Andrew Sullivan, who was
at Eton and Oxford with Boris Johnson, wrote a lengthy (and contrarian) essay about him for New York Magazine — before the election. It’s worth reading in full, especially now, but here’s the bit that struck me:
He has done what no other conservative leader in the West has done: He has co-opted and thereby neutered the far right. The reactionary Brexit Party has all but collapsed since Boris took over. Anti-immigration fervor has calmed. The Tories have also moved back to the economic and social center under Johnson’s leadership. And there is a strategy to this. What Cummings and Johnson believe is that the E.U., far from being an engine for liberal progress, has, through its overreach and hubris, actually become a major cause of the rise of the far right across the Continent. By forcing many very different countries into one increasingly powerful Eurocratic rubric, the E.U. has spawned a nationalist reaction. From Germany and France to Hungary and Poland, the hardest right is gaining. Getting out of the E.U. is, Johnson and Cummings argue, a way to counter and disarm this nationalism and to transform it into a more benign patriotism. Only the Johnson Tories have grasped this, and the Johnson strategy is one every other major democracy should examine.
None of my friends is likely to agree with this. But I found it interesting. It’s the first piece I’ve read that seemed to take Johnson seriously. And — given that he is the Prime Minister of an elective dictatorship with a large Parliamentary majority — we’d better start to take him seriously. Besides, Andrew Sullivan is a perceptive and intelligent liberal.
CORRECTION. Thanks to Kevin Horgan who pointed out that Sullivan didn’t go to Eton. Wikipedia thinks Sullivan is a Oakeshottian conservative. That’s not how I read him.