Boris Johnson must be the last of the Prime Ministerial poster boys for toxic masculinity – Ayesha Hazarika
I will always remember the moment when the election exit poll dropped in December 2019 and Boris Johnson won that stunning landslide.
I was doing a panel in front of political and public affairs people. As the crowd roared, I howled “oh f*****k” in a loud Glaswegian voice. I could see exactly what was coming down the track. Lies, toxicity and political thuggery. The one thing I hadn’t quite predicted was his incredible ability to squander such a large majority so quickly.
But the big lesson Johnson taught us was that our politics is based on convention, traditions plus sane and rational behaviour. When your agreements rely on gentlemen, what happens when you get a hooligan at the helm?
Well, we know. We and our children and even theirs will pay a heavy price. But the most important thing we can do is make sure we never allow someone as spectacularly unsuitable for high office as Johnson to hold it again.
All the signs were there, the lying, cheating, philandering, hiding in plain sight, and yet he was enabled, aided and abetted. Why? Johnson reminded a lot of people (men) who shape political influence in this country of the chap they maybe wanted to be from a bygone era where you swagger about town, get plastered, rinse your expense account, lurch from one “side-splitting” scrape to another, shag the intern and rock up at work when you fancy being all-powerful.
Powerful men of a certain age in politics and the media fantasise about that. They miss it, because these days it's “all PC gone maaaad”, accountability and professional standards. Yawn.
We used to have an old-fashioned notion that politicians should be the best of us. Johnson was the antithesis of that.
In the film As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson goes, “you make me want to be a better man…”? Johnson made everyone around him want to be a worse human being.
He gave us permission to embrace our worst characteristics and celebrate them under the banner of “personality”. Screwed up your job? Your second or third marriage? Friends, family and colleagues hate you? You’re like our Prime Minister – a “character”, a poster boy for good old-fashioned toxic masculinity.
To be fair, it wasn’t just men. Many women around him have also indulged in the sleaze. But in the court of Johnson, all is forgiven and indeed encouraged.
It was clear Johnson was a lying, lazy, unreliable, chaotic, incompetent, immoral chancer. His one talent was his ability to seduce people into trusting him.
So, how do we make sure this doesn’t happen again? An important adage to keep in mind is that when someone shows you who they are politically, believe them. Don’t be naive. Once a liar or a wrong’un, they are not going to change.
Politicians and party members need to think carefully about who they elect as leader. That doesn’t just apply to Tory MPs. Those Labour MPs who put Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper should feel ashamed as he turbo-charged Johnson’s vote in 2019.
We all deserve better than that. And spare us the zany political “character”. We’ve all had quite enough of them for a while.
Ayesha Hazarika was previously a senior Labour adviser to Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband
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