There’s a delicious parody of Boris Johnson’s supporters in The National today. Shona Craven’s cleverly crafted lampoon takes us through a series of specious arguments and self-serving rationalisations of the sort offered up by Johnson’s apologists as he tramples on every democratic principle he can find like a child in a tantrum stamping on their toys. The line separating burlesque from reality all but disappeared the day Boris Johnson became British Prime Minister. But Shona manges to find that line and remain so precariously on the side of the sendup that one could be forgiven for occasionally wondering whether her article is mockery or reportage.
The following will give a flavour of the piece.
Some commentators are saying that if the Supreme Court agrees with the Court of Session’s ruling, the Prime Minister will have to recall parliament, or resign, or throw himself in a ditch. What those people don’t seem to understand is that these are extraordinary times, which call for an extraordinary leader. A leader who isn’t like all those other namby-pamby politicians. A leader who is a real person, just like you and me – except stronger and cleverer, obviously. A leader who will go to the EU summit and square up to his opponents, humiliating the girly swots who want to keep the peace in Europe because they’re rubbish at fighting, and banging together any heads that are buried in negative impact assessments.
Amusing as this piss-take may be, there is a serious point being made. Shona Craven shows how a very reasonable-sounding argument can form the foundation for an edifice of increasingly extreme propositions, each borrowing from the faux rationality of those that preceded it. Departing from the hardly controversial suggestion that extraordinary circumstances might benefit from extraordinary leadership, we journey through series of plausible and persuasive points until we arrive at a place that seems like where we ought to be despite the fact we’re pretty sure we didn’t want to go there.
At every convenient point on this journey we are reminded that our guides and companions are people just like us; lest we suppose ourselves being led by anyone who could possibly have an ulterior motive. We are further reassured to know that the man at the helm is also just like us. So we should not be concerned by how closely he and his crew resemble the very people we set out to escape.
Once we accept that we need a strong leader, we can then be persuaded that it defeats the purpose to have people questioning his judgement and impeding his efforts to deal with whatever crisis it is that has persuaded us of the need for a strong leader. Once these hindrances are removed it makes perfect sense to do away with the institutions within which they operated and through which they were empowered to limit our strong leader’s scope for action.
If these institutions no longer exist, then what is the point of the processes and procedures which maintain them? Wouldn’t we be wise to rid ourselves of the costly, and now pointless, exercise by which we appoint people to represent our interests? What’s the point in having a strong leader if you still have to make choices and decisions for yourself? Don’t we all have busy lives? Don’t we all have better things to do? Aren’t we all suffering from democracy-fatigue?
Shona Craven’s column is part parody, and part allegory. While you may be amused by the parody, you should also be alarmed by the allegory. Her article – and perhaps this one – should be read alongside a transcript of Boris Johnson’s toe-curling yet sinister ‘People’s Question Time‘ exercise back in August. As you read, reflect on the fact that authoritarian regimes tend to arrive without fanfare. They come garbed in the humble raiment of sweet reason and benign intent. We do well to look for the beast beneath.
If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence movement.