The Psychopathology of Bo-Jo
By Femi Olugbile
Mr Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, is facing the crisis of his life.
It was painful, a few days ago, watching his excoriation by his fellows at Prime Minister’s Question Time, one of the defining features of British parliamentary Democracy.
‘…The Prime Minister didn’t spot that he was at a social event…’ began Chris Bryant, a Labour Member of Parliament, referring to Mr Johnson’s explanation for his presence at one of several wine-drinking events now confirmed to have taken place at 10 Downing Street at the height of the harsh, emotionally wrenching general lock down in the country.
The Prime Minister sat sheepishly, like a little boy being publicly shamed for bedwetting in the school dormitory.
‘…How stupid does the Prime Minister think the British people are?…’ Keith Starmer, MP, Leader of the opposition Labour Party, whose key contribution to British political life seems to be to oppose and insult Boris Johnson at every turn, while offering little by way of positive thought or action of his own, was predictable in the venom and disdain he packed into his denunciation. ‘…the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road…’
Ian Blackford, a Scottish National Party MP, was forthright, his thick Scottish accent echoing across Parliament.
‘…The public overwhelmingly think the Prime Minister should resign…’
It is high noon for Bo-Jo. His enemies, and even some of his friends, are expecting him to be gone, one way or another, at any moment.
Will the man people call, irreverently, by the nickname of Bo-Jo, survive?
To be sure, any announcement of the Prime Minister’s death could be premature. He has an ability to escape precarious situations, combined with the ruthless instinct of a predator, with which he did in his predecessor, all hidden behind a boyishly handsome face and a plump physique which makes him look a dim, bumbling eccentric and a harmless idiot. His persona confuses his enemies and makes them underrate him, over and over.
Boris Johnson is that rare combination – a conservative ideologue with street credibility. The mere description is almost an oxymoron, but there it is, and that is the enigma of the man.
This time, his social capital, already eroded over the past two years as he has struggled to bring his country through the uncertain terrain of a COVID19 pandemic, has been massively dissipated by the recent revelations concerning his behaviour in the dim days of lockdown and national suffering. Many doubt if Bo-Jo will ever again regain the personal standing he amassed by such populist ‘everyman’ actions as riding his bicycle to work, and being photographed as he was precariously stranded on a cable wire high above the ground during the preparations for the London Olympics.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was born in 1964. He was educated at Eton college and later studied Classics, Philosophy and Literature at Oxford University. For a long time, he was a columnist with The Telegraph, a conservative newspaper. Later he became editor of the Observer, one of the titles in the group. The views he expressed in his column were often controversial and occasionally considered racist or homophobic. He won election to the Parliament in 2001 and served till 2008. He was elected Mayor of London in 2008, possibly the only Conservative – then or now, who could achieve such a feat in that left-leaning, cosmopolitan city. Reelected in 2012, he remained in office until 2016. He returned to Parliament in 2015 and since then he has been at once a gadfly and the inexorably rising star of the Conservative movement.
He became the poster boy and driving engine of the BREXIT movement, in the process putting paid to the careers of his fellow Oxonian David Cameron and the Mrs Thatcher wannabe – Theresa May.
Boris Johnson, who has Turkish antecedents in his father’s lineage, has been Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019. He started off his tenure grappling with the terms of UK’s divorce settlement with the European Union. Then, along the way, COVID19 happened.
The unvarnished truth is the UK under his charge has done better than most of Europe and the rest of the world in dealing with the pandemic. It is a journey without a map, because nobody was sure from one moment to the next what lay ahead. Some of the wiffle-waffle exhibited by Bo-Jo’s government simply describes the nature of the problem, and the fact that the Science was perpetually evolving.
Some people dislike Boris Johnson with a passion. Nothing he can do can seem to change that. They blame him for not doing enough for the National Health Service whose personnel have had to bear the burden of COVID19,for not cutting the traditional figure of a good leader but a pampered patrician schoolboy. Some dislike him for his role in the acrimonies of Brexit. Some just dislike him for being Boris.
Then along came the revelations of partying and revelry in the Prime Minister’s residence, during a time when the whole country was suffering untold hardship, with an unprecedented lockdown and social restriction, with thousands of people losing family members.
Effusively warm and friendly, it is easy to see Boris has a challenge with Empathy.
Those not in the know are asking why the Conservatives, no faint hearts when it comes to political execution, are being tardy in firing Bo-Jo.
The calculations are complicated. If Johnson goes, the people likely to fight to replace him as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party are Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Sunak is a wealthy Conservative with similar education to Bo-Jo. But there is the small detail that if he won, he would be the first ethnic Indian British Prime Minister. Is the UK psychologically ready for an ‘Obama’ moment? In any case, whoever replaces Bo-Jo is not likely to have the personal popularity that led to the last massive election victory. The Conservatives could quite conceivably lose to Labour. With such grim realpolitik to grapple with, it is easy to see why judgement is being delayed on Mr Boris Johnshon, and many insiders are cautioning that they should sit this one out and, maybe, deal with the man later.
Meanwhile, Bo-Jo is keeping a low profile and walking on eggshells like a contrite, diffident schoolboy, trying to preserve a sense of ‘business as usual, as he proceeds to ride out the greatest storm of his political life.