With Boris Johnson announcing his bid to become Conservative party leader, James Hanning sheds some light on what the ‘blonde buffoon’ actually believes in.

“(He) was more concerned about being Prime Minister than what he was going to do as Prime Minister.”

If you think Norman Tebbit’s description of David Cameron hit the spot, it surely applies many times more to the most obsessive of wannabes, Boris Johnson. What is it that he wants to achieve if he gets into No. 10?

He twice refused to back Theresa May’s withdrawal bill, then backed it, then said he wouldn’t back it again, and that No Deal would be fine. Sure, as Mrs May so poignantly reminded us in her esprit d’escalier moment, compromise is not a dirty word. A certain flexibility is a good thing.


Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

Boris’s hero Winston Churchill was fond of quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson on this. Emerson said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” questioning why politicians should be constantly looking over the shoulder for fear of seeing their own contradictions. It’s a great get-out-of-jail card for a self-styled cavalier like Johnson.

Oh, he’s such a card. He just wants to be loved. He writes brilliantly and can’t resist a joke. Great. Journalism needs more of those. Politics doesn’t.

Consistency, like solemnity and priggishness, is for the little people, the petty men who peep about, not the great men of history. If we never modify our views, nothing moves on. Reliability is for bores.

I’m with him on solemnity and priggishness, but as a voter, one is entitled to a bit more of a steer.

Johnson on Climate Change

Where, for example, is he on climate change? That, surely, isn’t a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ issue?

In the early 2000s, he wrote that the “eco-warriors’ case [against cars] is nonsense”. “There is no evidence that the planet is suffering from the extreme weather patterns associated with climate change,” he said.

In February 2006, he stated that fear of climate change was “like a religion” and that he was “bubbling with blasphemous thoughts” but that he “couldn’t possibly disagree”. He later confessed to being “far too terrified to dissent from the growing world creed of global warming.”

Okay, so he wasn’t alone in being late to the party, and as Mayor of London he seemed pretty signed-up to the scientific consensus and, no less importantly, to the Tory orthodoxy of the day. But what is this, in 2013? He was talking admiringly of Piers Corbyn, brother of Jeremy, and a climate change sceptic who believes we are moving into a new ice age.

Johnson affected to have an open mind and expressed all the right caveats, but how convenient that this renewed scepticism chimed with the views of many on the non-Cameron Tory right.

Johnson on Brexit and a Second Referendum

Is he even a sincere Brexiteer? His former chief aide Guto Harri doesn’t think so, sharing the view that Johnson miscalculated in 2016. In choosing to back Leave, he became, not a principled loser, but a stunned winner.

Sorting out Brexit was rather more hard work than he had bargained for, so he reportedly offered Theresa May a deal whereby he would not oppose her leadership bid if she promised to stand down in 2022.

It is often forgotten that, before the 2016 Referendum, he was reported to have wanted two referendums – the second one being on whether the negotiated deal was acceptable. Remarkably prescient, but he lost his nerve. Maybe he would like another one now? Or maybe not until after he walks into No. 10?

Johnson the Joker

Johnson expects to be judged by different standards from other politicians.

In an age of news as entertainment, demonstrated by Trump in the US, the media seems happy to play along, particularly when, as early signs suggest, groupthink takes a grip and it is decided Johnson’s the likeliest leader to beat Corbyn in an election.

So those who hope for better may need to remind ourselves of how he failed to stop a friend beating up a journalist, was sacked from The Times for making up stories, lied to Michael Howard about an affair, made a girlfriend have at least two abortions, and caused no end of media storms with remarks about sentimental Liverpudlians, letterbox-like Muslims, watermelon smile Africans and Mrs May’s “suicide vest” Brexit deal.

Oh, he’s such a card. He just wants to be loved. He writes brilliantly and can’t resist a joke.

Great. Journalism needs more of those. Politics doesn’t.

New to Byline Times? Find out more about us


A new type of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund a better media.

Don’t miss a story…

Our leading investigations include: empire & the culture warBrexit, crony contractsRussian interferencethe Coronavirus pandemicdemocracy in danger, and the crisis in British journalism. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

More stories filed under Reportage

Liz Truss’ False Energy Bill Cap Claim has Misled Public, Poll Finds

, 30 September 2022
Six in 10 voters believe the Prime Minister's false claim that the Government is capping total household energy bills at £2,500 a year, reports Adam Bienkov

‘Lies and Deceit’: Top Russian Oligarch Indicted for US Criminal Sanctions Violations had Role in Russia Interference Report

, 30 September 2022
The indictment of Oleg Deripaska is the latest in a string of judicial decisions which lead back to Putin's interference in US elections, reports Heidi Siegmund-Cuda

EXCLUSIVE Tax Cuts For The Rich, Benefit Cuts For The Poor?

, 30 September 2022
Following news that benefits may rise with earnings, not inflation, Sian Norris and the Byline Intelligence Team asks: who will be hardest hit? And is this an inequality economy?

More from the Byline Family