MY son thinks Boris Johnson would make a great Prime Minister. His evidence rests mostly on the footage of the Honourable Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip sliding down a zip wire waving a Union Flag. My son is 13. He thinks men with mad hair who do daft things and shout loudly in posh voices are really, really amusing.
I’ll allow him this indulgence. He will grow out of it, eventually. I will not allow the Conservative MPs and party activists charged with choosing the next Prime Minister the indulgence of giving this comedian the chance to lead the country without saying something.
I can’t stop them voting for him. I can, however, speak on behalf of the millions of people who would revolt if Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was somehow elected to work on our behalf at home, and on the world stage.
You only have to look at his record as Mayor of London to see why. Above all, he was not truthful about his wider political ambitions.
He has referred to his tenure there as a valuable opportunity to “gain some administrative experience”. What do most Londoners think now? With millions priced out of even renting a home in the capital, the highest public transport costs in the world, and a £800m hole in the Metropolitan Police budget, not much.
And I think I can safely say that if Johnson came as a double act, accompanied as deputy Prime Minister by fellow Brexit-architect Michael Gove, the lights really would go out over most of what is left of “Great” Britain.
This is not meant as a personal attack. If anything, I hope it is intended kindly. If these two men put themselves up as leaders of a diverse, disenchanted and now half-disappointed nation, it will end in tears all round. You could see the fear in their eyes when they made their Brexit “victory” speech last Friday morning. Where was the plan? The what-next strategy? The decisive call-to-action? Apart from Gisela Stuart MP, where were their camp followers and supporters?
When it comes down to it, both are lone wolves, not party animals. I can call this with a modest amount of insight. I have known Mr Gove for 30 years, attending the same university and once working for him on a national newspaper.
Both are excellent writers, charming, and no doubt sparkling dinner companions. However, I’d wager that as experienced newspaper columnists they are used to the dream solution. The danger is that we are talking about the Government and running the country, not morning conference. National Health Service failing? Come up with six ways to sort it out in 800 words, and knock it off before lunch.
Schools consistently underperforming? Re-write the curriculum – as Mr Gove did during his tumultuous tenure as Education Secretary – and magically results will improve.
We are still waiting to see such an improvement. Are we really to be expected to trust a man who caused so much upheaval and resentment to play such a leading role in running the country? What makes him think that Number Two to the PM would be any easier, especially given the fractious public mood? If reports are to be believed, there are many in his party who favour Mr Gove’s leadership ability and support any bid for high office. What suits the Tory Party, however, does not suit the country.
Heaven help us from middle-aged men who think they know best. Added to that, neither of these two show anything remotely approaching an understanding of the world outside their narrow London enclaves. I know Mr Gove is Scottish-born, but only when it suits his Brexit campaigning. We face a country already riven apart by referendum. What’s wanted is a leader who can unite us, not drive further wedges between North and South, rich and poor, young and old.
In our region, we criticised David Cameron for rarely visiting, and along with George “Northern Powerhouse” Osborne, generally failing to grasp the size and diversity of the North of England.
With Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, it would be worse. They have such unassailable faith in the validity of their own opinions, they would not have the patience to listen to anyone else, never mind “reach out” and attempt to connect with ordinary voters. We live in serious times. We need serious, committed politicians – not comedians and newspaper columnists – to lead us.