Is Boris Johnson unserious enough to be the next British prime minister?

 

In the movie Men in Black, Arquillians, a civilization of tiny aliens, live among the earthlings.  They remain hidden in the heads of androids with human form.  Much of their energy goes toward operating the mechanical human suit.  However, they also have an autopilot mode for making life a little easier.

Is Boris Johnson an Arquillian?  Who knows?  He certainly fits the bill: mumbling, bumbling, and stumbling his way through daily life.   Nevertheless, Boris is the odds-on favorite to become the next prime minister of Britain. How did we get here?  How did we get to a point where Boris Johnson looks likely to become one of the most powerful politicians in the world?

For three years, Britain has been in a volatile relationship with Theresa May.  Now, with the breakup very much confirmed, the nation is ready to engage in some flirting.  May, a boring, robotic politician, looks likely to be traded in for Johnson, an unpredictable, unfathomable buffoon.

As Machiavelli famously wrote, "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both."  In 2019, it is better to be relatable and funny than qualified if you cannot be both.  This is something Boris Johnson is well aware of.

Johnson is clearly unqualified for the world of politics.  In October 2015, after an informal game of rugby at a school in Tokyo, Johnson was forced to apologize after his competitive nature on the sports field saw him steamroll a 10-year-old.  The clip went viral.

In 2017, while addressing a U.K. business forum, Johnson told an utterly ridiculous story.  He claimed that fighting in Libya had prevented a group of investors from transforming the coastal city of Sirte "into the next Dubai."  Not finished there, Johnson continued, "The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away."

Six months later, by pretending to be Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, Russian pranksters managed to hold an 18-minute long phone call with Johnson.  During the call, according to DW.com, "Johnson said the UK would continue to squeeze the Russian regime by targeting London-based oligarchs."

These blunders matter not one iota.  Why?

Because Johnson has one thing going for him that other rivals simply do not: a not-so-little thing called relatability.

In 2019, politics is less a matter of policies and procedures and more a matter of theater and amusement.  Voters now seem drawn to candidates who regularly deviate from the script.  People like laughing.  They especially like laughing at and with politicians...but mostly at.  Johnson delivers bucketloads of laughs, albeit unintentionally.

People seem to "get him" because he appears as a human, not some robot sent to control the masses.  He wears his heart on his sleeve.  He's relatable.  You could go for a beer with him.  This seems to be the metric for measuring modern-day politicians.

In a brilliant piece for the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead noted that relatability "has become widely and unthinkingly accepted as a criterion of value, even by people who might be expected to have more sophisticated critical tools at their disposal."

We live in an age of performative politics, where millions of us look to politicians for entertainment, not leadership.  Just as great theater has, historically speaking, served as an exaggerated mirror held up to a society at a specific moment in history, politics is now a form of exaggerated entertainment, replete with scandalous tweets and gratuitous acts of showmanship.

This is the very reason Theresa May was doomed from day one. For all her political prowess (or lack thereof), she lacked any sort of relatability.  Remember, the "naughtiest" thing May did as a child was run through a field of wheat.  How can she compete with a man who flew to Japan to flatten a ten-year-old boy in a game of rugby?

No longer is a candidate measured by accomplishments or acumen.  This is a time when the term "electability" has become a synonym for entertainment and amusement.  Boris Johnson, for all his obvious flaws, certainly knows how to entertain the masses.

Image: Boris Johnson in Tooting via Flickr (cropped).

 

In the movie Men in Black, Arquillians, a civilization of tiny aliens, live among the earthlings.  They remain hidden in the heads of androids with human form.  Much of their energy goes toward operating the mechanical human suit.  However, they also have an autopilot mode for making life a little easier.

Is Boris Johnson an Arquillian?  Who knows?  He certainly fits the bill: mumbling, bumbling, and stumbling his way through daily life.   Nevertheless, Boris is the odds-on favorite to become the next prime minister of Britain. How did we get here?  How did we get to a point where Boris Johnson looks likely to become one of the most powerful politicians in the world?

For three years, Britain has been in a volatile relationship with Theresa May.  Now, with the breakup very much confirmed, the nation is ready to engage in some flirting.  May, a boring, robotic politician, looks likely to be traded in for Johnson, an unpredictable, unfathomable buffoon.

As Machiavelli famously wrote, "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both."  In 2019, it is better to be relatable and funny than qualified if you cannot be both.  This is something Boris Johnson is well aware of.

Johnson is clearly unqualified for the world of politics.  In October 2015, after an informal game of rugby at a school in Tokyo, Johnson was forced to apologize after his competitive nature on the sports field saw him steamroll a 10-year-old.  The clip went viral.

In 2017, while addressing a U.K. business forum, Johnson told an utterly ridiculous story.  He claimed that fighting in Libya had prevented a group of investors from transforming the coastal city of Sirte "into the next Dubai."  Not finished there, Johnson continued, "The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away."

Six months later, by pretending to be Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan, Russian pranksters managed to hold an 18-minute long phone call with Johnson.  During the call, according to DW.com, "Johnson said the UK would continue to squeeze the Russian regime by targeting London-based oligarchs."

These blunders matter not one iota.  Why?

Because Johnson has one thing going for him that other rivals simply do not: a not-so-little thing called relatability.

In 2019, politics is less a matter of policies and procedures and more a matter of theater and amusement.  Voters now seem drawn to candidates who regularly deviate from the script.  People like laughing.  They especially like laughing at and with politicians...but mostly at.  Johnson delivers bucketloads of laughs, albeit unintentionally.

People seem to "get him" because he appears as a human, not some robot sent to control the masses.  He wears his heart on his sleeve.  He's relatable.  You could go for a beer with him.  This seems to be the metric for measuring modern-day politicians.

In a brilliant piece for the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead noted that relatability "has become widely and unthinkingly accepted as a criterion of value, even by people who might be expected to have more sophisticated critical tools at their disposal."

We live in an age of performative politics, where millions of us look to politicians for entertainment, not leadership.  Just as great theater has, historically speaking, served as an exaggerated mirror held up to a society at a specific moment in history, politics is now a form of exaggerated entertainment, replete with scandalous tweets and gratuitous acts of showmanship.

This is the very reason Theresa May was doomed from day one. For all her political prowess (or lack thereof), she lacked any sort of relatability.  Remember, the "naughtiest" thing May did as a child was run through a field of wheat.  How can she compete with a man who flew to Japan to flatten a ten-year-old boy in a game of rugby?

No longer is a candidate measured by accomplishments or acumen.  This is a time when the term "electability" has become a synonym for entertainment and amusement.  Boris Johnson, for all his obvious flaws, certainly knows how to entertain the masses.

Image: Boris Johnson in Tooting via Flickr (cropped).