Journalist and politician: two in one just don’t go

It’s like the same man acting as both judge and defendant in the same trial. No matter how intelligently he goes about his task, his integrity won’t survive intact.

No one demonstrates the accuracy of this observation more persuasively than Boris Johnson. His writing has always been entertaining and reasonably clever, if a bit on the lightweight side. One could never expect being enlightened by his pieces, but one could always count on being amused. A good egg, in other words, if occasionally overcooked.

That changed when Johnson became a politician and especially when he began to harbour the ambition of one day leading his party. Evidently, combining high political office with lucrative moonlighting isn’t against his party’s regulations, though in some quarters the subject of conflicting interests might come up. But that apart, a staggering, if predictable, metamorphosis occurred: overnight Johnson’s pieces stopped being amusing and became frankly emetic.

None more so than his yesterday’s Telegraph article. It neatly encapsulates everything that’s wrong with our spivocratic politicians: cynicism, a distinct lack of either moral or intellectual integrity, willingness to bend the truth beyond breaking point, egoism.

The very title evinces much of this: ‘I’m sorry to say it, but my old school chum isn’t PM material’. Anyone who hasn’t been doing a Rip Van Winkle for the last few months has to be aware of the facts to which the title alludes so flirtatiously.

First, there’s a movement afoot at the Tory grassroots that Dave isn’t up to the job, and only Boris can save the party from being routed at the next election. Second, Boris and Dave both went to Eton, and then to the Bullingdon, a drinking club with a nice little university attached.

Hence the calculated effect of the title, geddit? Boris pretends to believe that any reader would pretend to think that the title refers to Dave, though the reader knows that this would be a sheer impossibility, and Boris knows that the reader knows but chooses to play this silly game nonetheless, both in the title and the whole first paragraph.

The villain of the piece is of course Ed Miliband, not Dave Cameron, he of the classic scholarship fame. Boris proceeds to regale his readers with a few truisms about Ed being a sorry excuse for a statesman, a pernicious leftie redistributor and generally a disaster waiting to happen. Fair enough. The difference between a truth and a truism is that the former needs stating and the latter doesn’t, but hey, it’s only a newspaper piece.

What follows, however, makes one want to fill the proverbial bucket. For Boris then launches into a stupid and disingenuous panegyric to Tony Blair, arguably the worst prime minister in British history, although Gordon and Dave may want to claim that distinction for themselves.

Boris talks, for example about ‘New Labour’s sensible accommodation with the wealth creators of this country’. Excuse me? Are we talking about the same New Labour that created the economic disaster we’re stuck with for at least the next generation? The government that raided the pension funds of ‘the wealth creators of this country’? Raised public spending to suicidal levels? Increased the overall tax burden? Printed more money than in the previous two centuries? Suffocated businesses with red tape, both domestic and especially European? Apparently we are. And it’s a Tory who does the talking.

Hold on, Boris isn’t finished yet. ‘You could vote for Blair and use private medicine,’ he goes on. ‘You could vote for Blair and send your children to fee-paying schools. You could vote for Blair and run a vast multinational corporation… ANYONE could vote for Blair.’

Under Blair, much of the NHS frontline staff were replaced with administrators, which was in line with the overall drive to shift employment into the public sector. If under John Major the country lost 800,000 public jobs, Blair created 500,000 new ones in just his first five years. The immediate effect on the NHS was that even many people who couldn’t really afford private medicine had to use it if they didn’t want to die (spoken from personal experience).

The same applies to fee-paying schools. The destruction of state education in this country, perpetrated by Blair’s parteigenossen and exacerbated during his tenure, made many middle-class people, already impoverished by Labour taxes, spend their last pennies on educating their children privately. The alternative to that was not to have them educated at all.

As to running a ‘vast multinational corporation’, that was indeed possible, but exceedingly difficult unless said corporation had intimate links to Tony and his cronies. In short, ‘anyone could vote for Blair’, provided he only had half a brain, and not the better half.

But, according to Boris, ‘voters aren’t fools’. If he really thinks that, he’d be well-advised to learn what Winston Churchill once said: ‘the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter’. But then Boris already knows it – he just won’t let on that he does.

He ends with a rousing chord: ‘David Cameron will be returned with a thumping majority in 2015’. On second thoughts, perhaps Boris does think we’re all fools.

Dave wasn’t able to win a clear, never mind ‘thumping’, majority in the midst of the worst economic catastrophe in Britain’s history, and standing against the party directly responsible for it. Only an imbecile would think he’ll be able to achieve this feat on the strength of his pathetic record. Even his coalition partners are ready to jump ship, even his close colleagues are plotting behind his back.

But Boris doesn’t believe what he says. Moreover, he’s clearly conducting a surreptitious campaign to replace Dave as party leader. And the campaign may yet succeed because the Tories know what Boris won’t admit for tactical reasons – Dave is a loser.

So of course is Ed Miliband, but the safe bet is that he won’t contest the next election – especially if Labour follow the course kindly charted for them by Boris. Revert to New Labour empty promises, pledge allegiance to the same vacuous policies and they just may get in.

The voters may not be stupid, but they’re certainly not blessed with a long memory. They may well forget the disastrous tenure of New Labour and vote in its successors. Particularly if the competition comes from the likes of Dave and Boris, Tony Blair groupies.

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