In an interview with the Metro eight years ago, Boris Johnson described his morning routine “virtually erupt[ing] from bed like a rocketing pheasant. I then go for a run, because if you go for a run in the morning, nothing can get worse.” However, he doesn’t seem to have time for running anymore while his political career is moving fast and high.
Boris Johnson is probably the most controversial figure in the history of British politics; liked by some, hated by many. A majority fail to believe he tells the truth, yet people still vote for him and will probably do so on the 12th of December – the date of the UK General Election – because he promotes himself as the only one able to reunite a divided country, despite being a very divisive political figure.
His message is a simple one: “Get Brexit Done” which is exactly what the nation wants after three and a half years of endless discussion. Johnson’s fictitiousness claims appear to play well with many who have been seduced to believe that being a member of the EU is a problem and that there is some sort of ‘Nirvana’ once the UK leaves.
He has given a clear answer to the demands of the people, regardless of the accuracy of his pledge. “‘Get Brexit Done’ is itself a lie because it lacks meaning; there is no apparent or revised deal, there is only a withdrawal agreement which leads to the conclusion of negotiations that the PM says will be ended by December 2020; which is impossible,” Gavin Esler, journalist and author of the book “Brexit Without The Bullshit: The Facts on Food, Jobs, Travel and the NHS,” said. The slogan is short, catchy and has received a good reception. People are too busy to pay too much attention to politics and lack the time to deeply analyse the manifestoes of each candidate, so an easy and direct claim is likely to attract the attention of the British public and garner votes.
Boris Johnson’s adversary, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, is somewhat distrusted, being considered an ardent socialist, but the Prime Minister is a simplifier of complicated matters and this makes his campaign powerful, although details may be omitted for the sake of simplified claims.
Boris the unruly one
Boris Johnson, born Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, grew up wanting to be ‘King of the World’. Lacking attention to detail, he has followed no strict rules to build his success, instead, he has just followed his instinct. He has unruly platinum blonde hair to look non-conventional and disruptive. Supporters praise him as an entertaining, humorous and popular figure with an optimistic inclination and a spontaneous enthusiasm. He is fascinated by Winston Churchill and people accuse him of modelling himself on the wartime prime minister ‘without possessing a scintilla of Churchill’s greatness,’ Andrew Gimson, the author ‘The Adventures Of Boris Johnson’, remarked.
He became Mayor of London defeating Ken Livingston twice and was running the non-Conservative and Labour-leaning city by surrounding himself with valuable lieutenants and directing them. Whilst campaigning against Livingston, he avoided telling jokes in an attempt to show he could look more serious, but once in the office he never stopped tainting his political career with blunders, some worse than others and far from humorous.
Johnson has been accused of dishonesty, elitism, of using racist, sexist, islamophobic and homophobic language and has been the subject of several biographies; most of them harsh and ruthless. Furthermore, in 2015, in Japan, he managed to flatten an opponent in what was supposed to be an informal game of rugby. The player he tackled was a 10-year-old Japanese schoolboy. “I’m so sorry,” Johnson told the child afterwards.
“There is not a single thing he did as the Mayor of London that will be remembered,” Gavin Esler said recalling his mistakes.
He removed many buses and replaced them with others which were more polluting; he firmly supported the proposal of the Garden Bridge, a new pedestrian bridge over the River Thames which has never been built. He bought three water cannons for more than £322k that had never been used and were inevitably sold for scrap.
“I talked to audiences all around the country and to those who admire Boris Johnson and I always ask: What has he achieved that you most admire? And they can’t answer,” Esler explains us.
“He was such an incompetent Foreign Secretary. I talked to a lot of British diplomats and they said he is fundamentally lazy, he doesn’t read the briefs he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Thinking about what he has achieved, I can’t think about anything else except what he has achieved for himself,” Esler concludes.
Boris the populist
Boris Johnson is an old Etonian classicist who has made efforts to let people believe he is ‘one of them’. He has sold himself as an anti-élite and anti-establishment leader; with a simple and crystal clear message, he has become a successful populist and a cogent demagogue.
Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, harshly attacked him saying that: “Boris Johnson only cares about Boris Johnson and he will do whatever it takes, sacrifice whoever is needed to get what he wants.” One may think he wants to “Get Brexit done”, but Ms Swinson didn’t mean that.
BoJo’s life has been about becoming Prime Minister, “not out of some burning desire to make people’s lives better, but out of some sense of Etonian entitlement because it’s what people like him get to do,” Swinson concluded.
When he misled the Queen over his proroguing of Parliament, a few weeks ago, there was an Ipsos Mori poll asking people if they believed he had prorogued parliament for the reasons he said. 70% of British people answered stating that they didn’t believe him, but some of those people are likely to still vote for him. The great paradox Great Britain is facing now is that, even if people, or some of them, really believe Johnson is not telling the truth because of his persuasive attitude, he may still become PM.
Even members of his family, fail to believe he is telling the truth either: Jo, his brother, quit his ministerial task and seat while Boris was in office saying he was “torn between family loyalty and the national interest,” while Rachel, his sister, is a broadcaster and pro-remain campaigner who is often interviewed about her brother’s lies and defaults.
His strength is represented by being the opposite of a stereotype, the exception to the rule. He appears to connect with people even if he is considered to be unable to achieve what he claims. Due to a disregard for truth that has come to characterize global politics, many voters start from a base assumption that politicians are dishonest.
Fake and true lay at the same low level, making big promises and getting away from them seems to provoke no outrage; nothing seems to be enough to convince an individual to say: ‘I will never vote this person anymore’. Boris Johnson is currently benefiting from the scepticism he has created, while his opponents are likely to pay the price of it.
Boris and the women
Boris has always been rather furtive with matters of his personal life. Whilst being questioned during a recent radio interview, he refused to disclose how many children he had or whether he was involved in their lives. Wikipedia reads “At least five.”
It is known that he has four children with his ex-wife Marina Wheeler and it is believed that he has one or possibly more from other relationships, though Johnson has always refused to discuss this. His current partner, Carrie Symonds, is the former Conservative Party’s Head of Communications. She is supporting Johnson’s campaign while another women is publicly struggling from his alienation.
Jennifer Arcuri, a 34-year-old American entrepreneur, is the reason why journalists keep on asking Boris Johnson why he gave her £120,000 in public money while he was Mayor of London and why she was given privileged access to three foreign trade trips led by him. The PM has refused to comment about any relationship with Arcuri stating that: “Everything was done entirely in the proper way” and denying any conflict of interest.
At the end of October, the Government Internal Audit Agency concluded that a grant of public money to Arcuri’s High Tech Company, Hacker house, was ‘appropriate’. During a radio phone-in show, on LBC, Johnson was questioned over past comments he had written about women during his time as a journalist. An article written in 1995 on the Spectator reads that: “Single mothers are producing a generation of ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children” arguing that social housing available to single mothers was ‘an enticement’ for them to become pregnant.
On an article published on the Daily Telegraph last year, he described women who wear burkas looking like ‘letter-boxes or bank robbers’. He repeatedly said any claims in which he had expressed sexist and racist opinions in articles were a misrepresentation of his view. He further apologised if any offence was taken, but declined to rescind any of the stated views. Boris Johnson was sacked by The Times for lying.
Boris could win and lose the election at the same time
Sir Max Hastings, editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph, told the Financial Times that Mr Johnson was a ‘brilliant journalist’ who was one of his “favourite colleagues.” Asked by TalkRadio to give an opinion, he added: “He’s always been a fantasist. He’s never had much grip on reality,” concluding that “He’s less fit to be Prime Minister than my labrador”.
Despite Johnson’s ex-boss’ point of view, one person appreciates his personality: Donald Trump. There is an affinity between the two; they were both born in New York, President Trump in an upper-class environment, Boris Johnson in a middle-class family, they are both divisive figures: strongly admired and harshly hated, and they are populist leaders sharing a tough relationship with mass media due to the accusations of being buffoons and, above all, liars.
The Washington Post, every three months, counts and publishes how many lies Mr Trump has told since he has been in office. In the first half of October, after 993 days in the presidency, The Fact Checker stated he made more than 13,400 ‘false or misleading claims’. Despite this statement, the latest Economist and YouGov poll, conducted right before Thanksgiving, showed that a majority of Republicans, 53%, think Donald Trump is a better president than the first Republican elected to that position, Abraham Lincoln.
Commenting on the results, the CNN website reads: “The poll demonstrates one of the historical givens of American politics: facts, evidence, expert opinion, rational analysis, and historical consensus fail to matter when it comes to political preference. Perhaps they also demonstrate a given of human nature: feelings, self-image, self-interest, life-long influences, birth and parentage, group affiliation and economic and social status are all-powerful forces that often determine what we think and how we vote.”
Boris Johnson is also struggling with trust and honesty issues in his country. Peter Oborne, a British well-known journalist, is part of the team that launched the website “boris-johnson-lies.com” which gathers “The lies, falsehoods and misrepresentations of BJ and his government.”
However, Boris Johnson has other anxieties to deal with.
“What we don’t do traditionally as loving allies and friends, is get involved in each other’s election campaigns,” Mr Johnson said during a radio interview that he did not wish to receive any endorsement from Donald Trump (coming to London for the NATO summit). Johnson and his party fear that whatever comments made could damage their political campaign with one week to go until the end.
But Johnson has also something else to concentrate on. His last nightmare is that of winning the general election but losing his Uxbridge constituency. The Sunday Times showed how tactical voting campaigns could damage the PM and six senior Tories. “The calculations were made by putting private poll findings and 270,000 voter interviews conducted by YouGov through a Datapraxis computer model, which analyses the specific demographics of each seat,” the newspaper explained.
Johnson has a 16-point poll lead against Labour in his constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Nonetheless, the analysis showed that if 13% of voters now intending to vote Liberal Democrats or Green defect to Labour and turn-out is high, then Johnson could lose his seat even if he could win the election.