If you write grand columns about who might be leader of a political party you don’t and never will belong to – Owen’s not clever enough to mature out of socialism into conservatism – then you’ve obviously got something of a problem with that person who you’re expending all the effort to complain about. As with Owen Jones here and Boris Johnson.
We could suggest that Owen’s just frightened for the country given what Boris might do to it but who would ever suspect Jones of something boringly norm like that? The actual answer is that he’s frightened – frightened that the public might like Johnson, that Johnson might give the public what they want.
You know, frightened that democracy might work?
To paraphrase Theresa May, in her first prime minister’s questions: “Remind you of anybody?” Donald Trump’s mini-me, Boris Johnson, is in the ascendant: the Tory crown is his to lose. But his colleagues know he’s an incompetent, a man who cares only for himself, who was fired twice – by a newspaper editor and a party leader – over allegations of dishonesty. A former adviser to Michael Gove recalls how, in meetings, “he was never prepared”, that “he could never focus”, that he was “an embarrassment”, and that “nearly everyone who worked with him says the same”.
Well, yes, but then he did seem to manage two terms as Mayor of London rather better than Sadiq Khan is managing his half of one so far.
When Amber Rudd memorably declared, “You can’t trust him to take you home at the end of the evening,” it seemed she was simply summing up the private thinking of many of her colleagues. That hasn’t stopped her allegedly attempting to strike a pact with him, of course. Tory MPs know Johnson is a farcical choice for prime minister. But they are also desperate. They fear a Labour party that will overturn an economic and political consensus constructed by Margaret Thatcher four decades ago, and they see the rising tide of Farageism lapping at their feet. They have concluded that the normal rules of politics have been abandoned; and that the mass politics of a second Corbyn general election campaign can only be answered with a guy who gets spontaneous requests for selfies on the high street.
Yes, that’s it. Suspending the normal rule of politics is appointing someone as leader the electorate actually wants to vote for. How very dare they, eh?
And that’s what Jones is afraid of, nothing else. BoJo may or may not be the most competent executive of them all. But he is popular and he will raise the Tory vote. Which means perhaps the staving off of Grandpa Death and his squads, that being the result Owen Jones is squealing about.