Why we must never let Boris Johnson type politicians to hoodwink us again - Jayne Dowle
Of course, he totally bamboozled them. Not just here in Yorkshire, but across the UK. Do you remember that woman who told a BBC radio interviewer back in 2018? “I want Boris to become Tory leader because he will make politics fun!”.
It saddened me that this obvious chancer – I’d had a brief acquaintance with the man decades ago, when we were both working for the same newspaper – had totally brainwashed otherwise quite sensible, down-to-earth people, especially my friends and neighbours.
I wanted to scream, “but politics isn’t supposed to be fun, it’s deadly serious”, but instead, I kept quiet. Some of these Conservative converts were close pals, even family members. We don’t talk about politics, which is probably why we are still on speaking terms.
To be fair, although I didn’t agree with their conviction, I understood the appeal. Especially when the main alternative was to support the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who made it pretty clear that the only North he really understood was North London.
I remember speaking with one of my son’s friends shortly after the General Election. At 18, he had voted for the first time, and told me he put his X in the box against the Conservative parliamentary candidate.
He admitted he hadn’t given much thought to the personal politics of the person named on the ballot sheet, but was bowled over by Boris’s chutzpah and laddish persona. And not a little influenced by his own dad, who had voted three years earlier in favour of Brexit.
Of course, Johnson’s harnessing of the Brexit agenda, conveniently shedding any previous Europhile tendencies en route, in order to gain popular appeal and eventually the Premiership, was absolutely key to his appeal to traditional Northern voters in ‘left-behind’ constituencies.
Several major lessons here, and I’m afraid voters must take some responsibility. I suspect that far too many people who voted for Johnson did so because they didn’t entirely understand the way the current electoral system works.
It is complex and definitely not entirely fit for purpose, but it’s certainly not presidential. We vote for individuals, parliamentary candidates, not their figurehead.
We also must not allow ourselves to succumb to personality politics again.
It’s an easy win, putting our faith in one person to deliver on promises.
We only have to look over the Atlantic and see former President Trump covered in his own controversy to see where hero-worship of an egotist ends up.
We need to put far more thought not just into who we are voting for, but what we are voting for.
Not everyone is a political geek, I accept that. But as we have learned to our cost, a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘politics doesn’t interest me’ attitude opens the door to opportunists like Johnson, who will simply use the resulting mandate for their own ends.
We are likely to be going to the national polls again in 18 months or less. There is still time to reflect on the disaster that was the Johnson premiership.
And to consider also of the extremely challenging times we’re living in; the cost of living crisis, rising interest rates, climate change affecting our way of life, especially with extreme weather, the failure of successive Conservative governments to put in place enough meaningful trade deals with overseas partners, and our standing in the world post-Brexit.
Johnson took over a country that still – in general – believed in a positive future. After Covid, and with an economy in free-fall, with crippling household bills and mortgages, he has left it a far bleaker place.
Whilst there will still be those who cling onto the delusion that poor old Boris was more sinned against, no-one can escape the fact that he partied while Britain suffered under draconian Covid lockdown rules.
Rules which saw beloved family members – including my own children’s father – die alone, they said their final farewell to him by video, and have destroyed businesses and livelihoods, putting too much of the country he professes to love on a very precarious footing.
To paraphrase Johnson’s hero, Winston Churchill, “never in the field of politics should this ever happen again”.