In the run up to December’s election, many on the Left and in the media sought to present Boris Johnson as a ‘Far Right’ politician.
His support for Brexit was the foundation stone of this absurd mischaracterisation, built on fragments of his quotes ripped from their wider settings in old newspaper columns he had written and his passing physical resemblance to Donald Trump.
In his dogged pursuit of the mainstream cause of Brexit, the PM retains a capacity to do things that turn the modern British establishment into a rolling Bateman cartoon. But as he has shown by his choices on economic issues, such as public spending, and social ones, such as the level of future immigration from Hong Kong, Boris is no natural right-winger.
When a PM’s views on most matters sit him somewhere in the middle of public opinion – what Sir Keith Joseph termed ‘the common ground’ – this is all well and good. But sometimes giant issues come along that do not lend themselves to that staple technique of One Nation Tories of seeking compromise with the aggrieved and offering sufficient concessions to restore stability. And Boris Johnson has just run smack into one with the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
His instincts have been to seek to appease the protestors: to allow the demonstrations to make a mockery of social distancing requirements; to go along with the notion of a softly-softly police response that does not protect cherished national monuments from desecration; to look the other way when police officers kneel before protestors.
Many of his political lieutenants have followed his lead, with London Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey praising police officers who ‘took a knee’ (and later a beating) and junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi declaring that there should no longer be statues on display of any figure linked to the slave trade, and proposing public votes on taking them down.