Boris Johnson is not our saviour

The sooner Brexiteers realise this, the better.

Tom Slater
Topics Brexit Politics UK

So it’s finally over. The Tory Party leadership race has ended as we all expected it would – with Boris Johnson beating Jeremy Hunt by a significant margin. Tomorrow he will become our next prime minister.

That rumble you hear in the distance is Hampstead losing its shit. In fact, it has been for the entire race, as Boris Derangement Syndrome (BDS) has hit epidemic proportions among Britain’s chattering classes.

Bad blood, intra-elite bitchiness and hatred of Brexit – the cause Johnson fronted at the 2016 EU referendum – has fuelled ludicrous suggestions that Johnson is a racist, Islamophobe, homophobe. The thinking man’s Alf Garnett.

Quotes have been wrenched out of context and pearls firmly clutched in an attempt to delegitimise Johnson, and therefore Brexit itself. That he is a metropolitan liberal on almost every other issue other than the European Union apparently doesn’t cut him any slack.

They will all be out protesting tomorrow. The event page for the planned demo-come-‘street festival’ calls Johnson ‘a proudly racist, sexist, homophobic prick’. To dispel any sense that this is a big bourgeois tantrum, they’ve given it the dead edgy name ‘Fck Boris’.

But while anti-Boris hysteria has been a constant irritant throughout this campaign, and will no doubt reach new heights in the days and weeks ahead, there is another malady we need to watch out for, on the Brexiteer side of the fence.

That is, the Boris Johnson Delusion – the idea that Johnson is Brexit’s saviour, its fun blond champion, and that now we have a Believer in No10 everything will be coming up kippers. This is a fantasy, and a dangerous one.

Every course Boris has plotted to a meaningful Brexit looks fanciful. He says he wants to renegotiate with EU leaders. But they show no sign of budging. He says he is prepared to take Britain out with No Deal. But the House of Commons and its Speaker have made clear they will do everything to stop him.

We have a Leave electorate and a Remain parliament, and the last few years have shown us that too many MPs feel it is their right to use the power we vest in them to override our wishes. It is unclear, to say the least, that a bit of Johnson’s trademark enthusiasm will do anything to disabuse them of this notion.

A General Election could change the arithmetic. Johnson told the Spectator recently that he saw being an election winner as his ‘true selling point’. But it’s not clear the country has cottoned on yet. In June, Ipsos Mori had his ‘good potential PM’ rating among voters at -19. (Though he is fortunate to have Corbyn, who polls even worse, as his opponent.)

An election before Brexit feels likely to happen. In fact, it should happen. Our parliamentary system has become increasingly presidential in style. Our political leaders should be chosen at the ballot box, not by 160,000 Tory members. But an election before Brexit would probably give the Tories a (well-deserved) kicking.

No one can say for certain where we are headed. Many a long profile has been penned in recent weeks trying to get at what’s going on inside Boris Johnson’s head. Politics is more volatile than it has been for decades. Making predictions is a mug’s game.

But if we are to get any kind of Brexit by 31 October all signs suggest it will most likely be a Brexit in Name Only – May’s pig of an agreement with a bit of lipstick gingerly applied on it. The Political Declaration will be tweaked so as to give Boris enough cover to back it.

Johnson’s record hardly inspires confidence. This is a man for whom whether or not he actually believed in Brexit in the first place is still an open question. He was almost bounced into backing May’s Chequers plan, and eventually gave in and voted for the Withdrawal Agreement.

Plus he is now the head of a coalition whose views seem utterly irreconcilable. He is backed by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group and George Osborne’s London Evening Standard. One side clearly knows something the other doesn’t. And I dare say we can guess which one it is.

The great irony of Boris Johnson is that this man who says he can regain voters’ trust in politics is himself so thoroughly untrustworthy. No one knows what will happen next, but that is no reason to indulge the soon-to-be-PM’s blind optimism and requests for blind faith.

Those of us who are pro-Brexit but not pro-Tory have been in a bind these past three years. We have had to pin our hopes for Brexit happening on the Conservative Party. By some historical quirk the old party of the establishment became our best shot at blowing a hole in the establishment.

But more than a thousand days since the Brexit vote, and just 100 days until the next Brexit ‘deadline’, we should be under no illusions. Boris Johnson is not our saviour. The Tories are incapable of delivering Brexit. The sooner we realise that, the better.

I’d love to be proven wrong. But we’ve waited long enough.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Photo by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


em price

12th September 2019 at 8:34 am

I remain of leave , but over the last 3yr’s + and seeing / hearing all & ”ALL” The crap that has gone on in parliament not one person will answerer the people’s vote each of the last TWO PM’S have not listened at all + and = that too much monies have been spent in a degusting mess before and already before ”WE” Voted out and now trying to cover this up ! The European union is keeping quiet? I think they should open the argument and finish it ”ALL FOR ONE” To explain exactly to what really is going on? We all Voted

alan smithee

24th July 2019 at 1:23 pm

Labour are finished as negative campaigning doesn’t work and most people see Corybn as a protestor with nothing new to offer. Nobody trusts the Liberals , so the Tories will get an easy shoe in for the next GE. Also, of course the remain option, thankfully, is now dead in the water.

Hana Jinks

24th July 2019 at 12:14 pm

Boris the Red has been bought to delay brexit further. They’ll find a way, and l hope then that people will learn that a vote for the establishment is a vote for (further) enslavement.

Vote Independant.

Philip Humphrey

24th July 2019 at 11:37 am

I don’t think Boris will try to pull a Brexit-in-name-only fast one, but if he does it probably won’t get through parliament like May’s “deal”. Realistically we’re heading for no-deal, and if parliament blocks it, there will be a general election. I think Boris could win that provided the rebel Tory MPs are automatically expelled from the party.

Philip Humphrey

24th July 2019 at 11:45 am

I meant the rebel Tory MPs should be expelled if they bring down the government in a vote of no confidence (which I understand would be the rules of the party). Sorry, posted prematurely.

Amelia Cantor

24th July 2019 at 10:42 am

If the Remainer community were scripting a vast satirical comedy on the dire consequences of Brexit, we could hardly be doing a better job.

But we aren’t scripting anything. So don’t blame us for what the BoJo buffoon is about to do to the country, its economy and its (already cratering) international reputation. You bought Brexit — now you own it. And you’re about to learn exactly how toxic your stupidity, racism, xenophobia, ignorance and misplaced nostalgia has been and will be.

alan smithee

24th July 2019 at 1:21 pm

Trolling again and how is your paedophile friend?

James E Shaw

24th July 2019 at 10:37 am

It’s slowly starting to dawn on Tom Slater and Spiked that unicorns do not exist.

Amelia Cantor

24th July 2019 at 10:36 am

If re

Simon Maxwell

24th July 2019 at 9:54 am

It’s funny how all the leftie morons such as Polly Toynbee and these ‘Fck Boris’ loons are outraged at BoJo having been elected ‘Conservative’ Party leader (and thus prime minister) by 90,000 party members. They never had a problem with Gordon Brown becoming prime minister in 2007, did they? Brown’s only opponent didn’t receive enough nominations and so it never went to an election. Brown was basically appointed prime minister without being elected. Where was Toynbee’s outrage then? Typical Guardianista hypocrisy.

toonpaddymal –

24th July 2019 at 6:31 am

Banal even by the clueless “When do we want it NOW!” standards of Tom Slater. If you’re going to try and make a living as a columnist isnt best you have something to say?

Huge developments in Ireland over the backstop in the last few weeks with the Dail in meltdown as they realise they’re facing no deal and constructing a border or accepting the “unworkable” tech solutions.

Anyone fit to call themselve a journalist, especially one trying to make his name would have been all over it. Not Clueless Tom Slater.

If you’re a Brexiter for whom Spiked is a primary source of opinion, you’re a low information voter and quite possibly to thick to vote.

Jerry Owen

24th July 2019 at 8:48 am

The ‘unworkable tech solutions’ are already being used.

Steve Gray

24th July 2019 at 11:20 am


He may be ‘to’ busy to read your reply.

Jerry Owen

24th July 2019 at 1:00 pm

I was clearly not too thick to vote as I made it to the polling booth unaided.
Do you people really look at yourselves in a mirror or does banal boring bigotry come out of your head like non induced vomit ?

Winston Stanley

24th July 2019 at 5:16 am

BJ should go for a GE and deselect Remainer MPs who would oppose a no-deal Brexit. BP and Tories should agree to stand aside for each other and allow each other to have a proportion of pro-Brexit candidates.

BJ could get a no-deal Brexit done on that approach and there is no excuse for him and for the TP to fail to secure a no-deal Brexit. Anything less would be to put one’s party before the country and before democracy, and that is entirely unacceptable.

We have already had the referendum, now let us have it implemented. Let the excuses for failure end with T. May. Come on Boris, do the right thing and get the job done. Be a successful PM and not a total failure like TM.

> Trump backs Boris and will meet him THREE times before Brexit – as Farage reveals the President wants his party to form ‘unstoppable’ General Election pact with the Tories

The Banana

23rd July 2019 at 8:13 pm

Well, never trust a Tory.
But if he fails we’ve got an alternative at least.

alan smithee

24th July 2019 at 1:24 pm

Where is this alternative? Its not in Labour or the Liberal party.

Winston Stanley

23rd July 2019 at 7:56 pm

Oh dear, surely the country has had enough of this Tory cr/p?

> Boris vows to ‘LOVE BOMB’ rebel MPs as he’s cheered to the rafters by backbenchers after being crowned Tory leader as he appoints REMAINER Mark Spencer as chief whip

Jakealope Darcy

23rd July 2019 at 7:36 pm

According to the hacks at the NY Times, Boris as PM means the end of England.

Willie Penwright

23rd July 2019 at 6:15 pm

Tom Slater is probably correct but let us, for a few days anyway, read the Guardian etc and enjoy the tears, anger and frustration of the remainers.

Jerry Owen

23rd July 2019 at 6:46 pm

You beat me to it . All the grauniad writers that wrote Boris off said his career was over etc will be a joy to behold .. we might even get an article in the speccie from Cohen, it’s always a joy to see his pain !

Jerry Owen

23rd July 2019 at 5:28 pm

Bang on the money TS

Christopher Tyson

23rd July 2019 at 5:23 pm

Britain is still a class bound society, who do the liberal establishment credit/blame for Brexit? Oxbridge Etonian Johnson and some bloke I’ve never heard of played in a film by Benedict Cumberbatch who’s cornered the market in posh geniuses. Even the Farage is public school, seems pretty posh. Even man of the people Winston Churchill came from one of Britain’s grandest families, even Tony Benn aka Anthony Wedgewood-Benn. Even our rebels have to be the right sort of chap. We don’t even know if Johnson is pro Brexit, and if he is why? He’s says if we can get to the moon then we can do Brexit, like these things just happen, maybe they do in Johnson world, stuff just happens and he gets the credit. In the last 3 yeas while some of us have been desperately trying to keep the hope of Brexit alive, Johnson has been missing in action. Johnson has other priorities such as keeping the Tories together and winning an election he’s not ‘our’ leader, he is the leader of the Conservative Party, and we need to consign the Tories and Labour to the dustbin of history. The Tories don’t even trust Johnson, but in our age of celebrity he has a recognition factor, and they are so desperate that they have turned to him to try to win an election. There’s a good chance that Johnson will make a pig’s ear of Brexit, which would be the dream scenario for Remainers, ‘each man kills the thing he loves’ or the thing he’s kind of ambivalent about.

Jerry Owen

23rd July 2019 at 9:32 pm

I think getting nearly 70% of the membership vote shows a lot of trust for Boris, not a lack of trust. As for someones class , I care not, If they deliver what I believe in , that’s fine by me. There are natural born leaders form the elites, however there are natural born leaders not of the elites.

Jim Lawrie

24th July 2019 at 1:04 am

He was just shy of ⅔. 1 in 8 did not vote.

In the Parliamentary run off stage, sufficient of his supporters voted for Hunt to ensure Gove was out of the contest. Johnson bottled it.

He supported Brexit as a hedge before the referendum, thinking that if Brexit were the mandate, he would be on the winning side, but if not, he could come over all noble and accept the democratic decision.

He is a remainer.

Jim Lawrie

24th July 2019 at 10:48 am

I take your points below Jerry. I was trying to say that the leadership contest was not decisive for The Conservative Party because the candidate choice was rigged. It merely satisfied the personal ambitions of one, and he is not a leader of men – more a charmer of women.
Conservative voters disgruntled with the whole charade may express that in a general election by voting for The LibDems and the Brexit Party.

Jim Lawrie

24th July 2019 at 1:17 am

The indigenous working class have been elbowed out of every sphere of public and professional life. Effniks and special groups with places reserved for them are following the same class and educational lines as you describe.

At stake is the leadership of the indigenous working class. The winner will be whoever taps into their grievances. The chanting at the Trump rally is one way it could go.

Jerry Owen

24th July 2019 at 7:50 am

J Lawrie
I wasn’t making the point that BJ was a leaver , I gave my doubts which is why I give this article the thumbs up.
The media were saying that anything below 60% support would be deemed unconvincing , in the event he easily surpassed that despite the media’s Trumpesque like reporting of anything to do with BJ albeit it with more subtlety.

Neil McCaughan

23rd July 2019 at 5:13 pm

Anyone attending the anti-Boris demo tomorrow should be killed and eaten.

Jakealope Darcy

23rd July 2019 at 7:36 pm

Promoting cannibalism? That’s a tad harsh.

Neil McCaughan

24th July 2019 at 9:35 am

It’s not cannibalism when they’re not the same species as us.

Pru C

24th July 2019 at 10:02 pm

Oh I think even the Vege lot will have some, because we’re talking about something rather plant like – as in rooted to a fixed position and grown in an incubator dome similar to the Eden Project … except the Eden Project isn’t scary.

Jerry Owen

23rd July 2019 at 8:02 pm

Won’t they leave a bitter taste ?

Jim Lawrie

24th July 2019 at 1:19 am

With fava beans and Chianti?
Or has the vino rosso already done for their livers?

alan smithee

24th July 2019 at 1:24 pm

All 5 people?

Hana Jinks

30th July 2019 at 11:49 am

Neil obviously meant that any vegans not attending would be forced to eat those of the differnt species that had to be killed because they were of a different species.

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