Boris Johnson’s buffoonery is most certainly a deliberately calculated manoeuvre to gain headlines. Johnson has always possessed an admirable ability to gain media attention. Usually, he’ll grab headlines and groans with an obscured, often Latin infused, insult that he dusted off from his University days. Skillful, perhaps. Amusing, possibly. But putting some of the amusement aside, today’s intervention felt little more than counter-productive. At a time when the Conservatives are almost electorally out of sight, as even admitted by former Labour leader Tony Blair, deploying Boris was little more than an internally motivated move.
Without doubt May’s sober style of leadership resonates with individuals across the United Kingdom. The Tories are the second Party of Scotland, polling competitively in the North of England and now leading the polls in Wales. It felt like an unforced error to allow Boris such space, not to mention for Number 10 to hype his appearance, especially when it was a very real risk Boris would make such a grandiose and counter-productive statement.
A broken clock is right twice a day, but it will irritate at every other time. Boris is much like that clock. When it comes to undoubtedly realising the reality of Saudi Arabia and their concerning spread of Wahhabism, Boris is absolutely correct. When it comes to suggesting that Saudi Arabia fight toxic proxy wars in the Middle East, this is a reality that shouldn’t, and really cannot, be factually denied. But the way Boris delivers his message cannot be ignored as being counter-productive to Government. The way he delivers his messages alienates many of those who could vote Conservative.
May’s appeal is simple, “strong and stable leadership in the national interest.” I remember telling people May would win a Conservative leadership election back when it was first announced. Why? Purely because she seems like the only adult in the room. Most people, as polls show, will probably concede that a May Government is far more strong and far more stable than a Government led by Corbyn. The polls reflect that most voters really have decided by now which way they will be voting, and that the leadership choice is really the crucial factor. May’s campaigning comes across as sincere because she is an overtly serious politician. It is entirely because May appears to be such a safe pair of hands that she is so far ahead of Mr Corbyn in most opinion polls, and even ahead of Sturgeon in Scotland, according to some polling.
So now was not the time to deploy the clown.
If the Conservative Party message is to be that the party desires strong and stable leadership, then Boris is neither particularly strong nor stable. His tenure at the Foreign Office seems to have been largely strewn with serious errors: whether it be failing to get his fellow G7 ministers to agree to increasing sanctions on Russia despite his personnel briefing countless journalists that it was assured that this would be the outcome or likening the outcome of Brexit negotiations to the EU giving punishment beatings like a WW2 guard. Boris’ unique talent is managing to never risk his career, despite making gaffes as often as Corbyn’s Labour makes mistakes.
Perhaps, this was all part of May’s strategy to neuter Boris.
It is understandable why May made Boris the Foreign Secretary, in the hopes that a brief would require a serious amount of work, including travelling to Brussels and other destinations, and would remove his abilities to cause dissent on the backbenches. At the same time, being Foreign Secretary is largely a thankless job, in which one has to always justify the contradictions of any nation’s foreign policy. Foreign policy requires a careful balance of morality, with a careful balance of pragmatism. Whatever balance is struck will never please the majority of people.
Furthermore, it was believed that this would halt his ability to rally together support for the next Conservative leadership election, or indeed, that he could wield the knife. Also, it was always hoped that such a move would make Boris distant from Parliament, but with little real responsibility. With the US administration’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, unquestionably now taking the lead on Syria, a lead that Hillary would have taken were she to be elected, and with David Davies doing a large amount of the detailed work regarding Brexit, as well as Liam Fox taking the international trade brief, Boris seems to have been given title, but not responsibility.
The results of this appointment? Boris either did well, to which May would receive credit and plaudits for his selection, or she could sack him for a poor tenure as Foreign Secretary that would undoubtedly taint any future leadership ambitions. It is without a doubt now becoming a liability for the Conservative Party that Boris is allowed to be so loud on so many issues as a member of the Government. I’m not suggesting Boris is not a talented politician, or that his presence and influence don’t have some merits, but perhaps it is time to consider the post of Foreign Secretary and who would best fill it.
If Brexit requires strong and stable Governance, a governance that I agree Mr Corbyn cannot provide, then the Conservatives must justify why also Boris Johnson should play a part in shaping it.