It’d be a safe bet there are few Boris Johnson admirers in Ireland. I’m sure the hard core in the DUP think he’s all he says he’s cracked up to be, but most people in Ireland north and south would at best see him as a liar (that bus promise) and unreliable (he voted for Theresa May’s withdrawal bill and is also opposed to it).
But let’s pull back a bit. Remember, he’s not our leader. Not if you’re a nationalist or republican. So what do the British people think of him? How do they instinctively respond to him?
They like him. “Boris!” they shout, and rush to get a selfie with him. For an awful lot of British people, Boris is a smashing bloke. You can see why they think that.
When he stands up to deliver a political speech – which with most politicians emerges as something duller than the contents of a chamber pot – you can feel safe that Boris will deliver at least a couple of laughs in the course of his address. How many politicians do you know who have that quality?
He also thinks highly of himself – and it’s infectious. When Boris gets engaged in a discussion, he may not have all the facts at his fingertips or any other part of him, but he’ll talk about the topic with such energy and apparent learning, laced with a few Latin quotations, the average Brit looks on and is delighted that s/he has a leader who is so lively and smart. (“He knows Latin, y’know!”)
And maybe Boris has the thing we most like about a leader: s/he will never look at a loss, embarrassed, defeated. And even when s/he is made look ridiculous – remember Boris on that trip-wire with the two union flags? – they somehow do the impossible and pass it all off as a bit of a jape, a joke. Boris has that quality by the bushel. He may be a clown, but he’s a brass-necked clown and the audience are with him all the way.
Boris has set himself a goal: to cheer up the British people. God knows they need cheering up. Their exit from the EU makes them look amateurish and stupid. The UK is split right down the middle in terms of Remainers and Leavers. The many promises of independence and national growth appear to have been a necklace of lies; so if someone with a strong personality tells them to whistle a happy tune, think well of themselves, be optimistic about the future – that’s the kind of rallying cry that changes the national mood.
So while you or I may dismiss Johnson as silly, mouthy snake-oil salesman, for many he has that likeability factor.
Which is handy if you’re a politician, and especially handy if you’re a super-ambitious one such as Boris. So chances are that he will head to Brussels with a briefcase stuffed with demands that the backstop be removed and May’s deal abandoned, and kindly replace it with this great new deal I have. The EU will, as he expects them to, tell Boris to get lost. Whereupon he’ll go back home and tell the British people that these damn Europeans are impossible, give me the mandate in a general election and I’ll sort them out and at the same time get rid of that crypto-commie Corbyn and win so well we’ll be able to dump that DUP passel of Creationists.
Even though the British public are aware in their hearts that this may all be flim-flam, it’s so good to hear your leader saying what is lurking around at the back of the mind. After all, didn’t Julie Andrews sing about being afraid but striking a careless pose, and lo and behold in no time she was actually feeling good?
That’s what Boris is offering the British people. Resurrection. And they’re glad to buy into his scheme. after that dead-eyed May woman, Boris is whacking good tonic.