Boris Johnson, king of the gammons, has spoken again, and his phonographically registered verbiage has been pumped around the sewers of social media. In truth, it’s hard to be sure, listening to the audio clips on Buzzfeed, whether we are hearing the man himself or a beta test of an algorithm designed to speech-synthesise colonial throwback white male upper-class overprivilege. It hardly makes much difference either way though: Boris is a seventh generation recording of Winston Churchill’s greatest hits, and Churchill was a British empire tribute band. It’s copies all the way down with this lot.
The comments confirm, once again, our faux Foreign Secretary’s absence of self awareness concerning his chequered history with the truth, and its consequences for his credibility. This is a man who continually makes statements with little correspondence to the reality-based world: erroneously suggesting that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British woman jailed in Iran, had travelled there on business; insisting that he didn’t waste “a single penny” of the £46 million of public revenue spent on the failed garden bridge project; describing Africa as a country. And of course the £350 million for the NHS promise, written on the side of what my friend’s mum recently referred to as “that Labour bus” – a promise described by the head of the UK Statistics Authority as “a clear misuse of official statistics.”
This is a man whose grasp of the truth of even his own views is so tenuous that before the referendum he wrote two newspaper columns, one advocating remain and the other advocating leave. Picture him with a little cartoon devil of Farage hovering on his right shoulder, pint in hand, urging mischief, while angel Cameron pleads into the left ear.
So when Boris says that max fac is viable, that the Irish border difficulties have been vastly overstated, that concerns about customs disruptions are “millennium bug” hysteria, does he realise that, due to his track record, his statements actually lend credibility to the exact opposite positions?
Perhaps his most revealing remark was about how Donald Trump would make a great job of Brexit, because he would create “all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos”, and as a result get things done. Our Etonian clown turns out to be a crypto-punk, a scorched-earth Nietzschean for whom true acts of creation involve ripping up the established order. Boris and his hard Brexit chums think a bit of short term disruption – some companies closing down here and there, people losing their jobs, a few extra bombs around the Irish border – is a price worth paying for the medium to long term benefits, for which read: deregulation, lower taxes, higher inequality, and unscrupulous rich people getting even richer.
His comments expose the logic of Tory Brexit. The utter shambles of their efforts, the embarrassingly empty rhetoric, the apparent lack of planning, the petty infighting as the clock ticks down – these things are starting to look less like accidental incompetence and more like a deliberate strategy to engineer a disaster that can be exploited to Tory advantage, in the same way that weeds propagate more effectively in disturbed soil.
It is an approach that calls to mind the fictional Thatcherite chancer from the Pet Shop Boys song Opportunities:
I’ve had enough of scheming
And messing ‘round with jerks
My car is parked outside
I’m afraid it doesn’t work
I’m looking for a partner
Someone who gets things fixed
Ask yourself this question: do you want to be rich?
Oh, there’s a lot of opportunities
If you know when to take them, you know
There’s a lot of opportunities,
If there aren’t you can make them,
Make or break them…