Everyone makes mistakes. Humanity is a half-broken machine, blundering around a world it made for itself but still can't quite understand; history is the record of one almighty fuckup proceeding from another. So it's ok to not get everything right, to pronounce your words wrong, to fall over occasionally. But when a pattern of errors starts to form, we're right to be suspicious. If, for instance, someone keeps on accidentally driving his car into personal enemies. Or if they keep on accidentally finding stolen artworks in alleyways, just in time to collect the reward money.
Or if they're Boris Johnson. Because the man is just a little bit too accident-prone, isn't he? It's a wonder he makes it in to work at all: he's constantly falling into ponds or slipping into mud or dangling suspended on a zipline. He's got significantly less smooth adroitness than a Chuckle Brother or a Teletubby, so that you half-expect to hear a comedy "boing" sound every time he lands flummoxed on his botty. A man with such a pronounced deficiency in equilibrioception shouldn't be in government, he should be in hospital.
Unless, of course, he's doing it all on purpose. Usually we don't like it when politicians fuck up – remember Ed Miliband, his greasy grin and his famous inability to eat a sandwich correctly? But Bojo is different. Isn't he charming? The way all his harmless pranks go so hilariously wrong, the way his grand and silly mane trembles with jocular embarrassment. He's not a freak, he's a lovable goofball.
But it's a little disconcerting just how well-timed all his quirky shambolisms are, the way that they always seem to propel him towards power. Look at how he's blundered his way into our pointless, ugly EU referendum debate by announcing his support for Brexit. I'm so terribly sorry, I seem to have fallen out of my actual job as the mayor of London, and into the front pages of everyone's newspapers. What a blunder! And then, shamelessly mugging for the massed rows of political sketchwriters: oh, I'm sure this will just utterly ruin all those plans for political power that I don't have. Well, ignis aurum probat, eh?
Sometimes, just sometimes, the mask slips. Like the time he told a taxi triver to "fuck off and die – and not in that order." Like the time he all but congratulated a private school audience for miraculously being part of the 2 percent of "our species" with IQs over 130. Like that time last year, during a junket to Japan, when he played a friendly game of rugby against some ten-year-old schoolchildren, and ended up brutally tackling one of them to the ground. Actually, tackling is the wrong word; he just barrelled into the kid, tossing him to the side with one gigantic heave of his Mayoral shoulder. Only Boris Johnson really knows why that happened, but we can make an educated guess: chilly winds blowing through his head across from ancient Eton, the fangs and frost of a November rugger pitch, the ball in his hands, the brutes across the field, the time when his lizard brain learned that there was nothing in the world more important than winning, no matter how many small children you have to injure along the way. In the decades since, his cold lust for power might have abstracted itself a little, but that small square of Astroturf and its beckoning red box brought it all back to the beginning. The monster inside took over. It's a miracle the child wasn't killed.
Similarly, we can't know what Boris Johnson really thinks about the European Union, or even if whatever slithering goes on inside his head can really be called thought. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that he's betting that the public will eventually vote to stay – his friends in finance are far too wedded to the European single market for him to really want us to leave, but afterwards, he'll be able to claim sovereignty over the defeated Eurosceptics, and lead them to victory in 2020. He wants to lose. This sounds convoluted, and it is. But we should take the possibility very seriously, because Boris Johnson is the most evil man in British politics.
All that goofiness and charm surrounds a molten Machiavellian core. He knows his history. Louis XI: Qui nescit dissimulare, nescit regnare. "He who cannot dissimulate, cannot reign." Most politicians today try to proceed by simulation, pretending to have what they lack, presenting puffed-up personas for the cameras. Miliband again, because he's such a perfect example – saying "hell yes, I'm tough enough" to Jeremy Paxman, a flimsy simulation that withers in the daylight. It takes a much smarter person to dissimulate, to pretend to lack what you actually have. And for all his malice, Boris Johnson is not stupid. (His real first name isn't even Boris; he's actually Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. But does Alex Johnson sound as lovable?) Jean Baudillard describes two strategies of power: challenge and seduction. Challenge is the unalloyed display of strength for strength, bullish and stupid; we saw it on that Japanese rugby pitch. Seduction is far subtler; it proceeds by dissimulation. "The strategy of seduction", Baudrillard writes, "consists of drawing the other within your area of weakness, which is also his or hers." So Boris Johnson plays the bumbling eccentric, making one hilarious pratfall after another, drawing us into the place where he is most vulnerable. Because what power likes, more than anything, is vulnerability.
What was Boris Johnson thinking, suspended on that zipline for five excruciating minutes as the hungry cameras flashed? "It's very, very well organised," he assured the spectators. "It's going well so far." And in his head, the click of shutters echoed into the stamp of marching boots, as a silly old man dangling above Victoria park thought of blood and power, of the grinning idiots below him struck into new creatures, the shock troops of the Boris cult, roaring forwards to conquer the world.
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