Boris wasn’t a racist. Not really. He was a…provocateur. To him there was no difference between the two words, but one sounded better, so provocateur he was. He was also a lad. What made him a lad no one really knew. Or people would say they knew but couldn’t articulate. Or they could articulate it and didn’t want to offend. Because the things that made him a lad weren’t politically correct. In this, his defenders thought there was a grain of truth. They thought this line of argument was a winner as they were rarely challenged. They took people’s silent incredulity at this vacuous defence as amazement at their argument. This happened when people described him as a straight talker. That was the image that he’d worked hard to cultivate. Well, not really hard. Hard work was for the unfortunate. For those that didn’t have his ability to network, ingratiate and fabricate.
The weekend hadn’t been a good one. Even Boris could see that. Despite his quick thinking – it was a stroke of genius labelling his neighbours ‘lefty Corbynistas’ for having the temerity to call the police after they heard the ‘incident’ – the carefully managed leadership campaign that he had constructed was in danger of imploding. It didn’t help that reporters kept asking him gotcha questions like, ‘what do you do in your spare time?’
In difficult times such as this, he took solace in two things. One was that his challenger for the leadership was hopeless. It still brought tears of laughter to Boris’s eyes that he had forgotten the nationality of his wife (although, as Boris would sometimes think to himself, they did all kind of look the same). His greater solace was that his opponents hadn’t yet realised what he had: it didn’t matter what he said or what he did because the only thing that Boris’s supporters cared about was how he made them feel. He understood that and so his fans gave him infinite chances. Truth had no place in the current political climate. How could it when no one knew the answers to any of the big questions? All anybody had was vague terms to help them navigate complex issues. Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, no deal Brexit – what did any of it actually mean? Boris didn’t know. What he did know was that his followers were grateful to him for simplifying things down. His genius (and it was genius, he often thought to himself) was to, with a nudge and a wink and a hairstyle, invoke empire and frame Brexit as an opportunity to restore the empire, to Make Empire Great Again as it were. He liked that and made a note to tell one of his surrogates to tweet it out.
Boris also knew that his supporters were grateful for his ability to tell them who the real scourges were. Time and again he had been fearless in naming the real enemy of his people. It was the piccaninnies, the terrifying women that wore certain types of clothing and those bloody young Corbynistas who made so many of his followers feel a sense of existential dread. These Marxist revolutionaries were terrifying with their demands for accountability for the financial sector, demands for action on climate change and support for people that it had been ok to laugh at when Boris was in school. Boris was wistful for the days when he could make an entire room howl in laughter just by calling someone a massive gay. Those were the days. It was all harmless fun.
Boris told his supporters that they weren’t the villains. That was his gift to them. He allowed them to think the things they wanted without judgement. More than that, he celebrated and elevated them, told them that they were right to think the things that they thought. And their gift to him was to turn a blind eye to his foibles, his idiosyncrasies, his racism, his misogyny, his misappropriation of funds and all the other minor trifles that had plagued him over the years. For his supporters all that was a small price. As long as he made them feel good, he could do what he wanted.
He wasn’t given enough credit for his high wire balancing act. He had made a career of reading the public mood, adopting a position and then having the courage to change it when it was politically expedient, no matter the cost. That took guts. That took vision. That had taken him to the brink of power. As he stood on the precipice, he took a moment to think about all he had accomplished and all that it had cost. On this, he agreed with his enemies. It had cost everything.