How to explain Boris Johnson to a Martian? That is quite a challenge. As our multi-armed visitor from Barsoom makes themselves cosy on the sofa, glad at last to have a respite from the heavy gravity of Earth, I would make them a cup of tea, add a dash of brandy, take a deep breath and begin like so.
Boris Johnson… Imagine a liar who told a lot of lies about something. Imagine him building a career out of those lies. Imagine large numbers of red faced xenophobes believing those lies so that it colours the debate on the thing the liar is lying about.
Imagine the liar deciding to stick with those lies in order to do over an old school/university chum, who looks like he’s carved out of gammon. Imagine that liar then standing in front of a red bus with even more lies about NHS funding written on the side of it. The lies prevail.
Boris Johnson and his
kind are horribly dangerous.
Despite a long track record of lies, buffoonery and treachery, the half-wit who somehow clambered up to the role of Prime Minister then gives the liar a job as Foreign Minister. The rest of the world wonders if the UK has gone mad. The liar keeps on lying about what will happen when the UK leaves the thing he’s spent most of his life lying about.
“We Are Your Friends”
Now, last week, the liar gave a speech apparently aimed at people who don’t like the result of his lies. He claims he wants to reach out to them, that the big thing he brought about with his lies is actually a good thing. For some reason the people who are upset do not believe him.
At this point, my Martian guest whips out an inhaler and re-inflates my lungs. As I recover, he asks if Boris Johnson really exists. Yes, I say. He is only too real.
“You men of Jarsoom are crazy”, he tuts. “Such a scoundrel would have been cast out long ago on my world!”
He had a point.
The Sods of Mars
Now, it’s too easy to slag off Boris Johnson, a living embodiment of John Redwood’s credo that a man who could betray his wife could betray his country. Still, between them, he, Nigel Farage and Rupert Murdoch have done terrible harm to this country. Perhaps we haven’t slagged him off enough?
What was evident in the speech he gave last week, care of those liberally minded types at Policy Exchange, was not that he was trying to win anyone over. On the contrary, the response to the speech from remainers was predictably… brusque. But that wasn’t the point.
The point was to shore up support in the best traditions of Trump, whom Johnson has much in common with. You don’t go to a Trump rally to change your mind. Johnson was preaching to his choir (and other clichés) while pretending to reach out to the opposition.
Synthetic Men of Eton
Which comes down to the real problem with Boris Johnson. Everything he does, every newspaper column and report he has written, every political post he has occupied, every conspiracy to beat up a journalist that he was somewhat unwilling involved in… It is all about the next stage in Boris’ career.
Strip away the lies. The opportunism. The constant calculation. It’s not a pretty sight. Arguably, Boris Johnson needs to lie as that is the only way he can exist without being shunted off to a remote island, covered in Puffin droppings, for the rest of his life.
It is easy to say, of course, that Boris Johnson is a terrible person. It takes a particular kind of elite public school to produce such debased humanity. But it’s harder to say that millions of people fall for it, and continue to do so.
The Blunder Child
But of course, Boris Johnson is postmodern by his very nature. In the end, it doesn’t matter if his bumbling and absurdity is actually a cold, calculating act. I doubt even he knows now.
The lies don’t matter either. What matters is that people choose to believe him. Brexit was the most postmodern thing the British have done in recent years, but we’ve been creating ambiguous realities around ourselves for years before that.
The rest of the world
wonders if the UK has
Consider, if you dare, Jacob Rees Mogg, or how satirists have become part of the establishment, if they weren’t already. We like to be lied to. We let newspapers owned by tax dodgers make us hate quasi-mythical scroungers. Jimmy Savile pulled the con for years because we are such easy marks. How many delusions have you got? I have plenty.
(The Thark on my sofa is giving me funny looks. I think he needs another cup of tea.)
The Moron Chronicles
And that’s why, no matter how tiresome it may get, we have to keep calling out Boris Johnson, and all the lies he tells, and the blurring of the lines of reality he represents. If we let our reality become completely subjective, everything falls apart, and in its wake, tyrannies and reactionaries always take over.
Putin didn’t come out of nowhere. Nor did Duterte, nor did Orbán, nor Morawiecki. Trump speaks for himself, albeit with limited English. After nearly a decade of self-defeating austerity, we are well on our way to this too. Brexit was merely the opening act.
Boris Johnson and his kind are horribly dangerous. We must not forget this. He and his kind have no chance, except and until, as Oswald Mosley put it, “the crisis”. For us, the crisis is now.
How, then, to explain Boris Johnson to a Martian? It’s best to say that things fall apart, and we let them.
Image by big-ashb @ Flickr. Used and modified under the terms of the Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.
Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.