In 1988, the Times fired Boris Johnson for “fabricating a quote”. In 2019, the paper is supporting his bid to become prime minister.
The Times, which was once forced to sack Boris Johnson for making up a quote, recommends him for prime minister. pic.twitter.com/DPF0XyS4MI
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— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) July 6, 2019
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Fear of a Corbyn government
What rings throughout the Times article is the open terror of a Jeremy Corbyn government. Under Corbyn, Labour has famously planned to break up big media groups. This would take control from a handful of billionaires and promote co-operative ownership.
The Times‘ backing of Johnson begins by stating:
The Tories should back the candidate with the best chance of delivering Brexit, uniting the country and defeating Jeremy Corbyn.
It’s not entirely optimistic that either man can do this, writing that for the new PM:
There will be no honeymoon. Decisions taken in those first days and weeks will set the course of the country for years if not decades to come… Get them wrong and the country could be plunged into deeper turmoil, opening the door to a hard-left Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
The article goes on to explain why Johnson – a well-known quantity in British politics – is actually the man to deal with the trickiest political moment in generations.
‘Well known and repeatedly raised’
Mr Johnson’s weaknesses are well known and have been repeatedly raised during the campaign: there are legitimate questions about this honesty, loyalty and personal relationships. Although he was a successful mayor of London… he was not a good foreign secretary, where his lack of attention to detail and tendency to speak carelessly was problematic. Lack of discipline could be a real problem as prime minister. There is also a legitimate question as to whether the man who did more than anyone to divide Britain could ever be the person to unite the country.
After painting this bleak picture of Johnson, it goes on to judge him by the “three challenges correctly identified in his campaign strategy: deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Mr Corbyn”.
Times comes out for Boris Johnson – campaign messaging control freaks will be delighted with that subhead. pic.twitter.com/qGWROMToqG
— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) July 6, 2019
The Times article points out:
he is a Brexiteer at a time when the party clearly wants to be led by one. Indeed, as a leading Brexiteer, he may be the only person who could convince his hardline colleagues to accept the compromises needed to secure an orderly EU exit.
Johnson’s unwavering support of Brexit is questionable, given that he may have only supported it for tactical reasons. The idea that his “hardline colleagues” may accept “compromise” from anyone also seems optimistic. A few of them literally published a “no-deal manifesto” in June.
The Times adds:
At the same time, he showed in London that he is an instinctive liberal with an ability to reach across party divides and, Brexit aside, has made clear in this campaign that he would seek to be a broadly centre-right prime minister.
It concludes its summary of his plus points by saying:
Bluntly, he is the only Tory with the charisma to take on Mr Farage and Mr Corbyn.
Although people have long told tales of Johnson’s charisma, this leadership race seems to have put that myth to bed. Here’s a video of him looking half asleep – staring into the distance – and seemingly bluffing his way through a simple question:
Boris Johnson has revealed to @talkRADIO that he relaxes by painting models of buses with "passengers enjoying themselves" on wine crates.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 25, 2019
Somehow, people who work in the British media are still capable of being surprised by this sort of thing:
How's this for grovelling? The Times fired Johnson because he was a liar. It knows he hasn't changed. Yet it says a man who wasn't fit to work for its newspaper is fit to lead the country.https://t.co/cigbit35PW
— Nick Cohen (@NickCohen4) July 6, 2019
Others pointed out that the Times might be somewhat divided in its support of Johnson:
Times has endorsed Boris Johnson yet its columnists and leader writers rightly expose his lies and ineptitude daily. They won’t stop. This is the reality of 21st Century Murdoch support – not very supportive at all. pic.twitter.com/OYnj3FRcoj
— David Yelland (@davidyelland) July 6, 2019
The Sun‘s digital political editor suggested that its sister paper’s primary motivation is hope of a less-destructive Brexit:
— Hugo Gye 🇺🇸 (@HugoGye) July 6, 2019
The Times piece does end on a positive note, however:
Should he fail, the man who has spent much of his life plotting for this moment could find himself the shortest-lived prime minister in British history, remembered only as the leader who paved the way for a far-left government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Given Johnson’s talents – or lack of – this seems like something of a certainty. Although it does get one thing wrong. Johnson could also be remembered as typifying an age when a man could get fired by a newspaper and then backed by it to become PM; when a sitting MP could be a well-paid newspaper columnist; and when large sections of the mainstream media dedicated itself to propping up the Conservative Party.
Featured image via YouTube
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