Mary Wakefield Mary Wakefield

The Boris-bashers should be ashamed

What purports to be considered criticism is almost always sanctimonious sour grapes

Throughout this fractious summer, one thing has united all the warring pundits and politicians. Left, right; Leave, Remain, everyone at least agrees that it was crazy to leave the country in Boris’s hands. He’s not serious, they say, looking, as they make this pronouncement, jolly pleased with their own relative gravitas.

They should instead be ashamed. The endless jeering at Boris isn’t justified — he was a decent mayor of London — and it is not in good faith. What purports to be considered criticism is almost always just sour grapes.

Why the bitterness? More often than not, Boris-bashers — in Parliament or press — are his contemporaries. A lot of them went to Oxford with him and they measure their success against his. It makes them cross. Even if they console themselves that Boris is lightweight, as an author or politician, there’s still his celebrity to contend with, here and (more galling) in America. Even teenage girls like him. ‘Boris?’ says my 13-year-old niece. ‘Boris is mint!’ No wonder his peers put the boot in.

I don’t mean that Boris doesn’t have flaws. Who knows what sort of Foreign Secretary he’ll make? Who knows if he has the determination or the will to beat back against the civil service? I suspect he’s best motivated by a deadline, like most journalists, which isn’t ideal. But the carping isn’t proportionate.

Boris-bashing was popular long before it could feasibly be thought of as a response to his political skills. He employed me 15 years ago to work as a reporter on this magazine. Soon after that I went to the first of many dinner parties at which his old Oxbridge buddies spent the evening cutting him down to size. It was, maybe still is, a sort of parlour game for them.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in