I suspect Boris Johnson thinks he’d make a good dictator. In the Kim Jung Un/Idi Amin mould, of course (although differentiation is important in these posts, and I am sure he’d pay extra to avoid regulation North Korean hair styles). Good, of course, only in the sense that good means barbaric, narcissistic, and oppressive. And, personally, I don’t use the word good in the context of those adjectives.
Boris Johnson’s time is now. Nations are turning to strong-man leaders, with emphasis on the man. “Merkel’s a curmudgeonly has-been; that one in New Zealand seems all right – and she’s still fertile! – but can’t remember her name… and, well, the cricket and fucking rugby? Oh, and yeah, fuck business and fuck that wine stain on your sofa!”
Do you get the picture? Dictators are dictators. They are also, typically, opportunists: often they rise to power to fill a political vacuum or in times of national crisis. That crisis can be genuine or engineered, but it serves to validate the strong-man persona and the inevitable oppression. Rarely are they elected, but sometimes they may be by hook, by crook, or dubious friends peddling in Facebook data. They think it’s okay to pass on someone’s address to get them beaten up.
Current British politics is stupid but I worry it’s clever enough to stay one step ahead of some people, some of the time. Like, there are still people who knit cardigans for fictional Coronation Street characters or get distracted by a pop up telling them that they were mis-sold PPI. I’d like to think it’s stupid because the world just goes on and nothing really matters, so politics is just another channel to click on, whose purpose is only to entertain and generate revenue from the ad breaks: the current show – an unsettling and macabre Hammer House slapstick, whose target audience is a timorous, 10 year old child, way past bed time and feverishly prodding the remote control. But I don’t think what I’d like to think is very convincing. There has to be another reason why British politics is so stupid.
Perhaps it’s stupid because we’re stuck in between a peculiar and rather arcane sense of servitude and impotence. Servitude because we know our place: it’s no accident two of the past three Prime Ministers came from the same university, the same school even, and almost the same year group in that university and school. We may moan about it, or note it as odd that in a nation of 66 million and 32,000 schools our Prime Ministers come from just one, but rarely do we seek seriously and meaningfully to understand and address the causes. Upsetting the social order, and the injustices and inefficiencies it propels, feels like a low priority for many. A lot of people like servitude, would like living under a dictator: there is a degree of certainty, security, and predictability and it means that you can get on with mowing your lawn or going to the bingo so long as you don’t step across the lines. The problem is that this certainty, security and predictability has its limits because the lines are liable to shift depending on the vicissitudes of the dictator.
Impotence? Well, enough said… Maybe, in the end, we get the politicians we deserve. But surely we don’t deserve this?