Boris Johnson is officially the UK’s Prime Minister and everyone is very happy about it: Brexiteers, Donald Trump, and the hard-right, newly appointed members of Johnson’s first cabinet all seem delighted. There are a few nay-sayers elsewhere in society, but what do serving prisoners think of our latest Etonian overlord?
I teach in a prison and decided to ask my students what they thought about the UK’s latest PM. All names and identifying details have been changed to protect privacy.
“HE’S OUR TRUMP”
Steph, 42, has pleaded guilty to possession of stolen goods, not guilty to robbery, and not guilty to assaulting a warehouse security guard. I’ve known Steph for some time – his sentences are usually pretty short and he’s a pretty positive influence on most classes he’s in.
I know that Steph takes an interest in politics, so I ask him what he thinks of Johnson, and what we can expect from him as PM.
“We’re all fucked,” he says, laughing. “No, but, I don’t think it’s going to be good. Let’s be honest, this bloke wouldn’t piss on us if we were on fire, would he? Not that any of them care, like, but Boris is just another level. He’s our Trump.”
Some members of the group I teach think that being “our Trump” is meant as a compliment. Steph explains to the contrary: “What’s going to happen is things will get harder. No money? You’re fucked. No job? Fucked. Sick? You’re fucked. No benefits. NHS? Going, going, gone.”
Not everyone in the room is convinced by Steph’s words of warning. I ask Steph if he can see why Johnson appeals to some people, and whether he thinks he’ll win an election.
“People think he’s a laugh, but you start reading up on him and it’s not funny anymore. Corbyn hasn’t got a chance unless people wake up to this. But if all people do is read the Sun or whatever, then he ain’t got a hope in hell. It’s an embarrassment. I’ll say it, Boris is worse than Trump.”
One thing Johnson could do as PM: “Better conditions in prison. Not holding my breath on that one!”
“BORIS IS A BOSS”
Tyrone, 33, has been sentenced to 11 years for his role in a county lines drug conspiracy. Additionally, he is waiting to find out whether he will face criminal charges for assaulting another prisoner while on remand. Tyrone is expecting to be transferred soon, his primary concern being that he will be close enough for his partner and young children to visit.
“I’m not into politics, but I like Boris,” Tyrone says. “He’s like man on road, just does what he wants, doesn’t give a shit, busts every case against him.”
This is a popular opinion amongst the group. I ask whether it’s necessarily a good thing that the prime minister displays these kinds of characteristics. "Yeah, man. We need to get this country back to where it was, boss of the world,” Tyrone says. “Boris is a boss, he’ll get us out of Europe, he’ll get us with America, and then we can run shit again.”
I ask Tyrone is he thinks someone in his situation, or his family, will benefit from a Johnson government.
“Probably not,” he says. “But that’s just the way it is in the world. Every man for himself. By the time I’m out he’ll be gone anyway.”
One thing Johnson could do as PM: “Legalise all drugs.”
“IT’S A GAME TO HIM”
Mike, 24, is seeing out the remaining few weeks of his sentence back inside after breaking the terms of his release on license. This has occurred on each of his three previous sentences, and Mike says that he’d like to see Johnson totally reform the prison system.
“I don’t care about parties or Brexit, or anything like that,” he says. “We just need politicians that see something shit, work out how to change it, and then just do it. No fucking around.”
Does he think Johnson seems like the man for that job? “If he wanted, he could change loads,” Mike says. “But I reckon it’s all a bit of a game for him. My pad mate [cell mate] was telling me about all the stuff he’s done, things we’d end up in jail for. I had an argument with my ex, nothing worse than him, someone called the cops and here I am! Fair play to him for getting away with it, but. Nah, he won’t help us, only his own kind.”
One thing Johnson could do as PM: “Better care for prisoners after release.”
“THE BEST WE’VE HAD SINCE MAGGIE”
Daz, 57, is in prison for assaulting a taxi driver. He will be released next week and, as a lifelong Conservative voter, is very pleased with Johnson’s successful campaign to become leader. This was his first, and, he says, last prison sentence.
“Boris will be the best we’ve had since Maggie,” Daz says enthusiastically. “A proper leader not like these we’ve had going back to Blair and that. Get us out of the EU, job done, then get us motoring again in the world.”
Based on getting to know him over the last few weeks, I’m unsurprised by Daz’s optimism regarding Johnson. I bring up Johnson’s chequered history in his previous jobs, and his less than stellar performance as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May. Does this bode well for taking on the role of Prime Minister and the scrutiny this will bring?
“Snowflake bollocks, all rubbish,” Daz says. “Look at Churchill. He was hated by his own party and is up there with Thatcher as our best. All this fake news, it just makes us love him even more! He was born to rule, some people just are.”
I ask whether being “born to rule” is a good or bad reflection on the UK class system. “There’s a natural way of doing things,” Daz says. “Some of us our born to work, mind our own business, and get on with it. Others are born for greater things. Boris makes me proud to be British. It’s our time now. We’re back.”
One thing Johnson could do as PM: “Here’s three. End immigration, prison for benefits cheats, and three years' military service for all boys at 18.”