Boris Johnson is a man of many qualities. A walking, talking encyclopedia, his intelligence is beyond question. His quick wit legendary. And his powers of oratory, potent enough to convert even the most fervent BoJo hater. Foot eternally in mouth, he bumbles seamlessly from one controversy to the next, a physical embodiment of a unique, harmless brand of quaint British eccentricity.
Except it’s not harmless. As his comment piece in yesterday’s Telegraph showed, he’s divisive, and deliberately so.
His views on the niqab and burka are certainly widely shared. After all, if a woman wants to wear a burka – or, for that matter, a bikini – who are we to tell her not to. It’s her prerogative. But it’s his choice of rhetoric that’s the problem.
Pen in hand, Boris is a master of the written word. With each phrase carefully selected to cultivate the right image, he knows full well the reaction his description of the niqab would provoke. This isn’t clumsiness; it’s intentional. As we have seen so many times before, he just can’t resist causing a scene.
Does he do it to throw off any aspersions that he’s a part of the politically correct, liberal elite? Is it another desperate attempt to cling on to the lime light? Or could it just be the case that he’s incapable of passing up an opportunity to coo his doting rightwing fanbase? I suspect a mixture of all three are at play.
The real tragedy is that Boris is equipped with all the right tools to make him a great politician. But it is his insatiable ego, lack of self-restraint, and desperation to impress that will ultimately be his downfall.
His petty name calling has reaffirmed his role as the playground clown, frantic to amuse his equally childish classroom cronies. He should be treated as such.