It is entirely appropriate that Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. There is a certain inevitability, an inexorable landing, a completely logical conclusion to the sequence of events that have unfolded across the geo-political landscape over recent years.
The homogenous, identikit political actors from a deeply ‘central’ casting ensured a somnambulistic drift through the late 90s and into the noughties. Blair, Cameron, Clegg, Chirac, Kohl, Merkel, Clinton, Bush (yes, even) had ushered a series of uninspiring western managers of moderate expectation onto and off from the stage.
So what went wrong? Well, the global financial crisis, that’s what. Suddenly those financial gurus (masters of the universe indeed) were exposed as frauds, liars and charlatans.
The moment was there for the political masters, the courts, the regulators to punish and make them pay. To defend the rights of the masses who were innocent victims of the crimes and excesses of the wide boys and chancers.
So what did they do? They punished the masses. They decided the weight of the recovery must be borne by the masses. No pay rises. No promotions. It was up to the working and middle classes to bail out the criminals and negligent financial institutions. “We’re all in this together”, my arse.
Some of that may have been bearable. IF we’d known that these duplicitous liars had faced the full force of the law for what they’d done. The shameful absence of prosecutions and lack of jail time for the guilty ones created a discontent and mistrust that has festered away ever since.
Le Pen, Farage, Corbyn, Wilders, Orban, Salvini, Kurst, The True Finns, Alternative fur Deutschland, the Vox Party – all the fringe, peripheral outsiders were now aware of the opportunity.
The complete failure of the complacent leaders to act appropriately to the outrage felt by their voters, drove them away. Taken for granted. Ignored. Downtrodden. More work for less reward. And told to be grateful to have a job and not to complain.
This coincided with the rampant take-over of the global economy by the corporate giants, who by and large run the world these days. Quaking presidents and prime ministers daren’t risk disfavour by applying fair taxation. They’ll just decamp to a more favourable location.
So it is any wonder that we feel dispossessed? And that rumbling anger that can’t seem to find a vent through the ballot box or switching jobs?
That sequence of events referred to earlier unfolded:
- 2008 Boris Johnson was inexplicably elected Mayor of London. Maverick ringmaster of irrepressible optimism was enough this time around. And again in 2012
- 2010 The ‘New’ Labour project was dead. They were ejected from office, but we didn’t trust the Tories enough to let them back in, so the Liberal Democrats found themselves back in government after more than a century
- 2014 UKIP won the European Elections. Two firm fingers up at the ever-complacent European Union, as well as the British political class
- 2015 Cameron promised an In/Out Referendum to neutralise the UKIP threat and killed the LibDems to get his majority
- 2016 We had that referendum. And the masses delivered a shock to the world. Yes, we would actually like to leave, thanks for asking. Bye Cameron, hello Theresa May
- 2016 Donald Trump delivers an even bigger shock – the American people decide more of the same is not what they want
Since then, the lamentable Brexit surrender by the May government left us exhausted, bored, frustrated and humiliated. Hers was not a tragic departure from Downing Street.
So we arrive here. Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition. Nigel Farage as leader of the winners of the 2019 European elections. Be honest – who saw any of that coming ten years ago?
Boris Johnson has been praised and buried over the years by his many fans and foes. Critics have begun an onslaught to criticise his ego, his self-interest, his inconsistencies, vanity and duplicity. I have to admit I am not particularly shocked by the idea that a politician has an ego, has held different views over time and has upset some people along the way.
My own view is – give the man a chance. He has set expectations sky high. If he delivers, then even his harshest critics will need to spare a few words of acknowledgment. If he fails, he will face the exit door at the polls. As he said himself, “the buck stops here”.
It’s up to the new Prime Minister to demonstrate there is substance along with the style, that there are plans to underpin the vision and achievable milestones to match the rhetoric.
He may be similarly torpedoed by Brexit and the arithmetic of parliament. And he’ll have precious little honeymoon period. But I must admit the change of pace, tone and energy is very welcome. The turgid, depressing May premiership has been swept away in an instant.
Boris won’t thank me for the comparison, but it’s like when Tony Blair entered Downing Street after the dying days of the dismal Major years. He brought energy, a fresh approach, a young family and a real step change in public life. What happened next is another story, but the change was welcome.
Whilst we British do love a good moan, we do respond best to a message of hope and confidence. And despite our hopes being dashed so many times over the years by politicians of all shades, it is to our credit as a nation that we will always get ready to believe again and work our socks off to make things happen.
Boris – you have lifted the nation’s eyes to what could be. You have a huge responsibility to back this up with action and deeds that will set us on a better course than we have known for a very long time. I hope you succeed.
But I hope even more that you approach this monumental task in earnest.