Thursday, 25 July 2019

Emulating his hero

It’s well-known that Churchill is a hero to Boris Johnson, and that he tries to model himself on his hero.  He even wrote a book about him.  But given his notorious lack of attention to detail, I wonder what exactly he learnt from studying his hero.  There are certainly some similarities – casual racism and an instinctive feeling of a natural superiority are two of the obvious ones, along with a certain facility with language.  Churchill painted landscapes; Johnson paints model buses (allegedly - I'm still not sure about that one).  But all those things are largely superficial qualities.  It’s true that both came to power without an election and at a time of crisis; but the differences thereafter strike me as being more significant than the similarities.
Churchill took up the post at a time when the House of Commons was united in the face of what was agreed to be a common enemy and reached out to political opponents to form a coalition government which enjoyed a majority of 604 seats in a House of Commons of 615 in pursuit of an objective which enjoyed overwhelming public and parliamentary support.  Johnson, faced with a divided parliament and a bare majority of 2 has instead chosen to select a government drawn almost entirely from a minority faction within a minority party in pursuit of an objective which is probably no longer supported (in the form promised, let alone the form likely to be delivered) by even the narrow majority which voted for it in 2016.  Churchill’s rhetoric was designed to appeal to the widest possible audience in order to stiffen resolve and unity; Johnson’s seems designed to appeal only to those already committed to a cause.  The majority for that cause in his own party might be growing, but the minority supporting it outside is diminishing, and for those who are not Brexit zealots it does more to stiffen opposition to him than support.  It’s as though he believes that Churchill’s rhetoric, determination, and strength of character were what won the war rather than the sacrifice of the millions who suffered – oh, and the little matter of US and Soviet military power.
There’s another interesting comparison though, stemming from the fact that Churchill also took power without first winning an election.  It didn’t end so well – for all his fine words and efforts, rhetoric wasn't enough.  As soon as the electorate were given an opportunity to vote they threw him out in a landslide victory for Clem Attlee’s Labour Party.  Because of the slight issue of an ongoing world war, he was able to postpone that election for five years, a luxury not available to Johnson, whose actions to date seem to make an early election more, rather than less, likely.  However, getting thrown out by the electors at the earliest opportunity is one Churchill ‘achievement’ which I would welcome Johnson emulating.


Anonymous said...

Doubtless you weren't amused by the way he responded to Liz Saville Roberts in parliament earlier today.

Clearly a Welsh speaker too, I've absolutely no doubt there will soon be a million of us. How many will actually live 'full time' in Wales might prove a bit harder to work out.

John Dixon said...

Who is "Clearly a Welsh speaker too"?

"How many will actually live 'full time' in Wales might prove a bit harder to work out." What are you on about?