Last Saturday, Boris Johnson released an uplifting 4, 000 word essay on Brexit. It contained 10 points for his plan for a post-Brexit Britain. His article was optimistic about the shape of what post-Brexit Britain would look like- and included, among many argument, a Britain active on the global scene, one that cuts taxes and red tape, controls its own borders, and yes, take control of £350 million a week sent to EU and investing some of that money in the NHS. If you have not yet read it, you can read it here; and if you do not have a Telegraph subscription you can read a summary of his 10 point plan here.
There is not much to say about the plan that has not already been said by more articulate writers than myself. I wholeheartedly agree with the analysis offered in praise of this optimistic and clear plan by the distinguished authors of Charles Moore, Janet Daley, Tim Stanley, Fraser Nelson, Dan Hannan and Jacob Rees-Mogg among others. His plan makes sense, but most importantly he wants Britain to embrace Brexit for the wondrous possibilities that Brexit presents- not out of grudging acquiescence to the will of the majority of the voters.
Predictably, the usual suspects are out brow-beating Boris about his article for being irresponsible, a lie, [insert cliché Boris attack line here] etc. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary and electoral juggernaut who won her own Hastings and Rye constituency by a landslide 346 votes last election, accused Boris Johnson of being a “back seat” driver for his comment. (Which is seemingly an improvement over being the person you don’t want driving you home from a party as she claimed during the first EU referendum debate before she was replaced by Ruth Davidson). His critics claim Boris ignores the inevitable head ache and hardship over the Brexit negotiations and the inevitable decline that Brexit will suffer because of the economic collapse that Brexit will (eventually- it is no longer immediate as Osborne claimed during the referendum- but that was not a lie you see) bring. The gist of the anti-Brexiteers is always the same- Boris is not serious- unlike them who are wise grown ups.
To be perfectly frank, I do not believe that most of the Westminster Boris bashers actually believe he is not a serious politician. I think they have two problems with him: 1. He is a class traitor and 2. They are jealous of his electoral talents. Last year, in an article I wrote on Boris, I discussed the class traitor aspect which you can read here. I think that it is a fact that the likes of Rudd, Osborne etc. see ideology and patriotism as belonging to the plebs and the fact that he engages in such behaviour as being beyond contempt. However, it is there jealousy of his success that is the obvious, transparent, and most disgusting of their anti-Boris traits.
Boris has an ability to reach voters that his critics cannot. Amber Rudd or George Osborne or Phillip Hammond (or whatever wet Tory you can think of) could never become London mayor. Despite being more to the centre/left than Boris is, London is a Labour city and they generally do not time for Tories of the wet or dry variety. However, Londoners made an exception for Boris because they knew that he loved London and loved being mayor of London. Boris would scream to the rooftops and at all corners of the globe on what a great city London is and even his harshest critics will grudgingly admit that he was a fantastic ambassador for the city. And Boris got results too- London overtook New York as the world’s top financial centre under his mayoralty (a position it holds to this day #despiteBrexit) there were the massive success of the Olympics (which is rare- see Rio and Athens) and a litany of other successes. (You can read a more comprehensive survey of his success as mayor here.) His popularity, success, and magnetic personality were embraced by the whole country in the referendum campaign- where his political prowess helped Brexit to triumph through his leadership of the Leave campaign. I am personally of the opinion that Leave would not have won were it not for Boris’ leadership- watch for instance the rapturous applause he received at the close of the final Brexit debate.
Boris possesses an “it” factor that other politicians cannot capture- and it drives them, especially his patrician Tory counterparts, green with envy. Boris, to be frank, is smarter than they are. Boris is a better speaker than they are. Boris is a better writer than they are. Boris is a better campaigner than they are. Boris has been able to win the Brexit referendum and mayorship of London because he can reach and inspire people they can not. Unlike his critics, he thinks deeply and cares about real issues- could you see Phillip Hammond or Amber Rudd or Gavin Barwell writing a Churchill biography or editing the Spectator or exposing the antics of eurocrats in vivid reports or attracting crowds of thousands of people and bringing them to their feet in rapturous applause? Of course not. And it drives them crazy- their only defence is to respond with venom, snobbery, and put downs.
Senior Tories need to get over their blind envy of Boris or the party will suffer. Theresa May will not be leader forever. The Conservatives ran a presidential campaign around May, who was exposed to be not “presidential”, and the party suffered. Conversely, Boris won two mayoral elections and a national referendum he was not supposed to win by leading it with spectacular “presidential” energy. It would be foolish to tear down a potential leader and great ambassador for our ideology out of personal spite. Take David Cameron. David Cameron was a great Prime Minister, the best post-war except Margaret Thatcher in my opinion- until he went mad with Boris envy and lost all credibility preaching plague, locusts, and nuclear holocaust to settle his Old Etonian inferiority complex in the EU referendum campaign. It would not be wise for May, Hammond, Rudd and others to not support the greatest political weapon the Tories have- they will be obliterated by Labour in the next election if they do.
Nothing Boris said in is essay broke cabinet responsibility. His article stayed within the confines of the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech. However, unlike May’s speech (which was excellent), he put a vision of what the result of her government’s policy would look like- and in an optimistic vision to inspire the people. For too long, Tory “wets” have been managing decline. From Harold Macmillan onwards- the visionaries like Boris and Thatcher have been having to fight with declinist like Heath and Hammond who do not believe Britain is strong enough to stand on its own two feet. I hope the Prime Minister adopts Boris’ sunny optimism and buccaneering vision in her Florence speech. The party needs unity- and it needs its Foreign Secretary to sell the benefits of Brexit to the world- as Brexit is the UK’s most important foreign policy issue. Conservatives need to unite behind Boris- who knows, one day they may need him to save them and the country from a socialist revolutionary Labour government.