THERE are times in politics, as in history, when it can be more illuminating to judge a man by the identity and nature of his enemies, rather than his friends or himself.
Even for me, tending to oscillate between varying points on the continuum between agnosticism and atheism, Matthew 5: 11-12, ‘Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely’, increasingly seems the most reliable guide to assessing the avowedly pro-Brexit – on 31 October at the latest and on No-Deal if necessary – Boris Johnson’s campaign for the leadership of the ‘Conservative’ Party.
Scarcely had the result of the fifth ballot in the Tory leadership contest emerged just after 6pm on Thursday 20 June, narrowly eliminating Michael Gove and pitting the transparently Continuity-May and Continuity-Remain candidate Jeremy Hunt against Johnson in the final membership run-off, when the attacks on Johnson started from both the official and provisional wings of the Punditocracy.
Fewer than 200,000 people will decide whether Johnson or Hunt will be the UK’s next Prime Minister averred Shebab Khan of ITV News, curiously ignoring that whether Frans Timmermans, Manfred Weber or Margrethe Vestager will be the next President of the unelected European Commission will be ‘decided’ by fewer than 1,000 people – and those, MEPs in the European Union’s Potemkin Parliament, with only a power largely confined to rubber-stamping the selection probably made merely by the three or five most influential heads of government of EU member-states.
Next out of the traps was well-lunched political-class media courtier Adam Boulton, decrying Johnson’s lack of comment, presumably to Sky News, on the leadership run-off, despite the result of the fifth ballot having been declared only about 45 minutes earlier.
Quite why this should be an implied deficiency of democracy in 2019 was not immediately apparent.
‘Johnson for PM is Brexit incarnate. Nobody really thinks it’s a good idea. Everybody is embarrassed”, tweeted the Times’s Hugo Rifkind, impeccably bien-pensant epitome of its metropolitan-‘liberal’ stable of irreconcilably-Remainer hacks, before being reminded that there might conceivably be some shades of opinion, somewhere in the country, which could possibly have eluded his omniscience.
By the evening of Friday 21 June, the breaking news of police being summoned to an altercation in the flat occupied by Johnson and his paramour prompted author and ardent Blairite Robert Harris to posit an ineluctable link, clearly indicative of widespread moral turpitude, between that incident, minister Mark Field’s timely ejection of a Greenpeace eco-protester who had gained unauthorised access to a private Mansion House dinner and the recall of a Tory MP convicted of expenses-fiddling.
Fortunately, we have some prior indications of Harris’s views on the inadvisability of consulting the contemptible masses on constitutional questions, such as membership of the EU, which they are clearly ill-equipped to determine.
Hard on his heels followed Michael White, former political editor of the Guardian but now to be found mainly adorning the pages of the Weekly Remoaner, aka the scabrous New European, clearly relishing, ironically, the prospect of coverage by the Daily Mail, no less, of a domestic fracas derailing Johnson’s ascendancy to the leadership.
White’s relish paled into insignificance alongside lugubrious and reliably Remainer-Establishment hack Robert Peston positively salivating at the prospect.
He was followed by the FT’s Jim Pickard, thoughtfully likening people who’d be prepared to take the risks inherent in a No-Deal Brexit, so as to ensure a clean exit and the upholding of democracy – and by inference, therefore, presumed supporters of Johnson – to a mass murderer, rapist and paedophile.
How charming – and revealing. Less of a slip of the keyboard than an indication what the Remainer-Elite really think of 17.4million Leave-ers?
Next up came no less a personage than the editor himself of the Daily Remainer, aloof purveyor of haut-journalisme for the Europhile-Establishment-Elite and otherwise known as the Financial Times, gleefully anticipating the imminent defenestration of the Evil Brexiteer Johnson from the Tory leadership slate.
Yes, you read that right – the editor of the FT, succumbing to a case of premature exhilaration at the hands of the Guardian’s media editor.
Barber was at it again early on Saturday morning, evidently having commissioned a waspish hit-piece about prominent Tories’ days at Oxford: clearly an infallible guide to the fiendish ability of one of them (but strangely not the other) 30 years later to inveigle 160,000 party members into voting for National Self-Destruction and The Collapse Of Civilisation As We Know It.
The 2016 Remainers were almost all PPE-ers, it will inform you, having ‘chosen the degree in search of the cutting-edge knowledge needed to run a modern country’, while most 2016 Brexiteers ‘studied backward-looking subjects’ (no bias there, obviously); and that there is, apparently, ‘a curious parallel between the 1980s Oxford Tories and the 1930s Cambridge spies’.
Which you might find an odd analogy, given which group now prides itself on its allegiance to the unelected supranational Brussels technocracy, and which advocates the supremacy of sovereign nation-state Westminster democracy.
The prints soon caught up with the tweets, and have continued to do so. History will wonder how we trusted Boris with Britain, agonised Sir Max Hastings in the Spectator, before vouchsafing to readers of the Guardian that Johnson is utterly unfit to be Prime Minister – which I suppose is as near to preaching to the converted as it’s possible to get.
Now Sir Max is a fine historian, but an implacable Establishment Remainer. I wonder why he felt it expedient to omit why, if Johnson was so useless, he employed him for so long when he was editor of the Daily Telegraph, and why he so enthusiastically backed Johnson’s 2008 campaign to become Mayor of London.
Lower in the journalistic pond come the bottom-feeding fish. This tape will always threaten Boris Johnson, insisted James Kirkup in the Spectator, signally failing to predict that the opprobrium resulting from it would instead be poured in bucket-loads over the deserving heads of the insalubrious, foul-mouthed Leftie-Luvvie Remainers who recorded it.
Sadly, space permits only a small selection of the myriad examples available from anti-Johnson – and by proxy, anti-Brexit – mass pile-on which followed the disclosure of the Tory leadership race’s final two. TCW readers will have their own favourites.
But finally, as this article was going to press, and yet again in the Spectator (hardly the Boris-sycophantic lickspittle of Leftist myth, is it?) came the misanthropic Alex Massie – a Scot who, to paraphrase P G Wodehouse, it is seldom difficult to distinguish from a ray of sunshine – pontificating that Boris’s backers ‘have a lot to answer for’. I guess that might be true if you regard presiding over the retrieval of self-governing nation-state democracy as a crime warranting incarceration in the Tower.
Which brings us back to Boris Johnson and Matthew 5: 11-12, and being judged by the extent to which your enemies revile you.
With such an egregious line-up of the Great and the Good of the anti-democratic, referendum-denying, Remainer Establishment Elite ranged against him in ire and indignation, can Boris be all bad? The more they fulminate and plot against him, the more grows the suspicion, even in the minds of the initially sceptical, that, in spite of his flaws and drawbacks, he might be just the man for the job.
Is it a case of ‘By their enemies shall ye know them’?