Is alt-right demagogue Steve Bannon guiding Boris to Downing St? – Martyn McLaughlin

There is an inevitability that the continuing scrutiny of Boris Johnson in the days ahead will focus almost exclusively on his refusal to explain why police were called to the south London flat he shares with his partner, Carrie Symonds, late last week.

We should hope, if not expect, that truth will out. The importance of determining the character, judgement and temperament of the man tipped to be our next prime minister ought to be self-evident. There was a time, I am sure, when it was.

But in today’s toxic and corruptive climate, where fundamental concerns for a woman’s welfare and a belief in holding public figures to account are deliberately mischaracterised as politicised acts of aggression, it cannot be stated enough.

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Mr Johnson has refused to ­comment on whatever series of events led Ms Symonds to reportedly shout, ‘Get off me’, and ‘Get out of my flat’. His silence is unacceptable. It is also intriguing, given his long and inglorious track record of downplaying controversies and exploiting the bumbling self-caricature he has meticulously cultivated.

But he is wily enough to know that the less he says on the matter, the more others will talk about it, and so deflect from another scandal looming on the horizon – one which could, and should, threaten to mete out the greatest damage to his ­ruthless ambition.

A newly-published video shows Steve Bannon, the far right agitator and former campaign manager to Donald Trump, talking freely of how he helped craft the Commons speech Mr Johnson gave when resigning as foreign secretary last year.

Its contents ought to prove especially instructive for those who argue the focus of the Tory leadership contest should be on Mr ­Johnson’s policies, as opposed to his personal life. Here is a video where we not only gain an insight into his ideology, but those who claim to be shaping it.

In the footage, shot in July last year by US documentary film maker, Alison Klayman and disclosed by the journalist Carole Cadwalladr, Mr Bannon is seen lolling in a London hotel, leafing through a copy of the Daily Telegraph and ­discussing how he had a hand in Mr Johnson’s final act as a member of Prime Minister Theresa May’s ­cabinet.

“Today we are going to see if Boris Johnson tries to overthrow the ­British government, he’s going to give a speech in the Commons,” Mr Bannon tells the camera. “I’ve been talking to him all weekend about this speech. We went back and forth over the text.”

Asked by Ms Klayman if he and Mr Johnson had been speaking over the phone, Mr Bannon replied: “Talked to him initially over the phone then it’s just easier to go back and forth on text. It’s just easier.”

He later says that he had been ­telling the right honourable ­member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip “all weekend” that he ought to “incorporate those themes” he focused on in a June 2016 speech, where he described the day of the EU referendum as Britain’s ­“independence day”.

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All of which rather sticks a spike in the spokes of the column Mr Johnson wrote for the Daily Telegraph in April this year, in which he scoffed at his “so-called association” with Mr Bannon and dismissed it as a “lefty delusion whose spores continue to breed in the Twittersphere”.

In the wake of the latest report, a spokesman for Mr Johnson said the suggestion he was taking advice from Mr Bannon was “totally ­preposterous”, while Mr Johnson himself said yesterday the idea was “codswallop”.

How curious it was, then, to hear Nigel Farage inform a press ­conference that Mr Bannon knows Mr Johnson, and that the two men speak. If anyone knows, he does.

In isolation, the video might appear innocuous enough, but if you have either forgotten or are unaware of how Mr Bannon came to occupy such a position of influence, a quick summary follows.

Sober profiles of the 65-year-old bill him as a key proponent of the US president’s economic nationalist agenda. A more precise description of Mr Bannon would frame him as an architect of chaos and division, whose political appetites will only be sated by the dismantling of the state and, with it, common decency.

He is a man who has done more than anything else to legitimise the alt-right movement in the US.

This is someone who told a National Front rally that accusations of racism should be worn “as a badge of honour”.

He is, in short, a virulent ­presence. The fact that he has the ear of Britain’s prime minister in waiting ought to be of deep concern to the One Nation Tories Mr Johnson ­purports to represent, and the ­public at large.

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It is, of course, impossible to know just how in thrall Mr Johnson is to him, but it is perhaps telling that around the time of their conversations last year, the former’s feckless bongo thumping rhetoric assumed a darker hue, taking on the slower, steadier drumbeat of populist ­nativism.

He compared a Muslim woman wearing a niqab to a “bank robber,” and compared Britain’s negotiating position with the EU over the Irish border to wrapping “a suicide vest around the British ­constitution”.

Mr Johnson has shown himself to be extraordinarily proficient in causing upset and unrest in the society he hopes to lead, but if he is receiving directions as he steers a wrecking ball towards Downing Street, the excuses he has relied on so far to maintain an undignified silence just won’t cut it.