Yet again, Boris Johnson has exposed himself as a self-serving charlatan

Published by The Guardian (9th July, 2018)

The resignation of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary serves as a perfect metaphor for the tragedy and hypocrisy of Brexit. Here is the Old Etonian who placed himself at the helm of the people’s uprising against the establishment, but only after hesitating about which side to join. He once posed as a liberal, but now positions himself as a populist leader of hard-right nationalists. And he is a former London mayor who said he was in favour of the single market but has quit over the prime minister’s attempt to find a way for British companies to trade with Europe.

But then Johnson only ever cared about one thing: himself. He is a self-serving charlatan with nothing but ambition coursing through his veins. Bear in mind this man, who claims such passion for his nation, has quit as foreign secretary in the wake of a nerve agent attack that killed a British citizen and days before a summit on Nato that could threaten the security of our continent. But, in truth, ever since his appointment it has been a national embarrassment that this blustering buffoon was presented as our face to the planet, especially in such turbulent times.

Curiously, in the hours after Theresa May’s attempt to stitch together a cabinet compromise on the customs union last week, a ‘friend’ of Johnson was quoted saying he would not resign since the only beneficiaries would be Michel Barnier, Europe’s chief Brexit negotiator, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. Then he saw David Davis depart as Brexit secretary and his leadership hopes dissolve on the Tory right. So he seems to have suddenly discovered his supposed principles and walked out to fuel the political crisis.

David Cameron did the country a huge disservice if, as rumoured, he persuaded Johnson not to resign last week before the crunch cabinet meeting at Chequers. Johnson has been a disruptive force for months, sabotaging efforts to find a common path through the Brexit maze. When terrorists attacked London last September, with casualties on a tube train and a bomber on the loose, his only thought was to grab headlines by staking out his leadership pitch with the publication of a risible manifesto for a hard Brexit. No wonder Jimmy Mulville, the producer of Have I Got News For You, has told me of his guilt at helping this character rebrand himself by hosting the show.

Do not be fooled by Johnson’s gags and classical quips, which only mask a calculating desperation for the top job. To appreciate the selfish cynicism of these people and their contempt for the electorate, witness the response by Steve Baker, another departing Brexiteer minister, when asked why Vote Leave did not warn people about the difficulties of departure. “In the course of the campaign people must select the arguments that they think will win,” he responded.

No wonder there is such corrosive distrust of Westminster, which ironically fuelled that wretched referendum result. Remember the bus, the claim of Brexit dividends, the talk of a Turkish migrant invasion. Liam Fox, tipped to move in the musical chairs going on around the cabinet table, even argued that a free trade deal with Europe “should be one of the easiest in human history’. The reality is these people sold a pup, had no expectation of winning and now their dreams are being dashed on the brutal rocks of reality. Instead of taking back control, Britain has been left poorer and weaker, and will end up lacking sway over key rules impacting on our prosperity.

History will judge the Tories harshly over these events for, despite the pathetic behaviour of Labour’s leadership, they own this debacle. At a time of immense global uncertainty, Cameron held a needless referendum to paper over party cracks, then bungled the campaign. His successor, so painfully out of her depth, rushed article 50 and botched a general election. Even now, just months before departure, they fight among themselves and jostle for jobs while having no idea how to achieve Brexit. The likes of Johnson and Nigel Farage behave like arsonists running away from a fire, then claiming they are the best people to put out the blaze.

The idea of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as party leader and prime minister is a bad joke. Yet again, he has exposed himself as a man lacking principles who will sacrifice anything from his party to his country on the altar of his ambition. Far worse, his latest betrayal highlights the torture of the Tories, riven with division and devoid of a workable exit strategy from Europe. But as Johnson once said: ‘There are no disasters, only opportunities,’ before adding: ‘And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.’

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