
Alejandro Javierre: Boris’s Past Catastrophes Say It All
Elitism is an issue permeating all levels of Parliamentary discourse, and as inequality increases to heights never before seen in modern times, there is no worse candidate to elect than Boris Johnson.
After attending Eton, then Cambridge, and having the ironic pedigree of being a son of an ex-MEP and European Commission member, Johnson somehow manages to buck every expectation that has been placed upon him.
Rather than shunning the most damaging Foreign Secretary in recent memory, the Conservative Party have instead decided to put him into the one position he could potentially do more damage in. A party that is holding onto its power by a single seat has voted overwhelmingly to elect the Jester, and one can easily ask the question: how many more examples of Boris’s failures do we need before we can finally say ‘no’?
There are so many examples of failure at international politics that it is hard to quantify a ‘worst incident’. Case in point: a particularly famous example of Johnson’s failings as a foreign secretary was when he took a taxpayer-paid stint to Asia, where he sung a racist Rudyard Kipling poem in which a Myanmar temple is depicted as the site of a massacre perpetrated by British soldiers. Johnson’s singing was so inappropriate, the Ambassador to Myanmar had to verbally tell him to stop -all of which was caught on the audio of a nearby camera.
Such diplomacy skills are so woefully problematic as to get journalist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had been unjustly arrested, incarcerated into an Iranian prison; all because Johnson’s tongue slipped and casually told Iranian officials she was “teaching journalism” to local residents. It’s hard to consider a less qualified person to lead the tense and delicate negotiations with Brussels without causing an international incident.
Maybe it’s Boris’s domestic track record that has given him his claim to the United Kingdom’s highest seat of power. There are many examples of incompetent policymaking, such as the ex-Mayor of London’s famous ‘Boris Buses’, which were designed to replace London’s fleet of double-deckers and which were discontinued by his successor, Sadiq Khan, because they were too expensive to make. However, from some genuinely bizarre interviews with Boris, buses appear to be a small hobby for him.
Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson, served as the Head of the European Commission’s Prevention of Pollution Division, yet despite this environmentalist background, Boris’s political history is plagued by indifference towards many environmental policies. This couldn’t be more evident when it was found in 2016 that, when Mayor of London, he held back on releasing a report that argued that pollution in the capital was causing health complications for deprived schools. It was also found that Johnson accepted donations from the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a leading climate change denial group that routinely opposes widely-agreed climate science.
Beyond all this, Johnson’s inadequacy to represent the British people at such a turbulent time in world politics extends even further, with several instances highlighting rampant racism towards vulnerable minority groups. Several examples, taken from Johnson’s ‘journalistic’ opinion articles, from referring to Muslim women wearing Burkas as “letterboxes and bank robbers”, to calling African nationals “Picerninnies with watermelon smiles”, our new Prime Minister’s sheer apathy towards showing respect for other cultures is present throughout his storied parliamentary career.
As the United Kingdom encounters its biggest political change in recent decades and the very bedrock of our democracy is tested by a resurgence of the far-right, one must ask: who does Boris Johnson really represent if not the British people?