The Tory leadership result in the United Kingdom is out and Boris Johnson has won. I have only two pieces of advice. One, be yourself. Two, be faithful to the people who elected you. I know Britain has its problems and I know it’s the job of a prime minister to fix them, but I’m also sick to death of living in the fantasyland Britain imagined by the Left — a Victorian flophouse of endless suffering, where a racist lurks behind every corner and the Arctic has shrunk so small that bankers use it for ice cubes.
The amazing thing is that it isn’t just the Left peddling this nonsense: The Tories believe in it, too. They’ve gone limp and so woke it’s practically a disability; it’s like the country is being run by an HR department gone rogue. No wonder Brexit hasn’t happened.
The Tories have forgotten who elected them. Big mistake in a parliamentary democracy. Instead they’re chasing the endorsement of the Left, even though nothing they can ever do will ever satisfy them. The saddest thing has been to watch Tories chasing the votes of constituencies they will never win by pretending to be something they are not. Theresa May did it all the time: It only had to be the opening of an envelope and she’d make a video about it, confusing “likes” for love.
Part of Boris’ appeal is the jokes, the mistakes, the heart-felt patriotic nonsense, the sense that, yes, he really is willing to drive this particular bus over the cliff edge. That is why he has won... He’s the only Tory statesman left that many Leavers trust to liberate us from Brussels.
Surely if Johnson understands anything by now it’s that the Left dislikes Tories. Look at how they treated him in this campaign. His enemies have labelled the softest, squishiest of men — he’s basically a liberal beanbag — a racist and a homophobe; the Tory Remainers have quit his Cabinet before he’s even had a chance to sack them (fans of Seinfeld will recognise this as the “end a relationship before she dumps you” gambit). And despite spending six weeks calling him a knuckle-dragging fascist, these exact same people will now say the only way Boris can bring the country back together is to give them a job and continue their mediocre policies. “Let’s have a Cabinet of talents, Boris. You know, the only way for a Tory to govern well is to govern like a Lib Dem ...”
Ignore them, Boris! Listen to your conscience. Listen to the actual people who have voted for you, despite the hysteria of the media. You’ll hear that they like you, yes, but also that there’s a contractual element to your victory. Boris was elected to do something, to get us out of the EU. If he fails, then any personal affinity for him won’t transcend the crushing disappointment. If the most Euro-sceptic Conservative PM in history can’t pull off Brexit then Leavers will conclude that the Tories were never serious about it in the first place. The Brexit Party will surge.
There’s a great misunderstanding among Tories: some of them, bizarrely, think Brexit is entirely about trade and jobs. On the contrary, implicit in voting to leave the EU was a willingness to put liberty before comfort and security. Likewise, since the referendum, the question of how to deliver Brexit has not been about economics but democracy. The question is: Can the British system actually facilitate such monumental change? What Nigel Farage has realised that some Tory Brexiteers have missed is that Brexit has morphed into a protest against “the system”. Trust in the establishment, and its pretence to care what we think, is at an all-time low.
Heart-felt patriotic nonsense
And that, to return to the theme of Boris being Boris, is why any compromise of his personality or agenda would be a catastrophic error. Part of Boris’ appeal is the jokes, the mistakes, the heart-felt patriotic nonsense, the sense that, yes, he really is willing to drive this particular bus over the cliff edge. That is why he has won. Not because of Eton or privilege or whatever the Left rages against, but because he’s the only Tory statesman left that many Leavers trust to liberate us from Brussels. That is what defines him. That is what he must be.
That and funny. Politics is stuffed with very unamusing people who take themselves far too seriously, and they’re naturally suspicious of anyone who cracks a joke. But humour is important in politics, because it leavens, it humanises and it brings a touch of civilisation to proceedings, an awareness that there is life and meaning beyond the debate — that, in a few centuries, this dreadfully serious moment won’t add up to a hill of beans and we may even look back and laugh. Isn’t perspective one of the finest qualities of Conservatism? That and love, liberty, charity and faith in our wonderful country.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London, 2019
Tim Stanley is a noted British journalist and historian.