Boris Johnson’s political career is littered with scandals entirely of his own creation. The former Foreign Secretary has rare gifts both for causing offence and for walking away unscathed.
No matter how far Mr Johnson goes, he has always been able to depend on his allies in the Conservative party coming to his defence. “Oh, that’s just Boris,” goes the eye-rolling reaction from those who see him as a charmingly roguish figure rather than the ruthlessly ambitious politician he undoubtedly is. When Mr Johnson recently wrote in a newspaper column that Muslim women wearing the burka looked like postboxes, his defenders rubbished the idea his remarks were racially inflammatory. At worst, they said, he had written those words without thinking of the reaction they might illicit.
If this were so, we might expect Mr Johnson to have resolved to more careful about the language he uses in public. An article published under his name in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday suggests he has made no such pact with himself. Mr Johnson wrote that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy had put the UK in a “suicide vest” and handed the detonator to Brussels. The Tory back-bencher - whose ambition to become Prime Minister appears to burn as brightly as ever - blithely used the sort of language favoured by the extreme-right during the 2016 EU referendum campaign. This was more dogwhistle politics from a man whose instinct to go low rarely fails him. In the two years between the EU referendum and Mr Johnson’s “principled” resignation from Mrs May’s cabinet, he made many public proclamations about how easy Brexit would be while all the time resolute failing to come up with ways in which his stated ambition - a have cake and eat cake Brexit - might be achieved.
Mr Johnson may be skilled in the art of generating headlines but as a serious political figure, he is sorely lacking in the substance required. While he talks of suicide vests and detonators, the bleak reality is the with 200 days until the UK leaves the EU, the shape of Brexit is completely unclear. The sole constant seems to be warnings from industry and the technology and science sectors that Brexit will come at the expense of jobs and vital funding for research.
Brexit - a cause of great anxiety for so many in the UK - is no more than a game to Boris Johnson. His latest intervention is proof of that.