I like Boris. I have never met him but I have seen the unbridled enthusiasm he used to inspire in those who did. I think he has been brilliant. He inspired, uplifted the nation and challenged dull assumptions the way no one else would do, When he was accused by establishment figures of breaking the rules, it was generally their rules and they needed tearing down in order to enable the Government and the Commons to do what they were elected to do.
I was frustrated more when he allowed himself to be bullied and bowed down by bureaucracy and ‘polite opinion’.
Now though it is just getting embarrassing. He cannot sit at the Cabinet Table alone, however tempting it is for that aspect of his deepest character that is not well known – “O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space.”
I would far prefer it if he could stay, and recover that ebullience which made us love him, and drive out all those underlings whose antics have caused embarrassment and scandal, which he was too ready to overlook as a forgiving, hands-off paternal figure.
It was going so well until COVID. I gasped when he called a lockdown, assured only that it was to be brief, to “squash that sombrero”, but once the lockdown hawks had their teeth into his Cabinet Office, they did not let go. The overcaution left us shut down in some way or another for nearly two years, and that wrecked the economy structurally. The opposition parties wanted the lockdown to be harder and longer, which would have made for a deeper recession that ever before since Attlee’s or Wilson’s, but that will not be remembered – just that Boris had his hand on the tiller.
Even if he had not shut the economy down, the rest of the world was shutting themselves down and shutting off the customers which trade needs. He could not help the war either. which has put the knife in further (well, he could have treated it like a civil war between Russian states and traded with all sides as if nothing had happened but the press cycle doesn’t work like that these days). His is the face seen in the reflection of the petrol prices.
The scandals were petty, local, nit-picking and nothing all the others were not doing. With the outraged, ousted establishment out to get him though, it was bound to be relentless. What always shocked me though was where the stories came from: Conservatives affected by a gropey MP or a creepy whip, or tales of boozy misconduct – why speak out when they knew it would damage the party and put the levers of power into dangerous hands? There is something sick about the thought processes and emotions of the political bubble.
He has deep faults, that would have sunk any politician long since in a previous generation. Some of his faults I can forgive (if it were up to me, which it is not) because they allowed him to think outside constraints and to achieve what accepted opinion would not believe could be done. The remoaners were right that Brexit could not work if their narrow ideas of possibility were to remain: Boris broke those preconceptions; he ripped out their Overton window and put in an open-plan window on the world. You have to love him for that.
His irredeemable fault though is that his inner shyness makes him afraid of conflict with those close to him, and they ran rings about him. The liberty that was necessary to achieve the previously unthinkable became licence to behave badly. He could not keep a cap on this, and from this followed all the petty scandals – the parties, the groping, and whatever else we have forgotten about.
I will miss him. I hope that whomever Her Majesty selects to fill his place in due time will have that same dash and refusal to be constrained by convention, but all the same, a control over those who would abuse that freedom. Otherwise it will be a long recession, an ignominious election defeat, and the ruin of what was becoming again the greatest nation of the Earth.
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