The ruling class asks us to engage Boris Johnson on his personality and ‘ideas’, and followingly the mainstream media drools over the man’s life like a (relatively) fresh slice of gammon. This storytelling deftly ignores the fact that despite a few minor adjustments, Johnson is just another instrument to subject working people to the fancies of the capitalist class.
It’s child’s play to shoot holes in Johnson’s career as a politician and hacky journalist. He’s a dedicated liar, as is every conservative out to defend his record. He was fired from his first job as a journalist for making up a quote; for any regular person, this would be career-ending, but because Johnson was born and raised in the elite ruling class, from cradle to Eton to Oxford’s Bullingdon Club, this was merely a hurdle. He started as he meant to go on, publishing a decade-long list of racist tripe, including celebration of the British Empire with its routine theft, genocides, and artificial famines.
Of course, we are supposed to believe that all of Johnson’s most egregious statements are jokes. This is a neat little trick we can call ‘Strategic Irony’ that Johnson shares with Trump and the alt-right (read: white supremacists). Every statement is delivered, just plausibly, as a joke. We are meant to believe everything that lands well was always intended to be serious, but everything else, well, that was just a joke. This allows Johnson to make racist dog whistles to the far-right, who know exactly what he is doing, while giving him plausible deniability in front of everyone else. Everything he says is simultaneously serious, and merely humorous. This allows violent ideas to travel seamlessly in our culture of political nihilism.
Violent ideas become violent action – Johnson’s article about Muslim women looking like ‘letterboxes’ instigated a spike in hate crime. The man has also been a stalwart supporter of austerity, which always meant the gutting of essential services to allow a mass transfer of wealth in tax cuts and privatisation to the top 1%, causing at least 100,000 deaths at the estimation of the British Medical Association.
To remark on only a few of his schemes as Mayor of London, Johnson presided over the removal of working-class people from their homes to make way for investment properties for the global ultra-rich. As can be shown by cursory internet research, his statistical claims around improving London are unrelated to him, unsourced, or untrue. This came amidst a string of failing ego projects; overheating ‘roastmaster’ buses, the abandoned garden bridge, and the ‘Boris Bike’ scheme which managed to be the most expensive of its kind in Europe. The millions of pounds lost here to vanity were, and still are, greatly needed to relieve poverty in London, but instead Johnson spared no expense to inflict police violence from the end of a water cannon.
Brexit, to such elites as Johnson, is a game of whether to align the UK with either America’s militaristic imperialism, or Europe’s imperialism-lite. Or perhaps, blessed with the entrepreneurial spirit that all those born into wealth magically receive, Johnson wishes to carve out a middle option, wherein the UK acts as the centre of the world financial spider web, a nexus for laundered money, offshore accounts, and toxic derivatives like those that caused the 2008 crash. Meanwhile, he will continue his callous, violent, and ecocidal record in Prime Ministerial office.
To almost every reader of this article, and to at least 99% of the world population, this is a bit like whether the zebra gets eaten by the lion, the crocodile, or whether the predators resolve their differences and settle down for a dinner date – it’s morbidly fascinating, but mostly academic.
The art of British politics is to walk with graceful airs, or charming buffoonery, confident in the assumption that ‘progress’ marches on while the real power relations of rich/poor, owner/worker, and master/slave remain, hidden, under its smiling mask. Johnson’s job is to protect and heighten these contradictions, to fuel the capitalist money machine with the unremitting violence, poverty, and exploitation it needs to respectively create security, wealth, and supremacy for the ruling class. Johnson is not altogether a stupid man; I think he will perform this task well.