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Is Boris Johnson a great election winner or just lucky?

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deltic

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Boris Johnson, like Charles Kennedy of the Lib Dems arguably came to prominence through TV programmes such as Have I Got News For You where both came across as humorous people who you would happily spend a couple of hours with in the pub listening to.

Ken Livingstone’s first term as Mayor of London had demonstrated he was a very capable administrator who seemed to have mellowed since his radical GLC days. His handling of the July 7 bombing was widely praised across the political spectrum. However he became dogged with accusations of anti-Semitism and by end of 2007 his administration was also becoming dogged with corruption claims. The public seemed to have become weary of him, as often happens when you stay in power for too long.

The Conservatives were meant to have selected a candidate in 2006 but no-one of any standing seemed very interested as Livingstone was then seen as unbeatable (a mistake the Tories arguably made with the 2020/21 Mayoral election). However, by 2007 the situation had changed and in September 2007 Johnson was selected as candidate. He came from behind in the polls to beat Livingstone. If the Tories had selected their candidate as planned in 2006 and/or Livingstone had stood down history may have been very different.

The 2012 mayoral election saw Livingstone standing again, saying he would stand as an independent if he didn’t win the Labour nomination. By this stage he was arguably a spent force and another candidate would have had a better chance of beating Johnson. Johnson not surprisingly won.

2016 Conservative party leadership contest saw Johnson stabbed in the back by Gove and withdraw his candidacy. If the Tories had selected Gove as leader then history again would have been very different. In 2019 after May’s disastrous leadership suddenly Johnson was the person seen by the party as this mythical beast who could win elections and was duly elected leader. Soon followed by the 2019 general election where Johnson came up against the most unelectable labour leader since Michael Foot and not surprisingly romped home to victory without any real scrutiny of his oven ready deal which of course was no such thing.

So is Johnson the luckiest politician ever of being in the right place at the right time and coming up against weak rivals or is he really a great election campaigner.
 
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alex397

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I’d say there is no simple answer to this, but some of it is to do with luck I’d say. I remain completely baffled how Alexander remains popular though. That’s not just me being a naive lefty, as there are other Tories who I would tolerate as leader and understand why people would vote for them, and I’d maybe even quite like them as leader (though none from this current cabinet). But him, I just don’t know!

Even when he was more of a harmless cartoon character when he appeared on HIGNFY, I certainly wouldn’t want to spend a couple of hours with him in a pub! I’d imagine it would be chaos and I wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgeways! :E
 

birchesgreen

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I agree with you, i find his popularity baffling. All i can think of is that he stands out in a rather grey field.
 

najaB

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His main electoral asset is that he promises something different.

His main electoral liability is that every time he promises something, it's something different!
 

brad465

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This post I made in a covid thread about him seems relevant here as well:

I put his success down to our education system and his personality being somewhat "lovable". Our education system, bar maybe in Grammar schools, does not teach enough critical thinking, nor how to analyse, challenge, debate and come up with solutions to problems and information. I expect this is deliberate to keep a certain class of politicians and lobby groups holding the balance of power, and Johnson's personality getting him elected is a perfect symptom of the consequences. Anyone who looks up his career history (i.e. dismissals for lying and proposing brilliant ideas that don't get anywhere near to being delivered) knows he's far from suitable for politics, and certainly not leading a genuine crisis like a pandemic.
 

75A

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I agree with you, i find his popularity baffling. All i can think of is that he stands out in a rather grey field.
I called Corbyn a lot of things, but grey wasn't one of them.

The Tories could have had Muffin the Mule as their leader and the people would have voted for him over Jeremy.
 

Bertie the bus

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I would say for a large part of 2019 both parties were looking unelectable, the Tories were looking as though they couldn’t possibly govern the country even if they had a majority and Johnson’s actions played a significant part in altering that. His proroguing of parliament had pundits up in arms but it showed he had the will and the balls to get us out of the EU, and getting us out of the EU and ending the paralysis of our politics is what won him the sizeable majority.
 

alex397

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I would say for a large part of 2019 both parties were looking unelectable, the Tories were looking as though they couldn’t possibly govern the country even if they had a majority and Johnson’s actions played a significant part in altering that. His proroguing of parliament had pundits up in arms but it showed he had the will and the balls to get us out of the EU, and getting us out of the EU and ending the paralysis of our politics is what won him the sizeable majority.
Not quite sure I want to know about his balls, and I disagree that he has ‘ended the paralysis of our politics’. While the EU did have some control over us, we still had sovereignty despite what prominent Brexiteers think.
However you raise a good point. In the eyes of the electorate, he did get us out of the EU which is probably why he is likeable. I completely disagree with all that, but that is probably why he is popular amongst many.
 

Bertie the bus

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In your rush to explain how fantastic the EU is you completely misunderstood what I wrote. Leaving the EU wasn’t the main focus of our politics at the time, it was the only one. Nothing else was discussed or was happening and nothing was happening regarding leaving the EU – it was complete stalemate. That is paralysis. Boris Johnson showed he was prepared to do whatever it took to end that. The fact that within a few months Coronavirus replaced leaving the EU as politics’ only focus can’t be blamed on Johnson.
 

edwin_m

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In your rush to explain how fantastic the EU is you completely misunderstood what I wrote. Leaving the EU wasn’t the main focus of our politics at the time, it was the only one. Nothing else was discussed or was happening and nothing was happening regarding leaving the EU – it was complete stalemate. That is paralysis. Boris Johnson showed he was prepared to do whatever it took to end that. The fact that within a few months Coronavirus replaced leaving the EU as politics’ only focus can’t be blamed on Johnson.
It was only paralysis because the people pushing it weren't prepared to do the democratic thing and hold another referendum they might lose. That's entirely the fault of Johnson and his ilk.
 

najaB

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It was only paralysis because the people pushing it weren't prepared to do the democratic thing and hold another referendum they might lose. That's entirely the fault of Johnson and his ilk.
Indeed. Even among those who wanted to leave there was no agreement as to what leaving actually entailed - all we got for months was "Brexit means Brexit".
 

alex397

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In your rush to explain how fantastic the EU is you completely misunderstood what I wrote. Leaving the EU wasn’t the main focus of our politics at the time, it was the only one. Nothing else was discussed or was happening and nothing was happening regarding leaving the EU – it was complete stalemate. That is paralysis. Boris Johnson showed he was prepared to do whatever it took to end that. The fact that within a few months Coronavirus replaced leaving the EU as politics’ only focus can’t be blamed on Johnson.
No where have I said that the EU are fantastic. There’s lots of things I like about the EU, but they are far from fantastic.
Now you have explained what you meant by paralysis, I understand. It wasn’t completely clear whether you meant Brexit was paralysing politics, or the EU was paralysing our politics. Not to me anyway.
I agree the stalemate had to end, but I certainly don’t think Boris and the Gov went about it in the right way.
 

75A

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It was only paralysis because the people pushing it weren't prepared to do the democratic thing and hold another referendum they might lose. That's entirely the fault of Johnson and his ilk.
They never give up do they?
They lost the vote fair and square yet still witter on.
 
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alex397

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They never give up do they?
They lost the vote fair and square yet still witter on.
This argument again. Just because Remain lost, doesn’t mean we can never talk about it again. This is a democracy. The government could have handled Brexit a lot better, and we should be able to hold them to account.
If Remain won the vote, should be expect EU sceptics to never talk about it again?
 
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brad465

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Johnson is known to not have actually been a Brexit supporter; he only supported it when he realised leaving favoured his career. He's known to have written two Telegraph articles/columns in 2016 where one supported the EU, the other the complete opposite (the one that was published). The secret remain one was discovered in October 2016 by other papers.

This overall sums up his mantra: support whatever view seems most popular, regardless of whether or not the view can actually be effectively delivered, while using his hypnotic persona to convince enough voters to support him.
 

SteveM70

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If Remain won the vote, should be expect EU sceptics to never talk about it again?

I think Mr Fromage was quite clear about what he thought would happen in the event of a 52/48 remain win
 

Cowley

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I looked at this thread earlier and could see that it was heading rapidly down the Brexit wormhole.
Obviously a lot why Boris is PM now is related to that so it’s a valid discussion, but it would be good if Brexit doesn’t take over the whole thread if possible. Especially where it comes to discussing the wrongs and rights of the referendum result because we’ve done plenty of that in other threads and there’s a dedicated one here currently that covers it.


(Small red pen gentle reminder this time)
Thanks. ;)
 

mikeg

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I think we're being too analytical here and forgetting also the celebrity element. Anecdotal I know, but one conversation on a bus in 2008 summed it up for me:

Student not from London: So who did you vote for? You're from London right? Did you vote?
Student from London: Yeah, I voted for Boris, I normally vote Labour but Boris is such a legend :: schoolgirlish giggle ::

Actually the number of people who "Voted for Boris" in their own words - in a seat other than Uxbridge and South Ruislip suggests too this may be the case.
 

birchesgreen

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People like Johnson because he bends the rules and is morally dubious, because the majority of the public are morally dubious.
 

Cowley

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I think we're being too analytical here and forgetting also the celebrity element. Anecdotal I know, but one conversation on a bus in 2008 summed it up for me:

Student not from London: So who did you vote for? You're from London right? Did you vote?
Student from London: Yeah, I voted for Boris, I normally vote Labour but Boris is such a legend :: schoolgirlish giggle ::

Actually the number of people who "Voted for Boris" in their own words - in a seat other than Uxbridge and South Ruislip suggests too this may be the case.

Yes. I’d probably more or less consider myself slightly left of centre where it comes to politics, but what Labour seem to be about these days is treating us as poor downtrodden people that need help as our lives are so terrible, whereas the Tories offer some kind of irrational optimism that everything will be alright as long as we grab the opportunities.
Neither is quite right, but the optimism of the Conservatives appears to appeal to a lot more people by the looks of things...

A simplistic view I know.
 

Ianno87

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In 2016 was he just biding his time? Get somebody else to sort out the Brexit mess and then ride swashbuckling in at the end to push somebody else's work over the line? (Given that the eventual 2019 Brexit deal was basically what Theresa May had negotiated, just with the font size changed or something)
 

tbtc

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People like Johnson because he bends the rules and is morally dubious, because the majority of the public are morally dubious.

I think you're right - we've moved on from "I want a competent financially astute leader who will improve the country" to "Boris is doing what I'd do if I got the chance" (even if that means insulting a few people, lining his own pocket, bunging a few quid towards his mates - hey, we'd all do it if given the chance etc etc) - we forgive him for not playing by the rules because he's quite blunt about the fact that he doesn't feel that the rules apply - so mud doesn't stick because he is playing by his own rules

He's good at telling people what they want to hear and seems to get away without the same repercussions that others would face (e.g. telling the people of Northern Ireland to throw any customs declarations in the bin, when he knew fine well that the only way of maintaining some semblance of the Good Friday deal would mean Northern Ireland having different customs deals from the rest of the UK) - it doesn't have to make sense - often he's completely contradictory (not just his comments on the EU but also the way that we go from tough talking on austerity to incredibly generous funding in places like the Tees Valley), but it doesn't matter for him because he's always telling people what they want to hear. We all know deep down that Britain will have less power internationally than the EU but we would rather listen to someone promising a brave future of galavanting and buccaneering than accept the harsh reality that the world has moved in in the past fifty years and we're not the Champions League level country that we once were, and are now eclipsed by lots of places that we might have seen as League One countries once upon a time.

Boosterism matters - especially when up against someone like Corbyn who seemed to want to make people feel guilty about themselves - most people would rather vote for the guy telling them how great Britain is/ dishing out jibes about other countries/ promising a bright future of Garden Bridges and tunnels to Northern Ireland and other grand plans than the bloke who seemed to be telling voters in places like County Durham that they should feel bad about benefitting from "white privilege" and pay reparations for the sins of the British Empire etc. I'm left of centre but I can see why people would rather vote for Johnson (who told us a pretty fairy tale about history and promised a wonderful tomorrow where we'd all magically be better off) than Corbyn (who seemed to hate the country and was more interested in Palestine/ Venezuela). I'm not pretending that these are fair assessments, but this is how the two leaders seemed to be portrayed and Corbyn didn't do much to change that narrative

There's also an element of the "nudge nudge, wink wink, are you thinking what we're thinking" kind of devilment, giving people the impression that this Eton/Oxbridge millionaire is just like them really, he's in on the joke, he's just doing what we'd all do - we are a country of snarky remarks and bitchy comments, we are a country that doesn't seem to take big decisions seriously - we take pride in putting rubbish songs at number one in the charts or voting for the novelty candidate on telly shows whilst evicting the talented singer/dancer. Johnson is the PM that the Boaty McBoatface generation deserve.

Plus, underneath the bluff and bluster, he's clearly all about naked political ambition, betting big on some things (like Brexit), seeing which way the wind is blowing - he'll change from the "pro public transport, pro cycling" script needed to win in London to the "pro motorist" script needed to win over voters nationwide (in areas where public transport isn't an option). Other politicians struggle to change their mind over things (in fact, the Corbynites seem to delight in having kept the same opinions and policies as forty years ago). He's good at distracting people by arguments about statues, getting the gunboats into the Channel Islands conveniently in time for the May elections, throwing dead cats onto the table without qualms

Look at how Johnson managed to go just right wing enough to squeeze the life out of UKIP/ Brexit Party, without crossing the line... look at how he managed to get through Covid without giving enough space for the "deniers" to flourish (okay, tens of thousands more people died than should have, but he was very savvy politically in terms of balancing the eventual need for lockdowns with the reluctance to do any more than he needed to - whereas another PM would have focussed more on saving lives and created space for a rebellion of the "libertarians" who didn't want any curbs to their freedoms) - Johnson has been clever at steering a path that stopped that kind of rebellion - I'm not saying I agree with him but he knows how to to go just far enough to squeeze the space needed for rebellion to flourish

In short, he's very good at politics - it doesn't make sense - it's not intended to make sense - there's no such thing as "Johnsonism" (in the way that you could at least claim Thatcher or Blair had principles, whether or not you agreed with them) - he'll win votes by freezing fuel duty whilst also winning votes by promising a carbon neutral Britain at some time in the future... there doesn't have to be any consistency - but people would rather vote for a guy who makes them feel good about themselves (and good about our past and our future) than for people who want to make us guilty about things (e.g. your town has a statue in honour of the Victorian entrepreneur who "gifted" a park and has the local school named after him - you instinctively feel proud about the bloke - the people pointing out that this apparent free market entrepreneurship was actually built on the backs of slave trading seem to be an attack on our town, even if there's a heck of a lot of truth in the matter).

The problem that the Tory party will have is that there's no obvious successor and no way of knowing how to follow a bloke like that - just like the US Republicans seem confused about whether to follow the Trump narrative (which means accepting his claims of the election being robbed etc) or try to get back to the "normal" party that they once were. Johnson did many things in London but certainly didn't leave a legacy that other Tory candidates could build on.

In short, it's like the Pepsi challenge. Pepsi were beating Coca Cola hands down in blind taste tests, so Coke changed their recipe to try to compete. But one of the reasons why Pepsi did well (when people couldn't see the labels) was that Pepsi was sweeter, so delivered more a "hit" in the first sip - and people were only having one sip in the taste tests. Johnson is the Pepsi of politics - he's perfect for those who only worry about that short term reaction. It's not a wholesome long term thing, but the Great British Public don't seem interested in wholesome long term things - we want something for right here, right now, we want instant gratification, and he's delivering it.
 

najaB

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In short, it's like the Pepsi challenge. Pepsi were beating Coca Cola hands down in blind taste tests, so Coke changed their recipe to try to compete. But one of the reasons why Pepsi did well (when people couldn't see the labels) was that Pepsi was sweeter, so delivered more a "hit" in the first sip - and people were only having one sip in the taste tests. Johnson is the Pepsi of politics - he's perfect for those who only worry about that short term reaction. It's not a wholesome long term thing, but the Great British Public don't seem interested in wholesome long term things - we want something for right here, right now, we want instant gratification, and he's delivering it.
This sums it up quite well, I'd only change one thing "the Great British Public" should be "enough of the Great British Electorate".
 

edwin_m

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This sums it up quite well, I'd only change one thing "the Great British Public" should be "enough of the Great British Electorate".
Yes, it's the Trump thing of playing to be base, facilitated by an electoral system and a general apathy that allows someone to win untrammeled power with the support of under 14 million - about a third of the adult population.
 

brad465

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Unfortunately the original tweet doesn't exist anymore, but a former Obama staffer, on Biden's election win confirmation, called Boris Johnson a "shapeshifting creep" in response to the latter's congratulating of Biden, later referring to how Obama was one of those victim to racist comments made by Johnson. With or without racist/offensive examples, the term perfectly describes how Johnson changes his views to suit whatever he thinks will make him popular/successful at the given time.
 

Aljanah

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Johnson is the PM that the Boaty McBoatface generation deserve.

Now that, is a good line. :lol:
Democracy gives the people the government they deserve.

In 2016 was he just biding his time? Get somebody else to sort out the Brexit mess and then ride swashbuckling in at the end to push somebody else's work over the line? (Given that the eventual 2019 Brexit deal was basically what Theresa May had negotiated, just with the font size changed or something)
He was definitely wrong-footed in 2016 - the shock in that room when he said he wouldn't stand is quite perceptible. Not his original plan at all.

After that he undoubtedly was biding his time, but i'm not sure all the subsequent events were actually a given - he could still have been caught out by or during the May administration. I wonder if all those leading the shenanigans in May's parliament had been sufficiently careful in what they were wishing for? I'm reminded of the saying "Events, dear boy,..."
 
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LOL The Irony

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To a degree, everyone becomes PM due to luck. It's quite the small chance that out of how many tens or hundreds of thousands of party members that you wind up A. having a seat and B. leading the party.
 

bb21

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You are reminded to please stop any name-calling. Thank you.
 
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