They were both classicists, both populists, both talked about as future Tory leaders, both prepared to play the race card, both fêted by the right-wing press as a result, both enjoyed brief popularity, and after that … for those worried at the status currently enjoyed by London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, here’s a look at the Tory hero of the past in whose shoes he is treading. And what happened to him.
John Enoch Powell is long dead. But his fate shows what is really in store for Bozza, and it isn’t an easy entry to 10 Downing Street. Powell, like Johnson, had that all-important Christian name recognition. Both men had risen through their party ranks, although Powell’s rise had more to do with his propensity for hard work, something which is anathema to Bozza. Both then relegated themselves to the back benches.
The sequence was different with Powell; it was his blatant playing of the race card (quoting a supposed constituent saying “In this country in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man”, for instance) that caused Ted Heath to sack him from the shadow cabinet. Bozza had already resigned from the cabinet before he came out with yet another in a long sequence of racist remarks.
But the reaction has been the same; Powell was tut-tutted by the quality press, but popular opinion lauded his actions. Bozza is being similarly lauded by Tory members, and the pundits stupid enough to try and convince the electorate that objecting to inciting race hate is merely the outpourings of “disgruntled remainers”.
After that, we know what happened to Powell. He never regained cabinet or shadow cabinet rank. His last attempt to grab personal glory had failed; he left the Tories and lived out the sad decline of his career as an Ulster Unionist MP until he was defeated in 1987. Other than as a curiosity, he was never part of mainstream political discourse ever again - but the far right loved him. And he continued to pander to them.
That was what happened to a serious politician; not for Powell the off-colour jokes, the inventing quotes and getting fired from newspapers as a result, the increasing clouds of doubt over financial mismanagement on that vanity Garden Bridge, the lying to his party leader, the gratuitous offence caused to whole cities, the goat sex limerick, the inability to keep trousers zipped up, the breaking of the rules to score another lucrative column.
Yes, that is what awaits Boris Johnson. His party membership may be foolish enough to vote for him in a leadership contest; his Parliamentary colleagues may not. And what Enoch Powell showed was that the momentary popularity gained by playing the race card invariably ends in defeat, decline and well-deserved obscurity.
You’re afraid that Bozza may get himself into Downing Street on the back of inciting hatred against vulnerable women? Don’t be. Scrutiny of his dreadful Parliamentary record, his time as Mayor of London, and the ever-present risk that his wayward private life may be revealed to the world, mean his career is now going precisely nowhere.
Boris Johnson is now bust. Sit back and wait for the assembled media idiocy to catch up.
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