:: politics, doomed

Sometime in the middle of 2019, the UK will have a new prime minister. He1 will have considerable power to control whether, when and how the UK leaves the EU.

This prime minister will have been selected from a shortlist of two, both representing the same party, by a tiny electorate who can vote only because they have paid money to be able to do so. This electorate are 97% white (the UK as a whole is under 90% white), 71% male (UK as a whole approximately 50%) and far richer than the UK average2.

Almost certainly this person will be Boris Johnson. Johnson has been sacked, twice, for lying3, and this is very far from the limit of his lies. He has conspired to beat up a journalist4. He is the kind of casual racist that people from his social class usually are, having published a column in a newspaper in which he talked about black people as ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’. He is an English nationalist bigot, having been the editor of a magazine in which a poem was published suggesting that Scotland be turned into a ghetto and the ‘tartan dwarves’ within it should be exterminated. He has referred to women as ‘hot totty’ and talked about the ‘tottymeter’. To say that he has a long record of offensive behaviour would be putting it rather mildly5.

Although he is highly-educated in a rather unhelpful area (classics, inevitably at Eton and Oxford), he also seems to be rather stupid. He had to be stopped from reciting a Kipling poem inside a temple in Myanmar6 by the British ambassador: even someone who holds racist views as he does should realise that expressing them in that context is a catastrophically stupid thing to do. Unless, of course, he was simply too stupid to understand what he was doing. He is, in fact, an upper-class twit.

Or, perhaps, not: perhaps he just does not care. There’s a well-known7 quote about him from Max Hastings:

I’m not sure he’s capable of caring for any human being other than himself.

Perhaps, in fact, he was reciting Kipling because he just doesn’t care how much damage he does; because, like Trump, he’s only dimly aware that other people even exist.

Johnson’s supporters are even less typical of the UK than the already tiny, skewed electorate: 85% of his supporters want to leave the EU with no deal compared with 66% within his electorate, and 25% within the UK as a whole8.

He has suggested, or at least refused to rule out, that he might ‘prorogue’ parliament in order to allow the UK to leave the EU with no deal at the end of October 2019: this means suspending it, so that MPs — the people the UK actually voted for, as opposed to him, who they did not vote for — have no say in what happens.

If that happens, the UK will leave the EU with no deal on Hallowe’en, under the control of a man educated at Eton and Oxford and elected by less than 120,000 people (0.2% of the people entitled to vote in the UK) who were allowed to vote for him because they paid to do so.

This, apparently, is democracy.

  1. Because he will, of course, be a middle-aged white man. 

  2. See this article from the BBC, and this article in The Economist

  3. Once from a newspaper, and once from his position as shadow arts minister. 

  4. See this article

  5. See for instance this

  6. The poem was The Road to Mandalay: see this

  7. I think the origin of this quote is an interview in the ‘PM’ programme on BBC Radio 4, although I haven’t been able to track it down. it is cited in this Guardian editorial

  8. See this and also a reference in The Economist article above.