He has reached the top of the greasy pole at last. Roy Hattesley (I think) once called Benjamin Disraeli the only first-class stand-up comedian ever to become Prime Minister; well here we have another. A journalist, author, historian and comedian, whose candidature was once considered a joke but who is acknowledged to be the most intelligent of all the candidates, and now the new Prime Minister.
He is an unpredictable character, and things said for show might not echo in action even for the most principled politician, though for most of them that is a good thing, the wild promises they make. For Boris Johnson, a showman to all appearances, we just cannot tell.
There is a fulsome tribute to Boris Johnson today in Quillette, by Toby Young, who has known him since Oxford: “Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man“, including a first hand account of an address by Boris to the Oxford Union which has gone down in legend.
Some things we can be pretty sure of:
- He will surprise his opponents;
- He will disappoint and frustrate his supporters;
- A great many MPs will be drawn from the backbenches to fill the shoes of those who cannot hack it;
- The coming men will themselves surprise their enemies and disappoint and frustrate their supporters;
- Someone will start a cry of ‘betrayal’.
When there is a change at the top, political commentators will project all their own hopes and fears on the new man and declare in all solemnity that there is only one way to go on X, Y or Z, and claim to understand exactly what is in the mind of the new PM, which is surprisingly exactly what is in the commentator’s own mind, and they will be shocked, and convinced of an establishment plot, when it does not turn out so..
Some of the displaced establishment will make grand speeches and may go off to found thinktanks or learned commissions, hoping to drink taxpayers’ money and that of generous donors for a few years yet, and these bodies may make a positive difference until captured by left-wing applicants.
Overall, and I may be the first to take an honest line on this, asked what we will see from a Boris Johnson ministry, I will say – I do not know, nor does anyone, least of all the man himself.