IF Boris Johnson is the supposed saviour of the Tory party – he’s now the activists’ favourite to succeed Theresa May – then it does not bode well for the future of the Conservatives or the country at large.
Absent from the 2016 leadership contest when key allies withdrew their support on the eve of his campaign launch, Mr Johnson failed to bring any statesmanship to the Foreign Office.
He was a diplomatic disaster waiting to happen before resigning over Brexit, and the Chequers deal, after David Davis became the first Minister to break ranks and quit.
And now the continuing controversy over Mr Johnson’s newspaper column on burkas shows this country had a lucky escape, after he compared Muslim women wearing face-covering veils to bank robbers and letter boxes.
Though there’s scope for a legitimate debate about burkas, and whether this expression of religious freedom is at odds with attempts to promote greater integration between people of all faiths, the politician’s tone – and choice of words – was unbecoming of a supposed senior statesman who was, believe it or not, the UK’s chief diplomat until he quit and then took a further three weeks to move out of his official residence.
Given his lingering ambition to become Prime Minister, and unsettle Mrs May at every turn as she tries to make sense of Brexit, perhaps Mr Johnson should have been giving more thought to practical ideas on how the Tories should reach out to ethnic minority communities to build support rather than alienating them in a bid to woo Tory activists ahead of a possible leadership contest.
This was the article’s clear objective and Conservative members should take note of the extent to which they’re now being used and manipulated. For, if they do remain in thrall to Mr Johnson and his blunderbus approach, the Tory party will have even less public credibility in the future.