Richard North, 12/06/2019  

A few days ago, we had Matthew Parris describe the "turd-giver" as:
… a habitual liar, a cheat, a conspirator with a criminal pal to have an offending journalist's ribs broken, a cruel betrayer of the women he seduces, a politician who connived in a bid for a court order to suppress mention of a daughter he fathered, a do-nothing mayor of London and the worst foreign secretary in living memory.
Now, we have another columnist from a major national newspaper, this one Rafael Behr, taking a pop at the former foreign secretary. He describes the "Boris" persona, the "carefully careless hair and linguistic prestidigitation", as:
… a vaudevillian trick that Johnson plays on British politics, manipulating debate away from his lying incompetence, idleness, philandering self-obsession and intellectual vacuity.
Stand back from this a moment. There are some of my readers who take offence at my current description of the "Oaf", perhaps forgetting how he acquired that description – and why. But this is a small thing when you have another columnist pitching in in such uncompromising terms, accusing the lead candidate for the office of prime minister of "lying incompetence, idleness, philandering self-obsession and intellectual vacuity".

Yet, like Matthew Parris, Rafael Behr makes his charges without the slightest fear of a libel suit, creating an extraordinary situation. Just to repeat, Mr Johnson is the lead candidate for the office of prime minister. That such a public figure can be described in the manner we have seen, and by two leading columnists, is quite unprecedented.

And the worst of it is that one would be hard put to deny any of the charges. In fact, I would be the first to endorse them and Johnson certainly could not deny them. What is way beyond anything close to acceptable, therefore, is that this man, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, is even a candidate in the Tory leadership contest.

Now think about this. If this man is elected by the Tory party to the leadership, and thereby becomes the prime minister, look at what we will be getting. Collating the views of his two (most recent) critics, we have a habitual liar, a cheat, a conspirator with a criminal pal, a cruel betrayer of women, an idle man who is a philanderer, an incompetent, self-obsessed and intellectually vacuous. And is this truly the man we want as prime minister?

But then we have to ask ourselves how on earth this great nation of ours got itself into this situation. How does our collective political and media (with notable exceptions) establishment allow itself to be railroaded by this dreadful man? How is he allowed to debase our politics, and turn our country into a laughing stock?

And then there's his politics. The obsession with the no-deal scenario is both dangerous and ill-advised. This blog, reluctantly, has supported the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May, as the least-worst option and the fastest, most assured way of leaving the EU. Had parliament supported this agreement, we would by now be legally out of the EU.

But the failure of Mrs May's agreement is in no small measure due to Mr Johnson's political colleagues, on whom he currently relies. He is as much part of the ongoing mess as the rest of his colleagues and needs to own it, but that is something he'll never do.

The thing here is that we are in a ghastly situation. There is no happy outcome from a scenario where the choice for Brexit is between a demented no-deal fantasy, the possibility of a revocation, the off-chance of another referendum, and little likelihood of a pre-departure negotiated settlement. And putting the incompetent, self-obsessed Johnson in the middle of all this is pouring the proverbial high-octane fuel into the classic smouldering fire.

Thus, we could certainly do without the dissimulation perpetrated by the Telegraph, which has it that Johnson is the only leadership candidate capable of beating both Corbyn and the Brexit Party, winning a "crushing 140-seat majority" at the next general election.

Talking up hypothetical poll scenarios is one thing, but can anyone imagine how the nation will react after six months or more of a Johnson premiership, when he has taken us through the trauma of a no-deal Brexit and displayed his usual incompetence in dealing with the aftermath? In such circumstances, the man would have difficulty convincing the nation that he should hold down a job as a toilet attendant.

But the very fact that this newspaper is pushing this line is just another indication of the degeneracy of our society and of the way a major national newspaper has turned into tabloid trash.

Even if Johnson was the electoral equivalent of the Messiah, his unfitness for office should mean something. The fact that he has the support of the Telegraph should make no difference, other than accelerate the deserved decline in the newspaper's readership.

There is, however, more to this than just another free round of publicity. It cannot be a coincidence that this fortuitous coverage comes on the same day that Johnson plans to launch his official campaign, whence he plans to warn that any further delay in Brexit will spell (electoral) disaster for the Conservatives.

What he will not say though is that if he is elected as Tory leader, thence to become prime minister, this will also spell disaster – and not just for the Conservatives. The whole nation will suffer.

Not only will we have his incompetence and infidelity to deal with, we will have in a prime minister the person with whom the EU and its Member States would least like to do business.

Not only do the "colleagues" continue to stress that they will not entertain a renegotiation, they have also made it clear that they will have nothing to do with Johnson's ploy of turning a no-deal exit into a negotiation opportunity.

In any event, according to the former French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, "The idea of Boris Johnson in the European council is probably quite abhorrent to some EU leaders". An EU source suggests: "Boris is known in foreign policy circles, certainly not respected. He's also seen as part of a wider Trump world and no one wants that".

In the UK, Rory Stewart is the only leadership contender who is getting close. Speaking to an audience of 600 members of the public, at his own launch yesterday, he asked: " Do you really feel that this is the person that you want engaging in the detail of the future of your health and education system? Is this the person you want writing the instruction to the nuclear submarines? Is this the man that you want embodying your nation and guiding you through the most difficult choice we’ve faced for 50 years?"

Even then, this is tame stuff, leaving the UK on the brink of an existential crisis that is growing by the day. Not only are we entering into one of the most uncertain times in our recent history, where the economic and political future of the nation is at stake, we are also on the brink of having imposed upon us a lying, cheating incompetent politician as leader, who quite clearly is not up to the job.

In my long life and extensive political experience, I have never known a situation like this. Even at the very worst, I have always felt we were tolerably well-governed, at least sufficient for me to accept the legitimacy of those who had assumed the high office of prime minister. Even the last holder of the office passed that test.

But if we end up with a cheat, a conspirator with a criminal pal, a cruel betrayer of women, an idle man who is a philanderer, an incompetent, self-obsessed and intellectually vacuous, all deals are off. This will precipitate an extraordinary crisis in our nation: we will have an imposter in Number 10, a man who has no right to be there, and one who should not be there – under any circumstances.

Sadly, the nation has no say in this. We are in the hands of Tory MPs and a limited band of Tory party members. Theirs is not an easy task as none of the candidates with a vague chance of getting elected inspire any confidence.

But, unfavourable as the rest of the field may be, and whatever the coming problems might be, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is not the solution. His election to leader would be the most devastating political miscalculation the party ever made. This is a mistake the nation cannot afford.

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