The day that Boris Johnson was announced as Prime Minister had all the ingredients of apocalyptic foreboding that any political commentator could ever ask for. A heatwave scorched up and down the country, reaching 32C in London, and promising hotter conditions still later in the week. The almighty heat brought with it swarms of insects, with places like Leeds rife with the likes of flying ants. Finally, to cap off the day of sweat raddled defences against creepy crawlies, when the sun came down, storm clouds swallowed the land, bringing terrible rain showers and great claps of booming thunder. Anyone watching the day with the slightest bit of superstition probably has developed an anxiety disorder just from thinking about the days to come.
Conversely, if you were a supporter of Boris, you could just say that when he accepted his victory, he was greeted to a bright and beautiful day, with all of God’s creatures out to welcome him into the country. Thunderstorms could probably be worked in there with a positive light as well somehow, but that’s for the spin doctors to work out, and they probably have their hands full enough with the tangible aspects of this process to worry about the cosmic.
And it is a process isn’t it? It’s hard to view at as anything other than the mechanical action of moving from A to B, given the Conservative Leadership Contest was hardly a contest at all. Boris was not only bound to win, but people could see he was going to be the new leader months before May had even announced her resignation. May managed to grant herself a stay of execution on multiple occasions, but a replacement was clearly needed, and no-one’s a bigger name in the Conservative Party than the former mayor.
The nature of him being a forgone conclusion is probably what helped Boris most, since none of his actions seemed to be particularly endearing. Lying outright on stage about kippers and defending horrendous slurs are hard positions for most to be in, but we are Post-Truth now, and it’s easier to say a lie and never acknowledge it again, than it is to find the actual truth and get people to listen to you.
The whole proceedings were so pointless they’re not even worth thinking about again, so we must look to the present and future: where does this whole excruciatingly long song and dance leave us now? We have a man with a plan that will not work, who’s mulled subverting MPs to get his way (which, mercifully, may not end up happening), and was even “visibly shaken” at the idea of his threat of a no-deal exit leading to civil unrest. That last part is quite interesting to me, as I’d wondered after May announced her resignation, “Who’d want to take on this mess after her?” The answer: someone who can’t see it as a mess.
The Brexit process has been criticised by most MPs, Boris included, but now he’s been put in charge we’re going to see what happens when he has to come face to face with the realities of the whole situation. This may sound like I’m eating popcorn from my chair, awaiting the spectacle of all the shit in the country hitting the fan in Boris’ office simultaneously, but really it’s an uneasy feeling; a mixture of genuine perverse interest, how things can play out for someone with all the confidence in the world that this complicated problem can be solved easily with just a hint of gumption and bravado, but also a sense of sinking dread, a fear of what he will do in order to try and make it seem so easy, or get away with it if/when it turns out to not be so easy.
Boris is a man of darkness. He’s tied to Steve Bannon, the man credited with whipping up Americans into the cult of Trump, and has conspired with friends in the past about attacking journalists. His whole persona of being a bumbling clown is a huge smokescreen from his own genuine dangerous ideas and practices. His lies and two-faced political manoeuvres get dismissed when he goes off and acts the clown, in one of the most careful act of Public Relations in British political history.
Johnson has already appointed the former campaign director of Vote Leave Dominic Cummings as a senior adviser, a man who was found in contempt of parliament just this year, and in 2014 was described as a “career psychopath” by former Prime Minister David Cameron. Sky executive Andrew Griffith, who lent a £9.5 million townhouse to his leadership campaign, was also granted the chief business adviser role.
So where does that leave us again? God only knows. We’ve spent months trying to work out what to do as a country, and now the tiny minority have made up their minds for us, we have to wait and see if things will fall apart like things certainly seem prophesised to. But it feels too wishy-washy to end this by simply saying we will wait and see what will happen, especially at a time where hot nights, insect swarms, and thunder storms rob us of sleep, but it’s hard to do otherwise. Boris still holds his cards close to his chest, and there’s no telling how long we may have to wait to discover what game he exactly thought he was playing all this time.
Header Image By Robert Mandel, UK – Email from the author, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64050045