Politics, Recommended

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man: A Profile of Boris Johnson

I first set eyes on Boris Johnson in the autumn of 1983 when we went up to Oxford at the same time. I knew who he was since my uncle Christopher was an ex-boyfriend of his mother’s and he had told me to keep an eye out for him, but I still wasn’t prepared for the sight (and sound) of him at the dispatch box of the Oxford Union. This was the world famous debating society where ambitious undergraduates honed their public-speaking skills before embarking on careers in politics or journalism, and Boris was proposing the motion.

With his huge mop of blond hair, his tie askew and his shirt escaping from his trousers, he looked like an overgrown schoolboy. Yet with his imposing physical build, his thick neck and his broad, Germanic forehead, there was also something of Nietzsche’s Übermensch about him. You could imagine him in lederhosen, wandering through the Black Forest with an axe over his shoulder, looking for ogres to kill. This same combination—a state of advanced dishevelment and a sense of coiled strength, of an almost tangible will to power—was even more pronounced in his way of speaking.

He began to advance an argument in what sounded like a parody of the high style in British politics—theatrical, dramatic, self-serious—when—a few seconds in—he appeared to completely forget what he was about to say. He looked up, startled—Where am I?—and asked the packed chamber which side he was supposed to be on. “What’s the motion, anyway?” Before anyone could answer, a light bulb appeared above his head and he was off, this time in an even more orotund, florid manner. Yet within a few seconds he’d wrong-footed himself again, this time because it had suddenly occurred to him that there was an equally compelling argument for the opposite point of view. This endless flipping and flopping, in which he seemed to constantly surprise himself, went on for the next 15 minutes. The impression he gave was of someone who’d been plucked from his bed in the middle of the night and then plonked down at the dispatch box of the Oxford Union without the faintest idea of what he was supposed to be talking about.

I’d been to enough Union debates at this point to know just how mercilessly the crowd could punish those who came before them unprepared. That was particularly true of freshmen, who were expected to have mastered all the arcane procedural rules, some of them dating back to the Union’s founding in 1823. But Boris’s chaotic, scatter-brained approach had the opposite effect. The motion was deadly serious—“This House Would Reintroduce Capital Punishment”—yet almost everything that came out of his mouth provoked gales of laughter. This was no ordinary undergraduate proposing a motion, but a Music Hall veteran performing a well-rehearsed comic routine. His lack of preparedness seemed less like evidence of his own shortcomings as a debater and more a way of sending up all the other speakers, as well as the pomposity of the proceedings. You got the sense that he could easily have delivered a highly effective speech if he’d wanted to, but was too clever and sophisticated—and honest—to enter into such a silly charade. To do what the other debaters were doing, and pretend he believed what was coming out of his mouth, would have been patronising. Everyone else was taking the audience for fools, but not him. He was openly insincere and, in being so, somehow seemed more authentic than everyone else.

To say I was impressed would be an understatement. A few years before arriving at Oxford I had watched the television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh’s Oxford novel, and had been expecting to meet the modern-day equivalents of Sebastian Flyte and Anthony Blanche: larger-than-life, devil-may-care aristocrats delivering bon mots in between sips of champagne and spoonfuls of caviar. But the reality was very different: warm beer, stale sandwiches and second-hand opinions. Lots of spotty students, all as gauche as me. Less like an Oscar Wilde play than a Mike Leigh film.

In Boris, though, it was as if I’d finally encountered the ‘real’ Oxford, the Platonic ideal. While the rest of us were works-in-progress, vainly trying on different personae, Boris was the finished article. He was an instantly recognizable character from the comic tradition in English letters: a pantomime toff. He was Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night demanding more cakes and ale, Bertie Wooster trying to pass himself off as Eustace H. Plimsoll when appearing in court after overdoing it on Boat Race night. Yet at the same time fizzing with vim and vinegar—“bursting with spunk,” as he once put it, explaining why he needs so many different female partners. He was a cross between Hugh Grant and a silverback gorilla.

My uncle had described him as a “genius” and as a boy he’d been regarded as something of a wunderkind. There was the occasion when he was holidaying with his family in Greece, aged 10, and asked a group of Classics professors if he could join their game of Scrabble. They indulged the precocious, blond-haired moppet, only to be beaten by him. Thinking it was a one-off, they asked him to play another round and, again, he won. On and on it went, game after game. At the prep school he attended before going to Eton, Britain’s grandest private school, he was seen as a prodigy. A schoolmaster who taught him back then told his biographer, Andrew Gimson, that he was the quickest-learner he’d ever encountered. In the staff room, the teachers would compare notes about the “fantastically able boy.”

He was without doubt the biggest man on campus—the person most likely to succeed. He made no secret of his desire to be Prime Minister one day, and not just a run-of-the-mill, common-or-garden PM, but up there with Gladstone and Disraeli. And this was a scaling back of his ambitions—as a boy he’d told his younger sister Rachel that he wanted to be “world king.” (There was an intermediate stage during his teenage years when he harboured fantasies of becoming President of the United States—something that’s technically possible, given that he was born in New York.) He was by no means the only member of the Oxford Union to express such hopes during that period, but in his case you felt it might actually happen. Unlike so many other privileged undergraduates, with their vaulting sense of entitlement, Boris’s gargantuan self-belief seemed of a piece with his outsized personality. He had an electrifying, charismatic presence of a kind I’d only read about in books before. Our mutual friend Lloyd Evans, who knew Boris better than me at Oxford, put it well. “He’s a war leader,” he told Andrew Gimson. “He is one of the two or three most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. You just feel he’s going somewhere. People just love him. They enjoy going with him and they enjoy being led.”

Thirty-Six Years Later

Fast-forward 36 years and the 55 year-old Boris is about to become the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I am writing this just after the result of the Conservative leadership election has been announced and the British constitution is such that the winner of that contest will now automatically be sent for by the Queen and invited to form the next government. Ten Tory Members of Parliament entered the fray six weeks ago and, after a series of debates and votes, only two remained: Boris and Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary. In less tumultuous times, Hunt, who is regarded as a dependable, ‘steady Eddie’ type, might have prevailed. But the view of the Conservative Party is that extraordinary times demand an extraordinary leader—and few moments in the UK’s history have been as messy as this.

Three years ago, the British people voted to leave the European Union by 17.4 million votes to 16.1 million in what was the largest democratic contest of its kind in our island’s history. The result of the referendum was immediately contested for all sorts of reasons, some of them bad (the mean age of Leave voters was higher than that of Remain voters and therefore their votes should count for less) and some of them…well, not good, exactly, but less bad. (I supported Leave and, predictably enough, regard the result as legitimate.) Many prominent people on the losing side felt that some of the statements made by the leaders of the Leave campaign—notably Boris, Britain’s most prominent Brexiteer—were dishonest, such as the claim that membership of the European Union costs the British taxpayer £350 million a week. That’s not a lie, exactly, since our annual contribution to the EU is £20 billion, which works out at about £350 million a week. But it fails to take account of the £10 billion or so we get back each year in the form of rebates and subsidies. Boris was guilty of conflating the gross and the net. My view is that this falls within the bounds of normal hyperbole during a hard-fought electoral contest and was matched by comparable elisions on the other side. But the losers were, understandably, less charitable. Earlier this year a Remainer managed to crowdsource a private prosecution against Boris for “misconduct in public office,” although it didn’t get very far.

David Cameron, who was Britain’s Prime Minister during the referendum, resigned on the morning the result was announced, having led the Remain campaign, and everyone assumed Boris would succeed him. But his campaign manager in the ensuing leadership contest—Michael Gove, a Conservative politician, and the second-most prominent backer of Leave—decided he couldn’t in good conscience continue to support Boris and threw his own hat into the ring instead. With the two victors of the Leave campaign at each other’s throats, Theresa May, a Conservative Member of Parliament who had campaigned for Remain, was the surprise winner of that contest and is still Britain’s Prime Minister, although she’s about to tender her resignation to the Queen. Boris, in effect, has had to wait three years to claim the prize that many think should have been his after the referendum.

May inherited a small parliamentary majority from David Cameron, but unwisely decided to call a General Election in 2017. One of her reasons for taking this gamble is that she had committed herself to leaving both the Single Market and the Customs Union—completely resetting our trading relationship with the EU—and she felt she needed a larger majority to get that through Parliament. Unfortunately, she proved such a poor campaigner that the Conservative Party lost its majority, forcing her into an alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, a small group of Northern Irish hard-liners, and making the kind of Brexit she wanted more difficult to achieve. She and her team of advisors negotiated a compromise deal with the EU that some members of her party felt was too mushy, while others thought it was too extreme, and she tried and failed to get it through Parliament three times. This took so long and involved so much fruitless horse-trading that the Government missed not one but two deadlines for leaving the EU, having originally promised to exit by March 29th. The new deadline is October 31st, but May fell on her sword eight weeks ago, having abandoned hope of getting any deal through by then and, crucially, being unwilling to leave with no deal. (There is much disagreement about how damaging no deal would be to the British economy, with some, such as May, believing it would be catastrophic, and others comparing it to the millennium bug.) That triggered the current leadership contest.

One of the reasons Boris won by a margin of two-to-one is that he has been unequivocal about his intention to take Britain out of the EU by October 31st, with or without a deal. The hope is that this tough stance will force the EU to return to the negotiating table and offer some major concessions, thereby enabling Boris to get a new deal through Parliament before the deadline. But there’s a risk that the EU won’t improve its offer—at least not sufficiently—in which case Boris will have to make good on his ‘no deal’ threat. That, in turn, could trigger a constitutional crisis. As things stand, a vote of Parliament isn’t required before Britain can leave the EU—our departure on October 31st is the default legal position and remains so unless the Prime Minister asks for another extension. But pro-Remain MPs have been frantically scheming away, trying to think of ways to obstruct a no deal Brexit, and they have an ally in John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, who’s proved willing to bend the rules to make the life of Brexiteers more difficult. Within weeks of Boris entering Downing Street, possibly days, we could see an impasse in which the executive and legislative branches of Britain’s parliamentary democracy are at loggerheads. In that scenario, it would be unclear where authority lies and unless Boris can figure out a way to break the deadlock there would almost certainly be another election.

And that’s a huge risk because waiting in the wings is Jeremy Corbyn, the most left-wing Leader of the Opposition in Britain’s history. In normal circumstances, a Labour leader who venerates Hugo Chavez and is promising to hike the top rate of income tax, introduce a raft of property taxes, force companies to appoint workers’ representatives to their boards, take Britain’s gas and electricity industries into state ownership, and who regularly appears on state television in Iran and counts the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends,” would not have much hope of becoming Prime Minister. But Theresa May’s failure to take us out of the EU, in spite of promising to honor the result of the referendum, has prompted a large number of Conservative voters to defect to the Brexit Party, a new, single-issue political vehicle that was formed earlier this year by Nigel Farage, the charismatic ex-leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party and a long-standing Eurosceptic. Farage retired from British politics after the referendum, declaring that his work was done, but came storming back earlier this year—one final push, etc.—and led his new party to victory in the European election, beating the Tories into fifth place. The fear is that if there’s a General Election before we’ve left, right-of-center voters will be split between the Conservatives and the Brexit Party and Corbyn will be able to come up through the middle, sneaking into Downing Street with less than a third of the vote.

Which is another reason Boris has prevailed in this contest. Unlike Jeremy Hunt, who campaigned for Remain in 2016, Boris was the only Big Beast in the leadership election who can credibly take on Farage and hope to win back some of those Brexit Party defectors. No one in the Conservative Party relishes the prospect of an election before October 31st, but it cannot be ruled out and making Boris the leader is a way of mitigating the risk. Paradoxically, the most gaffe-prone politician in contemporary Britain—he averages at least one snafu a week—has managed to position himself as the ‘safety first’ candidate. It’s not just that his Brexit bona fides are second to none. He’s also a proven election winner. He beat the Labour incumbent to become Mayor of London in 2008—the only Conservative to be elected to that office in what has always been a Labour city—and won re-election in 2012. Throw in his victory in the EU referendum against overwhelming odds and he begins to look like the Conservative Party’s white knight. If anyone can slay the twin dragons of Corbyn and Farage, Boris can.

A Marmite Figure

Boris is often described as a “Marmite figure,” a reference to a salty, brown, waxy substance that some British people like to smear on their toast. You either love Marmite or you hate it and the same goes for Boris. Just as some sections of America’s coastal elites suffer from Trump derangement syndrome, large swathes of the UK’s intelligentsia are afflicted by Boris derangement syndrome.

He has certainly engaged in some pretty egregious behavior during his climb up Britain’s greasy pole—a litany of sins that would be enough to end the careers of less gifted politicians. He was sacked from his first job as a news trainee on the Times of London in 1988 when he was caught making up a quote. He went on to become the Brussels correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, where many of his stories about the EU’s harebrained bureaucratic directives—new regulations governing the curvature of bananas, for instance—fell under the heading of “too good to check.” He landed the editorship of the Spectator in 1999 at the age of 35 and tried to combine that with embarking on a political career, becoming the Member of Parliament for Henley in 2001—a twin-track approach that the magazine’s proprietor, Conrad Black, described as trying to ride two horses at once. (“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it,” Boris responded.) This eventually came to a head when stories began to circulate that he was having an affair with Petronella Wyatt, the Spectator’s deputy editor. Boris was on to his second marriage at this point and had been appointed the Conservative’s shadow arts spokesman, so this was a potential scandal. When asked by Michael Howard, the leader of the Party, whether the rumors were true, Boris described them as “an inverted pyramid of piffle.” In fact, they were true—it turned out Petronella had become pregnant and had then had an abortion—and Boris was fired by Howard for being less than forthright about it.

During this period I was sharing the job of drama critic on the Spectator with Lloyd Evans and we decided to write a sex farce set in the magazine’s offices called Who’s The Daddy?. It enjoyed a sold-out run in an off-West End theatre and we were terrified that Boris, who we mercilessly sent up in every scene, would sack us. After all, not many editors would do nothing if two junior employees lampooned them in such a public way. To give you a flavor of the play, the Boris character—who was named “Boris”—had a life-size portrait of Margaret Thatcher on his office wall that doubled as a pull-down bed and was in constant use throughout. It ended with the publisher giving birth to triplets, all of them sporting thick blond hair. But Boris took it on the chin. He didn’t demote us, didn’t withdraw any of our editorial privileges, didn’t stop inviting us to office parties. Our relationship with him was entirely unaffected. His only response was to send us a postcard on opening night that read: “I always knew my life would be turned into a farce. I’m just glad it’s been entrusted to two such distinguished men of letters.”

Boris Johnson as editor of the Spectator with Toby Young second from right.

When Boris stood as the Conservative candidate in the London mayoral election in 2008, his Labor opponent and his campaign team dredged up everything “offensive” he had ever said or written—an embarrassment of riches. No need to employ any opposition researchers; it was lying around in newspaper columns and magazine articles for anyone to find. This was ‘offense archeology’ of a kind that’s become all too common in public life and which derailed my career at the beginning of 2018. But Boris has always been immune to this line of attack.

To take the most notorious example, in a Telegraph column in 2002 about the visit of Tony Blair to the Congo, he wrote:

No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.

The same column included the line:

It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies.

Even by the less racially-sensitive standards of the time, this was inflammatory stuff. But Boris claimed to be “satirizing” neo-colonialism rather than expressing neo-colonialist sentiments himself and got away with it. His references to “watermelon smiles” and “piccaninnies” didn’t stop him winning in a city that is 55% non-white. His critics still bring up these and other quotes at every opportunity—last year in another Telegraph column he compared niqab-wearing Muslim women to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”—yet the mud never sticks. This is partly because the line between sincerity and insincerity is always so blurry—he is never fully in earnest, so can always wriggle out of taking responsibility for whatever it is that’s upset people. Sometimes he apologies, but always with a mischievous glint in his eye. The Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole wrote about this sleight-of-hand in a blisteringly unsympathetic profile for the New York Review of Books:

The anthropologist Kate Fox, in her classic study Watching the English, suggested that a crucial rule of the national discourse is what she called The Importance of Not Being Earnest: “At the most basic level, an underlying rule in all English conversation is the proscription of ‘earnestness.’” Johnson has played on this to perfection—he knows that millions of his compatriots would rather go along with his outrageous fabrications than be accused of the ultimate sin of taking things too seriously.

But there’s another, related reason why so many people are willing to forgive Boris for his transgressions which burrows deeper into the divided English soul. George Orwell in The Art of Donald McGill, his 1941 essay about seaside postcards, describes a conflict at the heart of our national character—one we fought a civil war over, no less—that captures Boris’s appeal. On the one hand are the pointy-heads, the scolds, always wagging their fingers and pursing their lips, constantly on the look-out for moral failings. Elsewhere, Orwell refers to these puritans as the “boiled rabbits of the left” and “the Bloomsbury highbrows,” but in this essay he compares them to Don Quixote, the high-minded hero of Cervantes’ eponymous novel. He contrasts this archetype with Sancho Panza, Quixote’s comic foil, and when listing the little squire’s down-to-earth qualities he could easily be describing Boris:

He is your unofficial self, the voice of the belly protesting against the soul. His tastes lie towards safety, soft beds, no work, pots of beer and women with ‘voluptuous’ figures.

It is that saturnalian streak in the British character that Boris appeals to and helps explain his popularity with ordinary voters. Orwell expands on his theme—contrasting the unlettered masses with the sanctimonious “Europeanized intelligentsia”—in The Lion and the Unicorn:

One thing one notices if one looks directly at the common people, especially in the big towns, is that they are not puritanical. They are inveterate gamblers, drink as much beer as their wages will permit, are devoted to bawdy jokes, and use probably the foulest language in the world.

Another quote that’s often dragged up by Boris’s enemies to discredit him is from a Conservative campaign speech in 2005: “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.” In their minds, this is appallingly sexist, as well as environmentally suspect. But if Orwell is right about the enduring appeal of the “overwhelming vulgarity,” the “smuttiness,” the “ever-present obscenity,” of Britain’s seaside postcards you can see why constantly reminding people of Boris’s politically incorrect remarks won’t necessarily hurt his electoral chances. It just serves to embed him in the public imagination as a stock British character whom many people still feel an instinctive affection for: the lovable rogue, the man with the holiday in his eye. He’s the guy that tries to persuade the barman to serve one more round of drinks after time has been called, the 14-year-old who borrows his father’s Mercedes at two o’clock in the morning and takes it up to a 100mph on the motorway with his friends shrieking in the back. He’s Falstaff in Henry IV, Sid James in the Carry On films. He’s a Donald McGill postcard.

Orwell concludes his essay by praising this rebellious, licentious streak in the British character. In his view, it’s an important bulwark against the censoriousness of our would-be governors and regulators:

I never read the proclamations of generals before battle, the speeches of flihrers and prime ministers, the solidarity songs of public schools and left-wing political parties, national anthems, Temperance tracts, papal encyclicals and sermons against gambling and contraception, without seeming to hear in the background a chorus of raspberries from all the millions of common men to whom these high sentiments make no appeal.

Cometh the Man?

Having said all that, it’s still quite a leap to think the right man to lead Britain during this period of national crisis is…Sancho Panza. Can the clown prince conquer his Falstaffian urges and discover his inner homme sérieux? Can Hal become Henry V?

The most damning indictment of Boris is the two years he spent as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May, his highest political office to date. He shouldn’t have accepted the job since it made him complicit in May’s failings—although he did resign in 2018 when the shape of her deal  with the EU became clear—but having done so he should have applied himself more assiduously. He wasn’t an unqualified disaster, but he often seemed to take his eye off the ball. For instance, in an appearance before a House of Commons committee he said of a British woman who had been arrested in Iran that she’d “simply been teaching people journalism.” The Iranian authorities had accused her of spying and her defense was that she in the country visiting relatives, so Boris’s remarks weren’t helpful. She remains in prison to this day.

His stint as Mayor of London, by contrast, was a triumph. He cut the murder rate in half, reduced traffic fatalities, embarked on an ambitious house-building program, introduced a popular rent-a-bike scheme and presided over the barn-stormingly successful 2012 London Olympics. The key difference between his Mayoralty and his two years at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is that he was the baton-wielding conductor at City Hall, but a member of the orchestra in Theresa May’s Cabinet. Boris has never been good at playing second fiddle. He’s an alpha, something that’s been apparent from a very early age. His sister Rachel once told me that at her fifth birthday party she stood up on a table to make a speech and the six-year-old Boris, furious that she was getting all the attention, leapt up beside her, pushed her aside and gave a speech of his own. Now that he has given Theresa May the elbow, my hope is that he will recover the focus he displayed as Mayor.

Britain’s veteran political commentators are, for the most part, pessimistic about Boris’s premiership. His lack of a parliamentary majority, the byzantine complexity of Brexit, trying to win over the soggy center while being flanked by Farage—all of this adds up to a grim reality check that could see him being the shortest-lived Prime Minister in the UK’s history. (That record is held by George Canning who lasted 119 days.)

But when I hear these prognostications of doom I cannot help thinking of another Prime Minister who entered Downing Street at a moment of national crisis with the odds stacked against him. When Churchill succeeded Chamberlain in 1940, most members of the Establishment thought he’d embarked on a foolhardy course. What hope did Britain have of holding out against the might of the Nazi war machine? Yet he overcame those doubts about his leadership, in part because he succeeded in bending reality to his will. In politics, there are few fixed parameters. Everything is fluid and uncertain, with too many variables for the human brain to compute. What is considered completely impossible one week, becomes possible the next. Through sheer force of personality, Churchill was able to change the narrative and persuade people that military defeat wasn’t inevitable. He did this by using the same alchemy that was attributed to Steve Jobs: a reality distortion field. It’s a superpower possessed by those rare individuals that come along once in a generation, combining bottomless self-belief, exceptional cognitive ability and spellbinding charisma. Boris is one of those people.

The rational part of my brain is still full of doubts and uncertainties. What sensible person would look at Boris’s peripatetic career and rakish personality and conclude that he is the right man to lead Britain at this moment of maximum danger? But at a more primitive level, a level impervious to reason, I cannot help but believe. From the first moment I saw him, I felt I was in the presence of someone special, someone capable of achieving great things. And I’ve never quite been able to dispel that impression.

The next three months, between now and October 31st, will reveal whether that was a historical premonition or a sophomoric illusion.


Toby Young is an associate editor of Quillette. You can follow him on Twitter @toadmeister

Photos By Andrew Parsons/ i-Images, and Daffyd Jones


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  1. TJR says

    Somehow it had never occurred to me before, but of course you’re right, Boris Johnson is Sid James.

    But which Sid James is he, the lovable rogue of Carry On films and the later series of Hancock, or the just plain rogue of the early series of Hancock?

    I’m hoping for Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond.

    • Nowl says

      I’m a massive Carry On fan who who wasn’t into Hancock, so the Sid James I remember is Ruff-Diamond and the Rumpo Kid. And he was basically a klutz who never got the girl (usually Babs, and I’m not talking about real life) or any other object of his desire. Not a good precedent for a PM.

    • Tim Blackburn says

      So the have-I-got-news-for-you-anorak-who-spends-his-day-in-the-toilet-with-pictures-of-boris-and-his-farm-animal-fantasies has got what he wants. We’ll done mate!

      England is now ruled by men who the rest of the world would have edited out before birth, if they could.

      Quillette hilarious

  2. Yup says

    The criteria for being a genius at Oxford is evidently very low: don’t know how to dress yourself; don’t know what you’re doing, why, or for whom; be good at games; and get the occasional laugh. And go to Eton first, let’s not forget that.

    • ClarkeP says

      Went to Eton…. on an academic scholarship, those are not easily won.

  3. Jonny Sclerotic says

    Toby Young fawning over BoJo is like watching a hyena lick the festering corpse of a hippo. Gives you the dry boak but you can’t look away.

    • Bryce Leigh says

      Clearly you did not read his essay in its entirety… that’s rhetorical!

    • Samuel White says

      Have you seen the YT vid where a hyena snuck up behind a water buffalo and ATE ITS NADS?!

      Good Lord.

  4. “(There was an intermediate stage during his teenage years when he harboured fantasies of becoming President of the United States—something that’s technically possible, given that he was born in New York.)”

    Not really. Even if he had not renounced his US citizenship, he would had to have lived a minimum of 14 years in the US before taking office.

    Otherwise a very interesting profile.

    • baz says

      He is 55 so presumably he would have been able to accommodate this duration within his lifetime.

  5. Tom Shen says

    There was a time when it was assumed that when a new person was elected president and had all the data of the president, he would continue with basically the same policies as his predecessor. Later in more cynical times, this assumption was modified to “the new president doesn’t really believe what he ran on, it was just stuff to get him elected. So I hope Boris sticks to his guns and delivers what he said 3 would deliver as PM. But if he flip-flops or water downs his position…no shocking surprise is warranted

  6. Sarah Brown says

    You mean Henry V I think. (If so, just delete this.)

  7. Chrissie Martin says

    A very well written and clear piece. Many thanks.

  8. Charlie says

    Since the 1930s and especially after Suez in 1956 the dominant voice in public affairs has been pessimistic, effete, self hating, impractical, priggish , metropolitan , conceited with a belief in their moral and intellectual superiority. They are convinced of the perpetual decline of Britain because they lack the daring, drive and ingenuity which builds civilisations. Theyperceive that because they are timid, effete and impractical and have thrown in the towel, then this should be the fate of Britain. The men tend to be scared of the blue collar types because they are physically weak. Boris is physically robust with a classically trained mind which is brilliant and can joke with blue collar men and women and his ebullient sense of humour mean he can quickly develop a rapport with people of West Indian and African descent. Many of the priggish effete types though claiming not to be snobs or racist usually look down on white blue collar people and are physically scared in the presence of solidly built men of West Indian and West African descent. Many feeble left types continuous use of the word racist is because they are physically scared of non-whites and wish to hide it.

    Boris is an optimist, who has zest for life and plays the clown because if he did not, those physically weaker, smaller and intellectually inferior would be intimidated. Western Society has had the affluence to enable large numbers of intellectually mediocre and physically feeble types to dominate public discourse and create society in their image. It is fairly easy to define intelligence, fitness, sporting skill, musical skill, physical bravery or even beauty and proved wrong. However, once a person considers themselves moral and morally superior to others it is almost impossible to prove them wrong as it is not measurable. If moral superiority goes with a belief in intellectual superiority it almost impossible to prove them wrong. Thus those who hate Boris because they fear and hate him and conceal these emotions under a cloak of moral and intellectual superiority. Those who oppose Boris have done nothing to improve the quality of life of the poorest; he reduced the murder rate which is the greatest form of inequality.

    Boris is the optimistic intellectually bright, robust, resilient type who is needed in pioneer societies.

    Most left types and even many conservatives from the middle class are pessimists because they are full of fear, from which develops self hatred and hatred to that that which shows them to be fearful and inadequate to overcoming the challenges of life. It is one thing to be fearful, full of self hatred, inadequate to life’s challenges; but is even worse when somebody by their actions demonstrates that persons, fear, inadequacy and self hated.

    • Jonathan Andrews says

      That seems to me rather insightful. We’ll, I agree with you anyway.

    • Peter from Oz says

      Well said, Charlie.
      For a while Margaret Thatcher re-energised the elites and Britain rose again from the pit of socialist despair.

    • Simon Johnson says

      “Most left types and even many conservatives from the middle class are pessimists because they are full of fear”

      It’s this quote that undoes your entire comment. Considering the most fundamental aspect of conservatism is opposition to social change, this comment is utterly ridiculous. It’s also refuted by psychological literature – endorsed by Quillette’s intellectual idol, Jordan Peterson – that demonstrates conservatives are more averse to change and new experiences. We then have the overwhelming evidence from political campaigns from Europe to Australia, where conservatives embrace a platform of fear rather than optimism to win votes. Fear of minorities, fear of the actions of other nations, isolationism. The list goes on.

      • David George says

        I don’t think so Simon.
        Conservatism is conservative (of course) but the generalised assumption that the motivation is fear is a big leap. The conservative is wary of radical, risky and unnecessary change but embraces the courageous, the call to adventure; personal responsibility and self reliance, individual stoicism in the face of group think and entrepreneurship are hallmarks.
        Not for them the snivelling conformity of the socialist or the deadening attachment to group identity or the fear-driven desire to destroy competition and even competence itself.
        The lefty spectrum with their warming alarmist hysteria and outrageous fear of contrary opinion are frightened children. You perhaps need to get out and talk to some of these people. Not impressive.
        Here’s a very good clip I’m sure you will enjoy: Face your Fears and Grow Up.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @David George

          Perhaps the word is caution. Not the limbic emotion of fear, but the intellectual ability to consider a course of action before taking it with the understanding that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

      • Charlie says

        The history of Britain has shown that once a person was fit to hold power they did so. The aristocracy allowed their younger sons to go into trade and they married the daughters of trade. The Grosvenor fortune is based upon a member marrying a builders daughter whose dowry was much of their London property holdings. On the Continent the aristocracy only married amongst themselves.

        As Bryant pointed out , the aristocracy were talent spotters and supported the able. The Duke of Manchester risked vast amounts of money when employed Brindley to build his canals, against the advice of everyone. Wellington employed Telford to improve Dover Docks. many of the engineers came from poverty and were supported by aristocrats where they shown to produce practical results. It was the landowners who started the Agricultural revolution and prided themselves on improving their estates, Turnip Townsend being an example. Many aristocrats were keen on science , Turnip Townsend was a FRS.

        The reason why we never had class warfare was because from the times of the Saxons , the monarch ruled via consultation and consent under laws drafted by the people based upon tribal custom and The Bible – see David Starkey Monarchy Ep 1. GM Trevelyan In his Social History of England and Artur Bryant in his 3 volume work both point out to the flexibility of Britain. Wellington supported the emancipation of Roman Catholics and then changed his views and supported increasing those numbers enfranchised. Wellington said the aristocracy had to mix with all of society.

        It was the Conservative who introduced the Factory Acts and gave the vote to the working man in the 19th Century. The Conservatives were more keen on giving the vote to women than the Labour Party.

        The landowners and aristocracy accepted social change and always were familiar with those around them. In fact Cobbett in his rural rides said that this familiarity between land owner and labourer was a strength; they would often drink together in the same inn.

        George V treated the Labour Party with respect and when during the General Strike told people who criticised them that they should live on their wages.

        Jordon Peterson is correct, he has a poor grasp of history, especially British social history.
        British Conservatism was always, keep what works, change what does not and prove your worthy to hold, the reigns of power or in the Saxon sense Fyrd worthy, moot worthy and fold worthy. Disraeli, perhaps one of Britain’s greatest Prime Minister, a Conservative, had Jewish parents and there was a Tory MP who was Indian.

        Historically British Conservatives judged a person on their character. Could a man stand up and defend himself with his fists and wit, was he hard working ( yeoman work is a compliment ), straight forward in his dealings- my word is my bond, was down to earth, jolly, called a spade a spade, was he a good loser ( it’s not cricket ) was he robust of build, common sense and humour ? They disliked the sly, devious, cunning, whining, whinging, snivelling, chippy, resentful, those full of hot air, priggish, vicious( do not kick a man when he is down ), malicious and prolix.

        What Conservatives disliked are these impractical feeble theoretical whiny whinging types who put forward ideas which lack robust evidence and any practical use- Orwell has many passages describing this type of middle class Socialist. The blandishments of Nazism, communism and progressivism were resisted because these ideas lack robust common sense and their advocates were nasty bits of work who were full of hot air.

      • Azathoth says

        This is the leftist view–

        “the most fundamental aspect of conservatism is opposition to social change,”

        The truth is far more nuanced

        Conservatism stands in opposition to social change engaged in for the sake of change.

        That’s a huge difference.

        • Heike says

          Chesterson’s Fence. to-wit:

          “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

          Chesterton’s fence is in some ways a very simple defense of conservatism: it warns us that the more confidently you declare a fence to be redundant, then the more ignorant you are of the reasons why the fence was built in the first place. Leftists see the fence and kick the fence down without a thought. How can progress be made if we respect boundaries?

          • maryedith says

            Leftists say, “I can’t see the reason for this fence, so it must be here because of racism, sexism, or plain old greed.”

          • John Savage says

            I have read a lot of GKC but do not recall this. Can you please point me to where it is found? Thanks.

      • Stephanie says

        Actual freedom is a frightful thing. Being self-reliant, and especially having others rely on you, requires great courage. The desire for greater freedom is against the left’s perhaps most basic instinct. They seek safety – they want the government to protect them from as much risk as possible. The risk of illness, financial difficulty, and even unpleasant weather.

        Conservatives are cautious, because history has shown that radical changes often have horrible consequences. That is only rational. Progressives seek radical change because they are desperate for protection from a world full of risks.

        The ways that progressives perceive conservatives to be fearful is superficial and more reflective of their misunderstanding of conservatives than anything.

      • I am not certain you even understand Peterson, and you clearly do not understand conservatives. Reagan and Thatcher were two people of immense courage. That destroys your argument.

        You need to re-read (or, more likely, read for the first time) Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies, where she demonstrates that fear of change is independent of tired divisions like left and right. Many leftists today embrace a stultifying vision of government dominance over all and theft of people’s earnings. I wonder if the real reason leftists want society-destroying high taxes is that in a free enterprise society, dollars/pounds are votes, and leftists cannot stand to have people voting since they are likely to vote for such nonsense as freedom to choose and exit from tyranny. They might vote for BMW M3s! And a couple of other things. Better to take their votes and give them to their intellectual betters in the Holy Bureaucracy.

        • Janice Joplin says

          Let’s run through Reagan’s accomplishments.

          He destroyed unions which led to the downfall of the American middle class.

          He gave weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages and lied about it.

          He gave hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the mujahideen which later became Al Qaeda under Operation Cyclone.

          He gave millions to the Contras that engaged in numerous massacres against the Nicaraguan people.

          Reagan was a piece of shit. No wonder conservatives liked him so much.

          • Alexander Allan says

            I am surprised you call those accomplishments. Most people would call them mistakes.

            Charitable people would recognise that Reagan’s accomplishments were:

            Rekindling America confidence after the Vietnam War
            Economic growth
            Ending the Cold War and liberating Eastern Europe from oppressive Socialism.

          • Charlie says

            Unions led to over priced cars with redundant technology being produced. If the USA had adopted the German/Swiss technical training/Fraunhofer Institutes Detroit would producebetter educated and trained people. German unions understand a balance sheet and base wage demands on profits

            The mujahedeen largely comprised Abdul Haq , a Pashtun in the south and Shah Massoud , Tajik in the North who defeated the USSR and left Afghanistan in 1989. In about 1985 Abdul Haq warned that the rise in Muslim fundamentalism would be a problem for the World.

            Bin Laden turned up in Pakistan and started off providing logistical support to the Mujhadeen in mid 1980s. The conflict attracted many arabs who gravitated to Bin laden. It is not clear how much fighting Bin Laden actually undertook. Al Quaeda- The Base, becomes the name for those attached to Bin Laden from about 1989 onwards.

            Various Muslim Brotherhood groups had developed in the Muslim World post 1922 and from 1979 they were funded by the Saudis . Many of these people went to fight in Afghanistan post 1979- hence Abdul Haq’s warning.

            In 1989 , civil war broke out and Najibullah was defeated by the Taliban in about 1992. The word Taliban comes from Taleeb, student. Large numbers of Afghans fled to Pakistan and came under the influence of the Wahabis . Up to that time The Sunni Islam of the area had been heavily influence by Sufism. The violence of the warlords incensed the young Wahabi Influenced Pashtun who invaded Afghanistan with the support of ISI – Pakistan Military Intelligence . A major power in Pakistan are the lorry drivers who take goods up to the Central Stans, who were being hijacked by warlords and told the Pakistan army to do something. Pakistan was also terrified by Indian influence in Afghanistan. ISI trained , supplied and supported the Taliban who overtook the country, initially supported by Afghans sick of war.

            ISI tried to kill Abdul Haq in abut 1990-92 time. Bin Laden was fed up with the Afghans and moved to Sudan in about 1992. The Sudanese tried to sell Bin Laden to Clinton in about 1996? but they were not interested. In about 19968 Bin laden returns to Afghanistan .
            The Taliban Kill Abdul Haq in 2001 just after 9/11 and Al Quaeda killed Shah Massoud just before 9/11.

            When one of Sandy Galls cameramen a former SAS operative sneaked into Gulbuddin_Hekmatyar he was amazed to hear anti Western anti- Soviet slogans being shouted. This showed the influence of Wahabism

            ISI did not allow the CIA or SIS to operate in Afghanistan and so understanding of the creep of Wahabi styled influence was not known. Zia al Huq from 1973 started the Islamification of the Pakistan Army which up to that time had been very secular which appears to have been ignored by the West.

            The reality is that Western backed moderates have lost out to Wahabi financed fanatics and Al Quaeda has actually turned on their financiers.

            The success of the USA in 2001 was because they still had contacts with Shah Massoud’s army.

            Hostages were taken because Carter was inept.

            Communist killed people in Central America as well.

      • Doug Eaton says

        “Considering the most fundamental aspect of conservatism is opposition to social change . . . ”

        That’s the left-wing comic book version of conservatism. Conservatism is about perfecting social change which, as we all know, is inevitable.

      • EUBanana says

        ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope’

    • Geary Johansen says

      @ Charlie

      Great comment. But like Simon and David, I do take issue with the characterisation on social conservatives as fearful. A better definition, one not hopelessly mired in liberal bias, would be to describe conservatives as ‘threat aware’, which certainly ties in with the observation that people tend to become somewhat more conservative when they become parents. Of course, the label does fit in extremes, when threat awareness becomes irrational and hence fearful. But in many cases, recently, conservative fears have proven all too real, when they manifest fully.

      The fear of minorities that Simon cites in his response is a prime example. It is not so much minorities that conservatives fear (or are supposedly prejudiced against), but rather the fear of a lose of cultural cohesion and national identity. The one world multiculturalism aspired to by most cosmopolitan liberals is ideal for them, because it presents them with a smorgasbord of diverse cultures minutes from their home, for them to immerse themselves in. But other than for the medium to large minority of liberals born and raised in WEIRD backgrounds, it is almost universally harmful, both for those less fortunate within their own culture and for the very migrant populations the liberals purport to support.

      Most people in this world need their ingroup loyalties to survive and thrive. It’s why homophily, or the tendency to self-segregate, has been true for every migrant culture moving into a majority population in history, right up to the current day. In the past, fearfulness might have been a factor, but in the modern context, and particularly in the American melting pot, it is about only feeling comfortable by clinging to a shared identity. It’s why the home-owning resident of Harlem resents the intrusion of Hipsters- financially they may benefit them, but culturally they will bankrupt them.

      This is why multiculturalism is such a mistake, in that by pursuing a reverence for difference, the liberal neglects the common identity and shared values under the umbrella of national identity, which reduces division and tension, whilst optimising the ability to thrive. Ultimately other than socio-economic grouping and the educational background of your parents, culture is the single biggest malleable factor influencing educational and social success. It’s why Chinese minority populations, alone amongst cultures, succeed regardless of socio-economics- the percentage of non-free schools meals ethnic Chinese achieving 5 or more GCSE’s is 83%, for FSMs it’s 79%. The imposition of a cultural umbrella won’t necessarily harm the more successful, but it will help those groups whose performance is less than ideal- evidence show that all that is required is education that is methodologically less progressive and perhaps somewhat better-funded.

      The true value of conservatives within their culture, is healthy scepticism. Liberals are great at new ideas, machines for them really, but without the mechanism of the market to brutally eliminate those ideas that are least fit, they store up huge problems for the future. The problem of intersectional feminism, as a means of explaining the world, is but one particularly egregious example. It ignores the fact that economic disparities between men and women are almost exclusively caused by different life and career choices, and the observation that racial disparities are hugely complex and iterative problems that need fixing and which almost always result from perverse, rather pernicious roots. For example, an overzealous schools bureaucracy might see the imposition of disproportionately high percentages of low-level discipline on some less economically advantaged groups as evidence of racism, but any attempt to ‘remedy’ this situation will greatly harm the outcomes of the entire group.

      It is the absence of this healthy scepticism in our culture, and our universities, which had been driving so much of the polarisation and discord in the Anglosphere, in particular. The only area is which conservatives have maintained any real power is through constituencies, in the political realm, and even there, their cultural influence is on the wane, as successive decades have seen them confine their commentary to the economic, more and more. Contrary to popular opinion, other than in fossil fuel, heavy and agricultural industries, almost all business and commerce has moved towards a strong liberal bias (and susceptibility to the ‘blue brand’)- whether it’s banking and finance, consumer goods, Tech or other retail and service industries.

      Personally, I only ever used to take issue with conservatives when they blamed the less fortunate for failures that might or might not be remedied by hard work. But to look at our culture now, it has become obvious that we need more conservative voices in the mainstream. To argue for cultural integration of marginalised migrant groups. For fathers as a social necessity. For the repair of educational systems, so damaged by wave after wave of progressive education. Because quite often in culture, liberals can ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’.

      Great article, by the way. And thank you Toby, for your advocacy for the Free Schools Movement. Without your help, we wouldn’t have the example of Katherine Birbalsingh at the Micheala Community School to point to just how much better education can be, than the failed experiment of the progressive educational establishment.

      • Charlie says

        Thank you . I did not explain myself. The middle class , whether left wing or Conservative has largely become enfeebled and therefore terrified of physical conflict. The 18th century conservative was a John Bull squire who hunted, brawled, boozed , had a sense of humour and was scared of no-one. Squires sons often went to sea at 14 years old because they wanted a life of excitement and adventure. The Indian Army Officer or Civil Servant who spoke at least four languages and understood respected Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism was Conservative but far more knowledgeable of foreign cultures than any modern day liberal.

        Post Suez, the university educated classes, whether left or right largely had a nervous breakdown and lost all confidence in themselves and the country.

        I think people are united by character. The John Bull squire would far more enjoy the company of boisterous, boozy brawlers and buxom bawdy wenches than the milk and water feeble snivelling whiny whinging priggish conceited milksops and lick spittles who make up our suburban left wing intellectual middle class; which is what Orwell thought of them. Has anyone ever heard of the left wing middle class playing rugby league with industrial workers ?

        In many ways Boris is a jovial robust bawdy classically educated 18th century squire who cares about his estate and gave us the Agricultural Revolution.

        • Damian O'Connor says

          You might be interested in my ‘Zulu and the Raj: The Life of Sir Bartle Frere’. A perfect example of the type of colonial official you refer to.

          Dr D.P.O’Connor

    • Ted says

      Wow. All that’s needed is the word “Übermensch” and you’ve gone full Nietzsche. Thanks for diagnosing all my psychoses 🙂

      BJ is part of a trend, that begin with Berlusconi, in this Age of the Character
      – full of optimism
      – utterly disdainful of technocratic detail
      – character flaws that would have ruled them out of office in an earlier age (it’s impossible to imagine BJ rising under Thatcher, for example)
      – a loose attachment to truth
      – few if any political or philosophical convictions – today’s audience is what matters (witness BJ’s vacillating on backing Brexit right up the the beginning of the referendum campaign, then later the fact he voted for May’s Deal then disowned it)

      I can tell a charlatan when I see one.

      Brexit will either prove you right – BJ optimism and patriotism will cut through the defeatism and deliver bright sunlit uplands.

      Or, the inherent contradictions, cake-eating, unicorns and structural lies at the heart of Brexit will chew him up and spit him out.

      • Charlie says

        Psychoses probably cured by hard farm labour, plenty of good beer, food and some time with the buxom bawdy barmaid. Nietzsche was a feeble academic obsessed with power. Boris is like the 18th century squire or yeoman farmer robust in build, common sense and humour who is happy with drinking with all sorts in the village pub provided they have a sense of humour. Those with a zest for life, joie de vivre, hail fellow well met allow creative ideas to flourish

        It was freedom of Britain from 1660 to 1750s which enabled the great scientific discoveries, Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions to occur. Progress occurs when people are free, full of courage, vitality and ingenuity, not timid wee beasties.

    • Samuel White says

      Lovely work, Charlie, that’s a keeper. Reminded me of a Camille Paglia quote…. Like you, she opines on the personalities of blue collar menfolk vs. gormless types, and adds an extra dynamic – the strong female. Love me a bit of Camille….

      “At Bennington, I would go to a faculty meeting and be aware that everyone hated me. The men were appalled by a strong, loud woman. But I went to this auto shop and the men there thought I was cute. “Oh, there’s that Professor Paglia from the college.”

      The real men, men who work on cars, find me cute. They are not frightened by me, no matter how loud I am. But the men at the college were terrified because they are eunuchs, and I threatened every goddamned one of them.”

      • Samuel White says

        Crikey! Apologies for the formatting. Didn’t realise the ‘greater than’ symbol did that. Plonked it at the beginning her quote, seems like it should be PLONKED at the beginning of each para.

        I feel much shame.

      • Charlie says

        Thank you. Prof Paglia has an understanding of what made Western Civilisation great , this freedom to create which needs vitality.

    • Iain says

      An excellent comment Charlie. I would add: the reason “Boris” plays the fool is to fit in and be accepted. The classic tactic of the outsider, which is what he is. “Boris Johnson” is the creation of an outsider with a troubled childhood just like “Cary Grant” and “Freddie Mercury” in an attempt to fit in.
      “Boris” is in fact Alexander Kemal, great grandson of a Turkish Moslem and he was baptized a Roman Catholic. He wasn’t born in England and for the first eight years of his life he was deaf. He endured a peripatetic childhood where he was always the new boy and when he went to Eton he was on a “poor boy ” scholarship as his family could not afford the fees.
      All these facts contributed to his feeling of being otherr, alien, different. At Eton and Oxford it appears he developed what Toby describes as the “pantomine toff ” persona. This Bertie Wiooster caricature of upper class Engliah behaviour is what won him friends and acceptance and he has been playing it for laughs ever since.

      • Charlie says

        True in what you say and thank you the compliment. There is another aspect. Boris is generally bright and has the well trained mind of a classicist which is rare. The Oxford PPE produces a person with a very thin bright patina of scholarship which cracks even under the mildest hit. A Boris has the build of a 2nd XV prop ad spent much of his life in the company of feeble men. Most literary feeble men are intimidated by larger robust men and hate them accordingly . Also most arts graduates are intellectually inferior to classicists. A Boris demonstrating a razor sharp classically trained mind and large robust prop forward build would alienate most men and women. There is nothing like quoting a piece of Latin or Greek or using classical references to a middle class chippy non classically educated arts graduate to enrage them. These types hated Boris when he wrote a few lines of Greek for the Olympics.

        Tough down to earth blue collar people accept Boris has good brain; know he is not a swot or teachers pet and are not physically intimidated by him and like his sense of humour. Those who undertake tough and dangerous work appreciates those with a sense of humour: priggish kill joys they do not like.

        Feeble middle class swottish teachers pet type non classicists perceive themselves as inadequate in his presence . Tough engineers, doctors and vets who have played contact sports who have a sense of humour ( the best do ) are relaxed in his company as he does not intimidate them.

        Being a King’s Scholar at Eton, a Queens Scholar at Westminster or to obtain the highest accolade an Election (scholarship) at Winchester brings great prestige in these schools. The British like genuinely bright people but not swanks and swots and recoil from conceit and arrogance of the continental type of intellectual which is why most ordinary Britons have no time for middle class Marxists.

        The ribbing which Toby has dished out to Boris shows his good nature based on his confidence ; he is like one of those dolls made of indestructible rubber which knocked return to the centre. Most feeble brittle unbalanced intellectuals when knocked, fall over and crack; fearing this they are always tense and prepared to lash out to defend themselves. In boxing, judo, wrestling, riding and rugby one learns to roll with the punches and throws which makes one resilient, not brittle which is important for life.

    • Damian O'Connor says

      You need courage to be free.

      Dr D.P.O’Connor
      A Short Guide to the History of South Africa 1652-1902

  9. Chad says

    Voting because the candidate is anti establishment is working out great here in the US (maximum sarcasm). Turns out that character, qualifications, temperament, and experience do actually matter. Enjoy the train wreck England – cheers!

    • Peter from Oz says

      The AMerican economy is firing on all cylinders and people are having a better life than ever before, but you left-wing bozos think that somehow it only requires a nice person to do a good job. Of course the lefties then try to tell us that they love people who are ”transgressive”. But it seems that they mean ”milksop wankers” like Obama when they say ”transgressive.”

      • Gabriel says

        Trump described the US as a hell hole during the 2016 campaign. Now you’re claiming that people are having a better life than ever before. Is such a change possible in just 2,5 years, and is it attributable to Trump? Sounds utterly unplausable. Are you calling Trump a liar, Pete?

        • Lucius says

          Gabriel, leaving aside the ad hominems and red herrings and fallacious framing, which one of these accomplishments do you object to:
          1. Lowest African-American unemployment in recorded history;
          2. Lowest Hispanic-American unemployment in recorded history;
          3. Lowest female unemployment in 50 years;
          4. Lowest 18-25 unemployment in 50 years;
          5. Highest Hispanic ownership in recorded history;
          6. Stock market continues to set records
          7. Freed from the shackles of the Iran, Kyoto, and pipeline-banning corrupt politicos and now exporting oil and gas;
          8. Prison sentencing reform
          9. Pharma transparency bill CNN: (https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/10/politics/drug-prices-legislation-signed-into-law-donald-trump/index.html)
          10. Ended the fines for not signing up for Obamacare, saving penniless millenials hundreds of dollars.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Peter from Oz

        But its deficit gets worse every year. How is it that supposed conservatives can ignore this but a milquetoast, waffling centrist like myself sees it as critical?

        “Of course the lefties then try to tell us that they love people who are ”transgressive”.”

        Do they? It seems to me that Correctness has never been more rigid.

    • staticnoise says

      “Turns out that character, qualifications, temperament, and experience do actually matter.” Meaning what exactly? I assume you refer to Trump in the negative, so be it, everyone does it. But don’t assume his immediate predecessor had any of these qualities. Even his temperament was a put on. He was a seething ego maniac who quite literally hated his country. Trump at least loves his country while being an ego maniac – that actually matters.

  10. Taraxippos says

    “He wasn’t an unqualified disaster, but he often seemed to take his eye off the ball. ”

    My impression is that he actually was an unqualified disaster. He managed to insult the people in every country he visited, and made an absolute fool of himself almost everywhere. He doesn’t seem to get that not every place in the world is England (and I am referring to England, not the United Kingdom) where a character like him is tolerated, even admired. In the rest of the world a person like Boris is considered a fool and not taken seriously. His antics will not help him while negotiating with the other Heads of State of the EU and the bureaucracy in Brussels.

    And, Mr.Young, Boris would very much like to be Churchill ( whom he admires and whose mostly inaccurate biography he penned), but he is not. He does not come even close.

    • aidan maconachy says

      “In the rest of the world a person like Boris is considered a fool and not taken seriously.”

      There are lots of “characters” in Latin American politics who are taken very seriously indeed. Ukraine just elected a comedian. The Russian Duma is full of colorful characters most of whom are taken seriously. Let’s not even get started on Africa. Actually the repressed, overly rehearsed “correct” politicians are boring as hell and often less successful.

  11. Malcolm says

    The US economy and stock market would respectfully disagree

    • Weasels Ripped My Flesh says

      I don’t know Chad’s politics, but I do observe that the “progressive” types in the US don’t give a flying fig about the US economy or the stock market.

      • Turd Ferguson says

        They are desperately concerned though with where a man in a dress may drop the kids off at the pool.

    • FilletOFish says

      The deficit is about to exceed 1 trillion because of Trump. What on earth makes you think the economy is doing well?

      • poorlando says

        “The deficit is about to exceed 1 trillion because of Trump.”

        Does nobody here realize that it is Congress that has the power of the purse? Spending bills in the end always get a large number of votes from both parties, ta fact thoroughly ignored over and over again. A President’s veto power is useless to stop that barreling train.

        Also, first of all, a deficit simply means that the government has decided to fund a portion of its spending through debt instead of taxes. That has nothing to do with how well the economy is doing and everything to do with politics.

        Second, government spending is just a part of the larger economy. What tells me the economy is doing well is a stock market hitting all-time highs and unemployment at multi-decade lows. Those things could not happen if businesses were not able to generate strong cash flows through productive economic activities.

    • Chad says

      Neither of which are direct result of (any) president.

      • FilletOFish says

        Trade policies enacted by each president directly effect the deficit. Even Wikipedia could have told you this.

  12. Steve E. says

    Toby Young fails to mention that Johnson – after calling Theresa May’s negotiated exit deal from the EU ‘a suicide vest’ that threatened the future of the nation – actually ended up voting for it.

    Nothing about this mendacious charlatan should surprise us, including the fact that he’ll willingly throw his supporters – including the author of this article – under the nearest bus if it would further his self gratification and lust to reach high office.

    Young also ignores the allegation that Johnson refused to pay for one of his many mistresses to have an abortion – and even now, no one, presumably including the man himself – is quite sure how many illegitimate children he’s sired.

    As for any Churchilian comparisons, Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames, has made it quite clear that he regards Johnson is an odious little shit, a sentiment reflected by the vast majority of Londoners who watched the former Mayor of the city facilitate the borrowing of billions from European banking institutions while he was in office, only to turn around a few years later and lead the campaign to leave the EU, a campaign which has officially be found to be financially fraudulent.

    If Johnson seriously dreams of being a ‘war leader’, he’ll find plenty lined up on the barricades to oppose him, willing to bring him – and his cheerleaders in the media – down as soon as we can.

    • DiamondLil says

      Steve E. The finger waggers and scolds in London are not the world, either.

      • Jonny Sclerotic says

        Aye but to be fair, this comments section could be subtitled Finger Wagging & Scolding.

        Leave a Scold

    • Harbinger says

      @Steve E………..maybe you’d like Vegemite though?

    • Charlie says

      N Soames Father was Christopher who was ambassador to France and was major cheerleader for entry to EEC. Nick hates Boris because he is undoing his Father’s work. C Soames was part of the Foreign Office which had a nervous break down after Suez in 1956. The Churchill Family produce a genius every 200 years or so, the rest are mediocre at best. Randolph, Winston’s son was a complete shit. Nic is not very bright and probably resents Bojo’s classical scholarship combined with his popularity- to walk with royalty yet keep the common tough.

      Boris reduced the murder rate in London and won twice against Labour . Boris attracted very talented people from BAME backgrounds. Boris has the confidence to allow talented people to succeed.

      The FCO denigrates anyone who does not toe their line which is Europhile.

      Boris wrote a speech in classical Greek when addressing the Olympics. Being a King’s Scholar at Eton means one has passed one of the toughest academic test for 12- 13 year olds in the World; the standard required in Latin and Greek is very high. It needs about 5 years of Latin and 3-4 years of Greek to achieve an adequate standard

  13. Nick Podmore says

    As long as Brexit is delivered and Commie Corby thwarted who cares…..

  14. DiamondLil says

    For a nation (and a world) facing serious times, we sure seem to be having trouble finding serious people as leaders. US elected a reality TV charlatan and Parliament has elected Bertie Wooster. Where’s Jeeves? That’s what I want to know!

    • Ray Andrews says


      Yabut ‘serious leaders’ seem to be the problem. Half of the folks who voted for Trump will confess that they did so in desperation. I’m not a Yank, but if I was, and if AOC were to be the Demican’s candidate in ’20, then I’d vote for Trump or maybe just kill myself.

    • Samuel White says

      “US elected a reality TV charlatan”

      You idiot.

    • Heike says

      “Serious people” are the ones who caused all the problems we’re currently suffering. Somehow I don’t think electing more of them is the solution. The Intellectual Yet Idiot (IYI) are super-predators and must be brought to heel.


      “The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited. He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests, particularly if they are “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class who voted for Brexit. When plebeians do something that makes sense to them, but not to him, the IYI uses the term “uneducated”. What we generally call participation in the political process, he calls by two distinct designations: “democracy” when it fits the IYI, and “populism” when the plebeians dare voting in a way that contradicts his preferences. While rich people believe in one tax dollar one vote, more humanistic ones in one man one vote, Monsanto in one lobbyist one vote, the IYI believes in one Ivy League degree one-vote, with some equivalence for foreign elite schools and PhDs as these are needed in the club.”

  15. Benedict Harris says

    why is this article using American English spelling? it’s spelt “honour” not “honor”

    • Left My Foot says

      @ Benedict Harris

      Appealing to American audiences is what you do when you’re utterly unappealing to Brits (cf. Piers Morgan).

    • Joe says

      What’s wrong with American English spelling? No-one “owns” English (or any other language), so why should anyone take your view as the one and only “correct” opinion? So long as what’s written is clear, then it’s effective communication.

      and why didn’t you start your question with a capital letter?

      (PS: I’m not American)

    • Dave F says

      330 million people speak American
      70 million people speak English
      Out of our warm feelings for England, we in America, call our language English.

    • George Miller says

      Spelt the way Shakespeare spelt it.

  16. Patricia says

    Boris is a ‘Trickster Figure’ like Trump. I am not sure why we are voting for this particular archetypal figure at this juncture in Western History. But it was good to read a positive article about Boris as it does elevate some of my despondence – not to mention consternation – even temporarily.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      Good question!
      My guess is informed by other facets of the Trickster archetype: Court jester as the only one who tells the truth at court and the Deceiver.-Believer who’s a con-man who nonetheless does good by getting people to believe in themselves.(never mind if you think he tells uncomfortable truths and inspires or is just a liar and merely a common grifter: the role is what’s being voted for)

      Mix in one part “it’s so crazy, it just might work” and 2 parts “what have I got to lose?” and you get a recipe for Brexit, Trump, Boris, etc.

    • aidan maconachy says

      Obama wasn’t a “trickster figure” but certainly got up to plenty of black arts and suppressive behind-the-scenes “tricks” that weren’t exactly in sync with a candidate who campaigned on transparency.

      He extensively investigated reporters, went after whistleblowers hard and took administrative actions that put a chill on journalism. Also the record of his admin for deportations and overall handling of illegals was more heavy handed than Trump’s, despite all the hype and hysteria today.

      The Downie Report that cataloged Obama’s heavy handed treatment of the press was described by journalist Glenn Greenwald as a “scathing indictment” of White House press attacks.

      Seems if you are a smooth talker, fashionably slim and have great teeth you can hypnotize people into giving you a pass on just about anything. If you are orange-ish, on the heavy side, have unruly hair and act like a “trickster” you can do nothing right… even when you are actually getting a lot of things right. I’d rather have a colorful character with whom you more or less get what you see… than a Machiavellian smoothie who is screws a lot of things over while smiling for the cameras.

  17. Mark says

    His ‘acceptance speech had many of the hallmarks the author mentions many years ago at Oxford. Still, I do think this is a case of herewego.mpg…

  18. Sasha says

    Lets hope Prime Minister Johnson can change the world view of the English for the past 100 years as a bunch of “whingeing Poms”. They, like the Europeans, love to demean and throw stones at any individual who achieves anything.

    It will be very pleasing to see if he can slash his way through the garbage rhetoric of the English media and the constant whingeing of the Poms. Then again its very easy to see why the USA has far outstripped the Europeans in every respect and why it has achieved in 200 years what the Europeans have never achieved ….true democraacy.

    • Lydia says

      I understand your point but please, we are not a democracy. Thank God.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Yes, the UK, NZ, Canada and Australia are all Constitutional Monarchies. We democratically elect the people who advise the Sovereign on government matters. The political sphere is thus democratic. But the social and constitutional sphere is manarchical. Hence, in the UK al criminal cases are prosecuted in the name of the Queen, not by ”the People”.

      • Serenity says


        I am puzzled. Why the USA is not a democracy? Why “thank God”?

        • Geary Johansen says

          @ Serenity

          It largely prevents the political leader from cloaking themselves in the trapping of nation and state, to deflect criticism of domestic and foreign policy. Also, with the Queen taking up the bulk of ceremonial duties, politicians are less able to indulge in welcome diversions. Instead, they have to wear whatever controversy the day brings.

        • A Word from California says

          The USA is a republic, namely a form of government in which the people’s will is carried out by elected representatives. If we were a democracy, Hillary Clinton would be President, having won a majority of the popular vote in 2016.

    • Left My Foot says

      Bunch of whingeing Poms. Always whingeing and moaning aren’t they? Constantly. And what does it achieve? Nothing. No wonder they’re so bloody far behind. On and on they go. It’s incessant.

      The rhetoric is a load of garbage. The media is awful. It’s undemocratic, for pete’s sake. And the rest of Europe’s even worse, don’t you worry about that. Any individual who dares to achieve something he was so obviously born to is demeaned by the masses. Whingeing bloody Poms. Mark my words, soon they’ll be wanting to vote for their leaders. Makes you sick.

      • Closed Range says

        Left my foot

        Yeah, how dare we aspire to have a democracy?

        Seriously, the (lack of) Brexit has shown us that indeed there are deep flaws in how our democracy (and those of our fellow European countries work). It has shown us that politicians and civil servants really do believe they know better than the people they are elected or appointed to serve. It has shown us the arrogance and internal classism, ageism, sexism and anti-white racism of the metropolitan elites, perfectly summarised by the new racial slur “gammon”. It has shown us how our media caste believe they are the sole arbiters of truth and that it is their mission to educate the masses. It has shown us how many fellow citizens actively enjoy the idea of an apocalyptic outcome as if it were some god punishing the evil-doers. I can even say from personal experience that it has brought to the surface a lot of deeply embedded anti British racism in German and French people living in the UK, and fellow British people just nod in silent agreement. When I go to big international conferences I see the jeers at Britain from fellow Europeans and I see British people abasing themselves and grovelling for approval. And the worst is how people reveal that they believe in the inherent superiority of the EU elites as wiser and better informed – some Ubermensch that we should thank for ruling over us.

        I live entirely surrounded by remainers. Unlike most I have previously lived in France for 20 years and I know a much wider range of people than most. I also regularly travel to Germany as part of my work. I know that Britain isn’t the best country in any form, but I do know that it does many things right and there isn’t anywhere else I would rather live. Yet many around me in Britain are mesmerised by some romantic ideal of continental Europe, except they’ve never experienced the “technocratic details” to use the phrase from some other commenter above.

        But it is precisely the details which matter, and which have convinced me to now support Brexit. I can’t do it all justice in this comment but what I can do is highly encourage you to read The Euro by Joseph Stiglitz, the American economist. His book explains in very detailed form just how often EU elites are misinformed and wrong, and their policies backfire. As shown by the colonisation of Greece, the EU will usually choose to prop up the banks in the richest countries at the expense of the people in the poorest. Stiglitz is certainly left wing, yet as a conservative, I cannot but agree that he is right that a historic injustice has been inflicted primarily by the EU, especially Germany, on Greece and the other southern states. With Christine Lagarde now at the ECB there is zero chance that they will change their ways.

        I also happen to know many french and german people who share these similar criticisms of the EU. In fact the book I mentioned was brought to my attention by a very close German friend (the kind of friend I’m not embarrassed to give a hug when we see each other once a year). He told me it made him ashamed to be German. I told him he ought to angry instead of ashamed, as he is just as powerless as the rest of us.

        The case of Greece tells us the truth about the EU. The key insight is that Germans and French people refuse to be responsible for Greek pensions, healthcare. There is a name for the type of structure that commands a large territory, where the inhabitants of the dominant part profits from the weaker parts, yet reject any responsibility for the well being of the inhabitants of the weaker part. This is the essence of Empire.

        Yet in France and Germany such views are never given a voice in public discourse. People glance over the fact that in the last French Presidential election, more first round votes went to anti-EU melenchon and Le Pen combined than pro-EU macron (sure there are other issues at play, but the point is that being pro-EU in France isn’t a huge vote winner). My personal bet is that if the same referendum were carried there tomorrow, the vote would fall 60 to 40 in favour of remain. Sure, not quite as Eurosceptic as Britain but hardly the EU-enthused entirely satisfied population that remainers imagine it to be. I think Germany would be different, but this is more tied to the fact the Germany uniquely profits from the single market and the single currency, and that Germans hope that by dressing themselves up in some fictitious EU identity they can get over their national guilt complex. I don’t want to upset any German readers by being blunt but the truth needs to be said sometimes.

        I also have lived long enough to notice the changes in the EU over the last 30 years. It is not the same institution that it was even 10 years ago. I also remember what was promised years ago and how those promises are now being broken. The latest and final straw for me was the promise that there would never be an EU army to supercede our national forces, and now it is openly discussed as being the next natural step. Farage often gets called a liar, and years ago I also believed he was exaggerating when he claimed an EU army was coming. But over and over again the facts show that he has been more accurate in predicting the EUs next move than anyone else. I pray that Britain can get out before joining the EU army.

        Personally, if it were down to only me, I would dial back the clock to the 1990s – keep a single market of zero tariffs but return to only national currencies by independent nation states of Europe. There is no other way to maintain a balance that allows all countries to compete and prosper equally. I would admit a more resrtricted form of free movement of people, where one must prove one has a job to go to. I would essentially eliminate all political aspects of the EU. But since this will never happen, I am quite happy to settle in the meantime for a no deal Brexit.

        • makrbrev says

          I agree. Having spent too much time over the last three years in various NHS establishments, I found the vast majority of the European staff where understanding of the reason we voted to leave. Indeed, a large number of them expressed a desrire to stay, usually with a comment along the lines of ‘why do you think we are here?’
          My next door neighbour is a Frenchman, married to an Englishwoman, with two children. Having lived in various parts of the world since coming to England to study in the early 90’s (including he native France, Mauritius, Uzbekistan, Morrocco and Germany) he too is of the opinion that the vote to leave was the correct one and had encourage his wife to vote leave. He has applied for British citizenship even though they are shortly to leave for Pakistan.
          When I was first hospitalised in May 2016 there was a German chap in the bed opposite who had escaped from East Germany in the early 70’s. After spending his working life in the Merchant Navy he had retired to the Wirral and was scathing both of the EU and Germany saying ‘you can’t trust zose damned Prussians. Always telling people what to do and to do it their vay. You must vote out.’ Entertaining old bugger he was.
          I also see it in my day to day work as an estate/letting agent. There are still Eastern Europeans coming to the UK to work and in my experience, very few going back. Those that do are doing so out of the uncertainty of the future after we leave and the potential cost involved in applying for citizenship.

  19. Kevin C says

    Good and enjoyable read. Keep it up Quillette!

  20. Klaus C. says

    It’s not surprising that a little chap like Toby is in awe of Big Boris, but it seems Johnson is widely loathed amongst those who actually know him (including various former bosses who had the misfortune to interact with him daily), as well as being extremely unpopular amongst a hefty chunk of the general population.

    The Conservative rank and file love him for his “entertainment value” – he’s like an upper class Roy Chubby Brown – but his complete incompetence in any position of responsibility is a matter of extensive public record.

    To choose such a polarising figure at this polarised juncture in UK history is a gift to those eager to see the the Tories sent packing for a good long time.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      @Klaus C
      I somewhat agree but as the article delineated his stints as Mayor of London were objectively successful l, witness his reelection in a Liberal stronghold.

      Also, that he iis not well-liked by his colleagues in Westminster is no reason not to vote for him. Most people accept that all upper-level politicians aren’t “nice people” ; they’re not voting for a brother-in-law but for a tribune to fight their corner and often that translates into “the nastier the better.”

    • Chris Miller says

      And yet he won an election with a substantial plurality of both MPs and party members.

  21. Jackson Howard says

    Britain will need an exceptionally good Prime minister. Exceptional they got indeed.

    I hope he will rise to the occasion, but to be honest he only really seems interested in himself and getting in n°10 as a “been there, done that” on the bucket list. Seems to be that the Torries just put their feet in a bucket of cement before a long swim. I hope to be wrong.

    On the plus side it’ll make for an entertaining period while he grapples with the brexit gordian knot. Let’s hope he’s got the guts to slice it and then the finesse required for the trade deal negociations.

    Buckle up.

    The OP is a nice excerice in cheerleading. 10/10.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      @Jackson Howard
      I agree with you but must point out that most people are also aware that your characterisation of BoJo fits every politician with even a remote chance of becoming PM. I’d ususally vote Labour if in the UK but please don’t ask me to believe that Corbyn is fundamentally different from your picture of BoJo. Self-aggrandizement and political calculation is how one gets to be top of any political party.

      You may choose to believe otherwise when it’s your party but then extend the same courtesy to others when it’s their party. In,ive on the Continent where each country believes their’s is the best * for them* but not for others, naturally. The Anglo-American deceit is that it’s objectively true for everyone and everyone should stop being silly and just recognise that. It’s rather like feeling your home city football team is the best but being baffled that snyone would think their own is the best.

      So it is with political leaders.

      • Jackson Howard says

        I agree that the description fits 99% of politicians. But Boris really takes it to a new level. Relying on a sudden transformation is really going heavy on hopium.

        In a sense, the open lying and flipfloping looks almost like honesty in a wierd way.

        • Rev. Wazoo! says

          “In a sense, the open lying and flipfloping looks almost like honesty in a wierd way.”

          Yes, now you’re seeing with the eyes of a very big slice of the electorate. Again, I’m not endorsing, just refuting the reflexive and off-mark characterisation of Bojo, Trump voters, Brexit voters, Hungarians concerned about mass immigration –from outside the EU etc as ignorant, racist misanthropes.

          It’s sad but true that these seem. Like a breath of fresh air to so many…

  22. Peter from Oz says

    I’ve always been a big fan of Boris. He reminds me in many ways of Edward Machin, the hero of Arnold Bennett’s wonderful novel ”The Card”. Like Boris, Machin rises from strength to strength through seeing opportunities where others see barriers.

    "What a card!" said one, laughing joyously. "He's a rare 'un, no mistake."

    "Of course, this'll make him more popular than ever," said another. "We've never had a man to touch him for that."

    "And yet," demanded Councillor Barlow, "what's he done? Has he ever done a day's work in his life? What great cause is he identified with?"

    "He's identified," said the speaker, "with the great cause of cheering us all up."

  23. It seems bizarre that Toby Young should be awe struck by a rhetorical performance that was by his own account incoherent and unplanned and made no consistent argument. Anyone who has seen Boris talk will however recognise it as characteristic of Boris.

    As an assessment of Boris this is very favourable skirting over his track record of self serving lies as a journalist. Politicians and Journalists are frequently accused of lying but in the former case this is usually some ambiguous phrasing and exaggeration around a core of truth and in the latter the result of a gap between the aspirations of the politician and the ability to deliver. Boris on the other hand simply made up stories which would sell. Toby Young describes this a stories too good to check, I would call it deliberate self serving deceit.

    It is incredible that Toby does not mention the recording of Boris agreeing to assist his friend Darius Guppy in having a journalist beaten up for daring to investigate Guppy (later convicted of fraud). This shows Boris’ contempt for the law and the safety of other journalists and reveals him as a deeply unpleasant and immoral person.

    His incompetence as foreign secretary was astonishing and towards the end he seemed completely detached and bypassed by his department. His record as London Mayor was not at all an unblemished success but seemed chaotic and rudderless particularly in his first term.

    Boris was my MP and the only time I wrote to him his office, not Boris replied 6 months later with a bland non-answer which had become completely irrelevant because what I had written about was no longer relevant. This to me seems symptomatic of a man who may be intelligent but is totally self obsessed, lazy and dishonest whose main, perhaps, sole aim is self promotion. The recent example with his speech about EU regulation of kippers being a classic example, everything he said was wrong, more likely through laziness and an unconcern about accuracy rather than active dishonesty but which about which he shows absolutely no embarrassment.

    That Boris will become British prime minister is deeply depressing and the idea he will resolve the current brexit crisis in a positive way seems the wildest most optimistic fantasy. It is diffciult to choose between Boris and Jeremy Corbyn in terms of the least desireable Prime Minister in modern times but that we might well have both within a short time is frightening.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      Taking everything you say as true – and most of it seems so – I nonetheless wonder what you mean by resolving Brexit in a positive way? What are the various positive resolution which still deliver Brexit?

      • @Rev Wazoo!
        “I nonetheless wonder what you mean by resolving Brexit in a positive way? What are the various positive resolution which still deliver Brexit?”

        I am not the one claiming such a resolution is possible, for my part I think it is far from clear Brexit can be delivered and if it is I think, and have always thought, that a no deal is the most likely outcome. I also think no deal is in the short to medium term a disaster and in the long run as Keynes said, “we are all dead”.

        I think the closest thing to a positive outcome that is possible is a new referendum with a decisive result in either direction, then at least political issues will be resolved and the final outcome, whatever it is, will be accepted. WIthout that a prolonged period of bitter divisive politics and confused chaotic economic and diplomatic policy seems inevitable.

        • Rev. Wazoo! says

          OK, so it seems no Brexit at all is your optimum outcome, failing that another referendum to square the circle of not abbrogating domocratic institutions but giving all chance to change course. Seems like it must be two more referenda to get 2 out of 3 which really would satisfy most though one more referendum with a 2/3rds majority needed to pass would do the same I think. Some would squeal but some always do and 2/3rds is a commanding majority.

          But your presumption here is that the objective negatives of Brexit of any kind justify monkeying with the democratic process and you might be right but that monkeying is SO dangerous you’d really better be right. Recessions must come and go, we’re overdue for a stock crash and one anyway so does it matter if it’s caused by a democratic vote or the latest City of London shenanigans? It’s coming whether we like it or not, the only question is what happens next?

          I’d have voted remain were I in the UK (as my brother did) but I think Project Fear so overplayed its hand that combined with Project Shame (“Anyone even contemplating voting for Brexit is racist scum”) enough people thought, ” Yeah, well, I disagree and I get to vote so I will.” So they did.

          Thenonlybpositive way forward I see is, a very quick (couple of weeks) Withdrawal Agreement including zero provisions for post-Brexit beyond WTO tradeand pre-clearance for limited but expanding goods transfers at key ports. Once that’s done and dusted, future trade can be negotiated but don’t hold you breath for a sweatheart deal, better look to the Commonwealth; India, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand might well be willing to make sweetheart deals. It dicey but at least a plan.

          Meanwhile, the US is the EU’s biggest trading partner and it seems reasonable the UK might come next. If you think it’s legitimate for Scotland to lesve the UK or Catalonia to leave Spain, then I don’t see the philosophical objection to the UK leaving the EU.

          Do you?

          • @Rev. Wazoo!
            OK, so it seems no Brexit at all is your optimum outcome, failing that another referendum to square the circle of not abbrogating domocratic institutions but giving all chance to change course. Seems like it must be two more referenda to get 2 out of 3 which really would satisfy most though one more referendum with a 2/3rds majority needed to pass would do the same I think. Some would squeal but some always do and 2/3rds is a commanding majority.

            You seem to misunderstand what I am saying. yes for me not leaving is optimum but that is not what you asked which is what would be a postive outcome.

            To me a positive outcome is any outcome which has widespread acceptance as being democratic and for which there is an effective and coordinated management to make effective. We need a clear decision say a vote at least 60-40 and we need a decision which is in line with what we actually do.

            If that vote and decision is leave, even leave with no deal I can accept it but that is not what we have. Currently we have a very close vote and one in which the remainers argued against leaving and the brexit campaigners repeatedly, endlessly argued that there was no possibility of leaving without a deal. Any suggestion of no deal was dismissed as negative propaganda (project fear). I didn’t like May’s deal but I could accept it because it was in line with what the Brexit campaign argued for, if we leave with no deal we will be taking a course of action that no one voted for and both sides in the referendum argued against. The long term consequences of that on our democracy are incalcuable but would undermine government and political legitimacy to a frightening and possibly dangerous extent unless there was a second referendum which legitimised it.

    • Damian O'Connor says

      I’m really enjoying your moaning. The fact that Boris produces this result in all the smug, self-satisfied Lomdon elite make me ever more determined to back him. A man is often defined by his enemies and you are exactly the sort of enemy he needs.

  24. GRPalmer says

    To do List
    1. Get a proper job. Done
    2. Get a haircut. ………

  25. ThirstyDog says

    Did Boris have to get his dad to pull strings to get him into Oxford like you Toby?

  26. Aylwin says

    Ugh. Toby Young was a big mistake for Quillette. He doesn’t seem to get past his own politics and interest. Not good for an organisation that is trying to be objective, and is being labelled by SocJus types as the various distasteful flavours of the right. Big mistake.

    • Heike says

      What kind of thinkers take SJW opinions seriously, anyway? Where’d this bizarre line of reasoning come from? SJWs label anyone to the right of Mao Zedong a fascist. They are clueless dilettantes with very little actual knowledge, but extremely strong feelings.

    • Jonny Sclerotic says

      @ Aylwin

      Completely agree. Losing friends and alienating people isn’t actually cool or productive, even if it seemed that way in the 90s.

  27. Marc Chrysanthou says

    Whether there was a convenient (for Leavers) net/gross mistake in our EU contribution/benefit calculus, doesn’t substantiate the Leave campaign’s claim that £350m would be dedicated to the NHS. Mathematics and logic don’t seem to be Toby Young’s strong points. It was a blatant lie.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      @ Marc

      I agree completely but won’t it be hilarious when BoJo and his new hand-picked cabinet rams through precisely £350 million a week more for the NHS which is a sure vote-getter and Labour would commit suicide voting against it so it’ll pass without the die-hard Tory scrooges.

      And it will guarantee him the next election. That’s the point of having a leader with no principles, they do what the electorate wants instead of what the party mandarins think. He’ll do it to cuz it’ll work for him and the Tory old guard hate him so nothing to lose.

    • David Norman says

      What a tired point this is. As Toby points out, the figure is gross. Would Marc or Rev. Wazoo say that their personal tax rate isn’t really the rate they pay tax at because of the benefits they get in terms of the NHS etc? I very much doubt it. Indeed, on that analysis their tax rate is zero, because even if they disapprove of the way their taxation is spent it is spent on something the Government thinks worthwhile that directly or indirectly benefits them.

      Nor did the bus say that all the money saved would be spent on the NHS. That is an argument used exclusively by those who always wanted to reach the conclusion that the message was a dishonest lie.

  28. Cynicon Implant says

    Great to see that Britain has elected their version of Trump: larger than life personality, not afraid to call it like it is and take chances to achieve things, plenty of skeletons in the closet, takes great delight in yanking the chains of the simpering elite, etc. Let’s hope he can Make Britain Great Again and achieve Brexit quickly.

    • Azathoth says

      It’s Make England Great Again–MEGA, because the UK seems to have forgotten that it is England, and the English people who started it all.

  29. confuzatron says

    Cometh the Boris, cometh the Toby – hard.

  30. Barney Doran says

    Brexit is a dragon not even St George could slay. I would not be a bit surprised if this unpredictable, flamboyant individual simply throws down his lance and declares a second referendum in order to rid his kingdom of this pestilence. If it results in Remain, there will be a global sigh of relief, and the Brits as usual will muddle through. If leave (again) then he will have a greater chance of pushing though some sort of deal with Parliament, and he can deal with the consequences. At least something will happen, and that will be to his credit under these circumstances.

    • The Iconoclast says

      Why are you so sure Brexit is bad, and not just bad but so bad that thwarting the decision of the electorate to leave is the right thing to do?

      • Barney Doran says

        @ The Iconoclast
        Leave or remain, I am totally indifferent. The problem with Brexit is the entire process that has resulted in virtual total paralysis for the British people and their government. In my opinion, referenda have no place in representative democracies. Either you trust your elections and chosen representatives (or keep voting as you can in a parliamentary system), or you have an ancient Greek system of democracy whereby all major decisions are left to the people. Combining the two, however, results in the current mess in which the Brits now find themselves. I, in fact, feel that Johnson may be the only British politician with the chutzpah to do something to drain this referendum induced morass, thus my comment.

  31. Mark Terribile says

    Have a look at that top photo. Take away the suit, and give the man a sword. Do you see him? Conan the Cimmerian. Conan the Barbarian, wrecker of corrupt empires. This is what the Left fears. Let us hope they fear well.

  32. Azathoth says

    There is a thing about this that I have always thought needed serious consideration–

    ” The result of the referendum was immediately contested for all sorts of reasons, some of them bad (the mean age of Leave voters was higher than that of Remain voters and therefore their votes should count for less) and some of them…well, not good, exactly, but less bad.”

    The older voters who favored ‘Leave’ are the same voters who, at one time, supported the UK’s entrance into the European Union.

    In plain language, they tried it, saw that it didn’t work, and voted to exit.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      @ Azathoth
      An excellent point little remarked upon but extremely noteworthy!

    • Chris Miller says

      In 1975, we (I was one such) supported our joining the European Economic Community. Sage figures, particularly Benn and Powell, told us that the end objective was a political European Union, but they were ridiculed for their pains. They have been proven correct.

  33. Pingback: Boris Johnson | Transterrestrial Musings

  34. TheSnark says

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson? The court jester has become the king.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      @ TheSnark
      Cometely true!
      Now why is that?
      Perhaps if our political parties could offer up anything but duplicitous, insincere machine hacks we wouldn’t be facing such results on a regular basis.

  35. Severely Ltd. says

    Keep Toby in these pages, I Thoroughly enjoyed this article.

  36. Fuzzy Headed Mang says

    Very entertaining and interesting article!

  37. Pingback: Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man: A Profile of Boris Johnson | TrumpsMinutemen

  38. “Yet with his imposing physical build, his thick neck and his broad, Germanic forehead, there was also something of Nietzsche’s Übermensch about him. ”

    Reminder: Toby Young attended eugenics conferences alongside white supremacists, and advocated “progressive eugenics”.

    • Dave Bowman says

      Breaking news for you: That’s fine by me.

    • Craig says

      No, he didn’t: he argued that, since the rich will have access to ways of making their children smarter and healthier, it would only be fair to offer the same services to those unable to afford them.

      Much like the NHS.

  39. Pingback: Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man: A Profile of Boris Johnson written by Toby Young | RUTHFULLY YOURS

  40. Peter from Oz says

    Lord Clark of”Civlisation” fame said something very prescient that too many people on both sides of politics forget.
    ”Writers and politicians may come out with all sorts of edifying sentiments, but they are what is known as declarations of intent. If I had to say which was telling the truth about society, a speech by a Minister of Housing or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should believe the buildings.”
    I don’t care whether a leader is called ”racist” or ”sexist” by a bunch of liberal gits with no balls and no breeding. I care whether the leader provides leadership that gets the job done.
    At the moment, the job that has to be done in the UK is Brexit. Once that is done, the people will get used to it quickly and life can go on.
    A lot of the political class are really scared of Brexit, because they are actually quite wary of actually having to be responsible for government without the EU mandarins being there as a backstop.
    What I find amusing is that Corbyn’s Labour have a raft of policies that could not be passed if the UK remained in the EU. Yet Labour has moved into the Remainer camp. So really Labour isn’t really sure it wants to do anythig but talk about socialism.

  41. I too saw Brideshead Revisited (and read it at school) but even then I knew that the more typical products of Oxford were the hearties who threw Anthony Blanche – the one genuine wit in the whole book – into a fountain. Either that, or they were like the team from ‘Footlights College, Oxbridge’ appearing on ‘University Challenge’ in the ‘Young Ones’ episode ‘Bambi’: ‘Rah, rah rah! We’re going to smash the oiks!’

    Toby and Boris are modern versions: they can sound superficially intellectual, but beneath the glittering surface lies a big, bulging zero. When a man like Rory Stewart comes along – both a genuine intellectual and a man of action – there is no place for him in the current Tory party, which is full of Rex Mottrams.

  42. Pingback: 24 July – Another Lie, Or Is It a Satire of a Lie? – PZWatch

  43. Caz says

    You really have a writing gift. Thanks for the pleasure of reading this article.

  44. Andy Espersen says

    We hear that Boris Johnson is insanely ambitious, he is lazy, he is feckless, he is utterly unprincipled and he is a liar – none of which, however, disqualifies you from being a great and successful politician. Fact is, as a politician you must be able to change position easily with changing circumstances – and convince your voters that you are right every time you alter course. Therein lies the art of politics. Too many of us are mired in group-think, the bane of, the Achilles-heel of, democracy. Boris has floated in his opinions about everything all through his life – and therein lies his strength. Fear of being non/PC is unknown to him.

    Few people appreciate that Britain is the only country to pass binding legislation as demanded by the Paris Convention on climate change. This actually represents a far greater economic danger to Britain than Brexit – and together with a possible no-deal Brexit might even prove fatal to her economy.

    Watch Boris now reneging on the Paris agreement (like Trump) – and change all binding legislation stemming from this – and watch him getting away with it. Yes, interesting times for Britain.

  45. Peter Hoffman says

    The tiny tribe of Conservatives have made the bed, so all the Brits now must all sleep in it. I wish them well, except to the extent it encourages the troglodytes on this side of the pond. But what will likely become desirable for the Scots will be to become a version of Norway, this time entirely within EU.

    Having read the Wiki final paragraph about your esteemed author’s Tweets, etc., mostly erased by him, and his more than daily edits of his own Wiki page, I’d take the article to be 90% fiction, of value only as entertainment for weak minds.

  46. laslaw says

    This kind of hagiography characterizes not a center-left publication, as some associated with Quillette claim, but a center-right to hard right publication. When the left now refers to Quillette as right-wing, there will be no defense. It’s plain as day.

    • Closed Range says


      Actually, having listened to Boris Manchester speech today, I think it is rational to say that he is centre left politically. He’s been very smart to notice labour has abandoned the north of the UK and become a London centric club, and he has pre-empted any anti-austerity opposition by becoming anti-austerity himself, in particular in having agreed with the chancellor to open up the chequebook for long term structural investment and recruitment. It is more Roosevelt than Reagan. Contrast with Theresay May and Phil Hammond continuation of austerity measures and it is clear that change is afoot.

      One actually quite a smart comment that he has made has been that “taking back control” doesn’t just mean taking back sovereignty from Brussels, but also taking back control from London. He has correctly identified that for too long the UK has been run by London for London. The north is the logical place for development with a high return on investment. The transformation of Liverpool in the last decade really shows this. When he said that a young 18 year old from the north deserves the same opportunities as those from the south, it shows that ultimately, he is what previous generations would have considered a centre left candidate.

      Beyond this, investment in the north will hopefully help to take pressure off the south in the housing market, the trains, and so on. It will actually make life better and easier for families in the south as well. It is not right that the same house in the south should cost 4 times that in the north. A better spread of population and jobs is needed to make the country more fair and more equal.

      At the same time he does have a few centre right tools at hand. One is the mention of the creation of free ports in the north. Since he didn’t go into much detail I see it as more of a way of chiding the EU and especially Juncker for allowing Ireland and Luxembourg to be among the biggest tax havens in the world for large businesses (I remind you that Luxembourg’s free port is Juncker’s main legacy).

      He’s also offered to reduces taxes for households around the median income of around 50k a year by raising the higher tax band. This seems very fair to me.

      Overall BoJo has the flexibility to propose this economic programme because British debt to GDP stands at around 87%. For reference France was at 98.5% last time I checked.
      A quick calculation shows that we could borrow about 200 billion and still be better off than France (not saying we need anything near that amount to make change happen – even 100 billion would be a huge amount). Ironically he will be benefitting from the austerity measures of his predecessors, and like all politicians will take the credit for it. Usually this is what Labour’s proposition has been – to spend the money saved up by the previous tory government. But with labour off on a intersectional anti-semitic grievance bandwagon, he’s taking up their core voters, ie people like me. This is why I consider him centre left.

      Quite honestly – I’ve never seen a PM echo my own thoughts so much. The central problem of the UK today isn’t Brexit, trade deals or even immigration. It’s the concentration of jobs, wealth and power in London. What is needed is more high earning jobs in the north, and further devolution. This will benefit both Northerners and Southerners. For once it is actually a vision of the country’s future. One can only hope it comes to pass.

      • Charlie says

        Good comments. Copying the German /Swiss vocational training and reintroducing the old poly/night school where one study for r Part 1 and 2 Chartership exams of the engineering institutes ( Civil, Mech, Struct, Electr ) would improve skills and social mobility. The great engineers R J Mitchel, B Wallis, Camm, De Havilland gained chartership this way ( Pt 2 is equal to the old degree -now a masters degree ).

        The major problem was that Britain did not increase it’s vocational skills adequately post 1870.We had opportunities post 1945 and post 1966. Basically education is dominated by left wing effete priggish conceited middle class public sector arts graduates who have a contempt for technology and trade.

        Most working class Northern lads do not want to study arts degree but an apprenticeship which enabled evening study and ability to pass Pt 2 exams and hence obtain Chartership of the engineering institutes would attract them.

  47. Bob S. says

    Fantastic article, well done. As an American, I didn’t know BoJo well at all except the shallow caricature provided by American media. As many similarities Boris has with Trump, there are apparently a couple stark differences: Boris has intelligence whereas Donald Trump does not, Boris is not a slave to his own ego whereas Donald Trump is completely controlled by his fragile ego. As i read the article I fantasized about Boris crossing the pond and becoming a primary challenger to Trump in 2020. Oh, that would be fun! Good luck Brits, I fear you will be forced to lay in the bed you made with Brexit come the end of October. I think your fools for it, but, may you be better than Americans and learn from mistakes. If I’m wrong about this, all the better for it.

  48. Jayme Mitsche says

    Kudos for the rest of your piece. But, that is an unfortunate comparison you make between Nietzsche’s Ubermensch and Boris Johnson. The Overman has nothing to do with being corpulent or blond, or with handling axes and killing bears (even if that bear were Great Britain), and for that matter, nor does the Overman have anything to do with being Bavarian. Not even Nietzsche himself was that. The Ubermensch is tout au contraire!

  49. Swartzwelder says

    Lederhosen are bavarian not alemannic, and there are no ogres in the Black Forest

  50. “The most damning indictment of Boris is the two years he spent as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May, his highest political office to date.”

    Well, yes. He was Foreign Secretary when the very deal he and his supporters so excoriate was negotiated.

    So one of three things must be true:

    a) The deal is as terrible as he says, and he was in large part responsible for it. In which case he was a terrible Foreign Secretary. He will be a terrible Prime Minister.

    b) The deal is as terrible as he says, and he played no part in it. In which case he was a useless Foreign Secretary. He will be a terrible Prime Minister.

    c) It is as good a deal as we could expect, in which case Boris has risked it, and betrayed his Prime Minister, purely so that he can steal her job. Because for him and his friends, Brexit is just some convenient disaster they can inflict on the country to create the chaos that will put them in power. He will be a terrible Prime Minister.

    It is getting hard to maintain the belief that conservatives are to be trusted.

    • David Norman says

      You seem to be overlooking the possibility that Mrs May, a notoriously bad delegator, undermined her Foreign and Brexit secretaries by keeping all the important decisions within No. 10 and failing to involve them properly or keep them informed.

  51. Akin Heper says

    his grandfather is Turkish tho you played yourself big time lmfaoooo

  52. L M Baker says

    The author was entranced by undergraduate Boris Johnson from his very first encounter. Boris the brilliant, careless and massively limelight loving, would capture any one’s attention. Mr. Young still can’t quite get over that and believes Boris might just be the man of the hour, daring to hope that Winston Churchill comparisons might just be on the money. In fairness, he does express some reservation about the man’s ability to lead. The fact that the one constant of BJ’s career has been a streaming mixture of self-aggrandizing fabrication and lies seems to be taken as a problem of optics rather than substance. Optics have always been BJ’s strong suit. However, does his constant lying tell us nothing about character? Does a lifetime failure to have any discernible principle other than self-promotion, not matter at all? Seemingly not.

    Of Johnson’s debating style:
    “To do what the other debaters were doing, and pretend he believed what was coming out of his mouth, would have been patronising. Everyone else was taking the audience for fools, but not him. He was openly insincere and, in being so, somehow seemed more authentic than everyone else.”

    What-a-scamp Boris! It’s all just a jape, such fun! His love of fun hasn’t changed; to wit, his jolly foray into satirical racism as described in the article. People just don’t get it – they’re so dumb. If BJ is so very bright, how come he couldn’t figure out that this would be a bad look for a man of his endless ambition? But our Übermensch has no need for such considerations (Übermensch, what a lovely comparison, just lovely). BJ might well have a high IQ, but I see no evidence of a high or even a large mind, and that mind is never bigger that his mouth, and with him, it’s always mouth first.

    Never mind, charisma, is everything. Rule Britannia!

  53. Morris Givner says

    The British have a history of getting involved in unnecessary wars and signing stupid treaties.In other words,they shoot themselves in the head. To exit Brexit,is another example of shooting yourself in the head.

    • Chris Miller says

      It’s true the British signed stupid treaties with Belgium and Poland and unnecessarily went to war twice during the 20th century, saving Western civilisation both times at a rather significant cost in blood and treasure. You’re welcome, but perhaps it should be someone else’s turn next time?

      • Morris Givner says

        If Britain wouldn’t have entered WWI for totally dubious reasons and if the U.S.wouldn’t have save Brirain’s and France’s necks from defeat,Hitler wouldn’t have risen from German sewers to be elected by the mindless Germans in 1933.

  54. William B. Evans says

    Methinks “flihrers” in the Orwell quote should read “fuehrers”.

  55. michael heffernan says

    Toby’s article about Boris is simply a masterpiece of observation, humor, wit , and literary excellence – accurate and prophetic to boot. I cannot find the words to describe how good it was.

  56. Pingback: Boris, the chosen one – Thomas Hobbes

  57. Morris Givner says

    Britain got involved in WWI for totally dubious reasons,both Britain and France had their necks saved by the U.S. and if WWI wouldn’t have taken place,Hitler wouldn’t have risen from a German city sewer and be elected by the mindless Germans in 1933.

  58. Dave Bowman says

    Thank you, Mr Young, for a truly magnificent, measured, careful, impartial, glowingly-human essay about a man whose critics and detractors are not intelligent or honest enough to admit that their real problem is that they simply do not understand him. Once understood on a human level, everything in life becomes much clearer and, mostly, more “acceptable”. As one Oxford graduate to another – thank you so much, for an essay which is a credit to both yourself and to the finest traditions of our alma mater.

    And what do i think of Boris ? I think these words brought tears of joyful hope to my tired, cynical eyes – and that should tell you all you need to know:

    What sensible person would look at Boris’s peripatetic career and rakish personality and conclude that he is the right man to lead Britain at this moment of maximum danger? But at a more primitive level, a level impervious to reason, I cannot help but believe.

  59. Pingback: Boris Johnson’s Britain – Small Dead Animals

  60. cmonk says

    My trouble is I think “Ideological conservatism is a relatively prevalent sociological phenomenon, with real intellectual claims and valid emotional appeal. I grew up with it and once believed it myself. It stems mostly from understandable discomfort with change, which is always going to be the case for a strong plurality of people, and is a reasonable sensibility in world that is indifferent to our welfare. It’s not just racial fearmongering and the almost homo-erotic worship of authority figures, and there’s no need to demonize its adherents. It’s fine.”

    And then I read paragraphs like “Yet with his imposing physical build, his thick neck and his broad, Germanic forehead, there was also something of Nietzsche’s Übermensch about him. You could imagine him in lederhosen, wandering through the Black Forest with an axe over his shoulder, looking for ogres to kill. This same combination—a state of advanced dishevelment and a sense of coiled strength, of an almost tangible will to power—was even more pronounced in his way of speaking.”

    To me, he looks like an adult child who can’t quite find the candy store, but hey, perceptions vary, he won’t be my leader, and I got my giggle for the day, so kudos to you, Toby Young. You certainly know your audience.

  61. aidan maconachy says

    “…he looks like an adult child who can’t quite find the candy store.”

    Part of that is intentional. Boris thrives on apparent confusion, that isn’t. He’s got a very shrewd sense of what he’s about and where he is headed, even if he does muss up his hair during interviews and feign an air of distraction now and then. He’s an actor.

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