With his usual blustering and unapologetic arrogance, the British prime minister resigned yesterday. Shed a tear for Boris Johnson? Not an Oxford chance. After all, this is a man who wrote in The Spectator in 2002 that the African “continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was born into a comfortable existence and spent some of his early years living in Brussels. His father, Stanley Johnson, secured employment at the European Commission, oh the irony, in 1973 and then went on to be Conservative Party Member of Parliament from 1979 to 1984. Like his father did, Boris followed the usual route into the British establishment.
English public schools aren’t government schools and to attend one costs around £50,000 (one million rand) in annual fees. Public schools are the country’s bastions of upper class and aristocratic power. They are where the next generation of the British ruling class is churned out to lord over the miserable peasants. Boris went to the most notorious of them, Eton, and then went on to Oxford and studied philosophy and the classics. Back in the days of Empire that degree qualified one to, you know, for example, land the job of ruling India.
The old boys network swung him a position at The Daily Telegraph, where he was the Brussels correspondent from 1989 to 1994. His reporting consisted of throwing every rock, chunk of toxic metal and pile of steaming manure he could grasp in his power-mongering slimy hands at the European Union. The iron lady of British politics, Margaret Thatcher, rather liked his work. One has to give it to Boris, in terms of political reporting and straight-out agitprop, his contribution to promoting Euroscepticism within the Tory party and the British body politic at large was tremendously successful. Only the sheer deranged rabidity of Brexit’s architect, Nigel Farage, did more to drive the UK out of the EU and into an unending vassalage to the Americans.
Boris’s subsequent career as a columnist and later editor at The Spectator was marked with some interesting turns of phrase. Such as “the modern British male is useless” and “If he is blue collar, he is likely to be drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless and hopeless, and perhaps claiming to suffer from low self-esteem brought on by unemployment.” As for single mothers, he wrote in 1995 that their children were “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children who in theory will be paying for our pensions.”
Of course, one should not emulate that petty style of writing. It simply wouldn’t do to say that Boris is a degenerate upper-class toff who revelled in feeding upon the bloody carcass of the working class whom he cheerfully impoverished in the name of continuing a political career that had the sole purpose of glorifying übermensch Johnson. Would not do at all.
With his shock of messy blonde hair and, it has to be grudgingly admitted, a fair amount of charisma, he entered politics as a Conservative MP in 2001. He then went on to be the mayor of London twice, returned to the House of Commons in 2015, and became the Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister Theresa May in 2016.
After Farage drove a stake through the heart of British society and the country voted to leave the EU, Boris saw his opportunity. In 2006, he wrote a book on the Roman Empire, and he learned Rome’s lessons only too well. When Theresa May tried to get her Brexit deal through Parliament, Johnson, and his sidekicks, fine upstanding public school Tory MPs such as the right dishonourable undead Jacob Rees-Mogg, stymied the deal for months upon months. Then, in May 2019, they moved in like it was the Ides of March.
With May bleeding out on the steps of Downing Street, Boris took over as the prime minister on the 24th of July 2019. Whatever his many and profound faults are, he is actually not a clown and has razor-sharp political instincts. After three attempts, Boris managed at the end of October 2019 to get a new general election called. He made the December 2019 general election, in effect, a second referendum on Brexit, and it worked spectacularly well. The Tories swept a bickering Labour off the electoral map.
There’s nothing a Tory politician wants more than power. Over the next three years, the Conservative Party looked every which way but at the growing scandals. Boris violating the very same lockdown regulations that he imposed on everyone else, Boris getting his private residence renovated with an undisclosed ‘loan’, and so on and so on. For all his faults, Boris kept the Party in power, the soiled and dirty masses loved him.
Until they didn’t. The Tories are losing by-elections. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are picking up seats. A dawning realisation hit the Conservative Party that if Boris stays, they will lose the next general election. Inflation is over 9%, GDP growth is slowing, privatisation is dragging down the National Health Service, and Johnson’s great Brexit deal hasn’t brought about the much-promised holy land.
That’s why over the past three days, 28 ministers of his government resigned and joined by another 33 deputy ministers and other high-level officials. Yet make no mistake. All those who resigned and thus brought down the government did not do so out of a vague sense of dignity or some residual echo of morality, but out of a single-minded sense of political survival.
Boris’s career is over. He made his play, became prime minister, mucked up the country, and has now finally been gunned down by his own party.
Dr. Tristen Taylor is a freelance journalist and photographer. He is also a Research Fellow in Environmental Ethics at Stellenbosch University.