Successful political movements are polarising projects that promise to make things better for those who get on board
For much of the past month, the liberal commentariat has been excitedly debating how badly “Tory sleaze” would damage Boris Johnson’s Conservatives at the polls. The scandals were clear to see – and hardly surprising, in the light of our unusually detailed knowledge of the prime minister’s character flaws. The matter for debate was the extent to which they might “cut through”, a phrase beloved by the UK’s political commentators to describe when voters take note of a news story and factor it into their choice at the ballot box.
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We are still having this debate even though Johnson is decades into this sort of behaviour, and decades into being humoured for it. Now he is riding high on the back of this week’s election results, with his allies boasting on the front page of Saturday’s Times that a “decade in power” awaits. The spectacular contrast between Johnson’s personal weaknesses and his political strengths has induced a vertiginous delirium among professional observers of British politics, who cannot decide if he is an unstoppable juggernaut or a very lucky fool whose time will surely run out soon. And so we have endless iterations of what might be called the Boris blues: lyrical lamentations and indignant protestations over each new victory.