The big worry with Boris Johnson is how much he likes to be liked
First the good news about the spectacular victory won by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in this week’s UK general election: Brexit can finally be delivered after three years of parliamentary deadlock, and Britain has successfully dodged a massive bullet in the shape of Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Had Corbyn’s Labour won this election — or even had the Conservatives failed to clinch a sufficiently large majority — it would unquestionably have been a disaster. Apart from his party’s anti-Semitic tendencies (which understandably terrified Britain’s Jewish population), the proudly Marxist Corbyn would have cozied up to terrorists, confiscated private property and rapidly reduced the world’s fifth largest economy to something more akin to Venezuela under Hugo Chavez.
Instead — happily — Labour has suffered its most crushing election defeat since 1935, putting paid to the dreams of all those starry-eyed Corbynista college kids who imagined, just like their AOC- and Bernie-worshipping counterparts in the States, that the only problem with communism is that it hasn’t been tried properly yet.
So why, as a natural Conservative from the party’s Thatcherite wing, aren’t I more excited about Britain’s prospects under the leadership of my old Oxford chum Boris? Mainly because I’m still not convinced as to how genuinely conservative the charming and charismatic but bluff and opaque Boris really is.
Nor yet how likely he is, even with his huge parliamentary majority, to deliver a meaningful Brexit.
Boris’ problem (one of several) is that he is a man of no certain political principle who likes to be liked. This malleability has served him usefully on the campaign trail — first as twice-elected mayor of London, now as Tory leader and prime minister — but augurs less well for his prospects of Making Britain Great Again.
On Brexit, for example, it is possible that his much vaunted Withdrawal Agreement, the one he persuaded the electorate was a vast improvement on the “polished turd” drawn up by his useless Remainer predecessor, Theresa May, will end up as a disappointing fudge. (This is what Boris’ arch-critic, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, has been warning all along. Others, such as Conservative European Parliament member Dan Hannan, disagree strongly with this analysis.)
Even more worrying, from a red-meat perspective, is his embrace of One Nation Conservatism. This sounds superficially appealing, an invocation of the great 19th-century statesman Benjamin Disraeli. But what it really is is code for the kind of squishy centrism that has rendered every Conservative administration since Margaret Thatcher so damnably ineffective at countering the relentless advance of the left.
Take Boris’ Net Zero policy, committing Britain to total “decarbonization” of its economy by 2050. Perhaps this frivolous, unaffordable exercise in green virtue-signaling seemed a good idea on the campaign trail. But how can it possibly align with the interests of all those working-class voters the Conservatives managed to capture in this election?
It’s cheap, reliable fossil-fuel energy that ordinary working folk want — not the smug glow of satisfaction college-educated idiots get from paying through the nose to green crony-capitalists in the renewables industry.
Already, in the UK media, you can read fake-Conservative commentators doing their masters’ bidding by drawing all the wrong conclusions about Boris’ victory. They’re interpreting it as an expressed public desire for higher government spending (especially on the sclerotic, monstrously wasteful, occasionally life-threatening National Health Service) and more state invention.
But far more likely is that the reason Boris won so big was simply that he was lucky with his opponent: The voters — even traditional Labour ones — stared into the abyss, saw Corbyn staring back at them with his scruffy Marxist beard and Lenin cap and decided, “Anything would be preferable to that.”
It might yet all turn out better than I fear. Boris is a likable, colorful character who may yet form a great double act with Donald Trump; he has a team of huge talents working under him, several of whom — Priti Patel, Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, Jacob Rees-Mogg — are robust, free-market conservatives.
The worry is that by effectively accepting the premise that bigger government and higher spending is what the people want and need, he has conceded territory to the left that his party may never recover.
James Delingpole is executive editor of Breitbart London and host of “The Delingpod” podcast.
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