Boris Johnson, the bumbling and eccentric Tory Mayor of London, has potentially thrown his hat into the ring of a future Conservative Party leadership battle by signalling his desire to return to parliamentary politics in 2015. A possible challenge by Johnson – far from being an indication of strength for the political representatives of the capitalist class – is yet a further signal of the crisis within the ruling class.
Boris Johnson, the bumbling and eccentric Tory Mayor of London, has potentially thrown his hat into the ring of a future Conservative Party leadership battle by signalling his desire to return to parliamentary politics in 2015. The Boris brand may not have the same stench as the current Tory leaders; but a possible challenge by Johnson – far from being an indication of strength for the political representatives of the capitalist class – is yet a further signal of the crisis within the ruling class.
A return to Parliament
Johnson, the Conservative version of Ronald McDonald – a Tory joker and clown – is again in the spotlight. Swapping thick red locks of hair for a blonde, bowl-cut mop, donning a suit and tie, and presenting himself as the friendly, liberal face of the Tories, the Mayor of London is the caricature of an Eton schoolboy, oozing charisma and bundles of self confidence. He is a household name, and is one of the most recognisable faces in British politics. Adored by some for his charisma and light humour, and despite his role as ‘comic relief’ within British politics, many Tories also see him as a credible politician and a possible future leader, or even Prime Minister – hence his decision to stand as a candidate in the 2015 General Election.
The announcement came when Boris admitted that, after much speculation, he “will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015” should a constituency become vacant. The Tory stronghold of Uxbridge and South Ruislip is the most likely, with Johnson recently stating that he would not stand in the newly vacated constituency of Clacton to oppose Douglas Carswell, who recently defected to UKIP. Johnson’s venture was confirmed the morning after, when David Cameron tweeted in support of the current Mayor of London, stating that he’d always wanted his “star players on the pitch.”
The cuddly liberal Tory?
Behind the laughing mask of eccentricity and humour, however, is Boris really the sincere ‘liberal Tory’ he makes out? Is BoJo really a friendlier, more cuddly Tory compared to Cameron, Osborne, and co.?
Even in his social liberalism, Johnson’s ideology is far more callous and self-serving than the image he likes to portray. Whilst he openly supports the legalisation of marijuana (because he has apparently smoked it a few times), in his 2001 publication Friends, Voters, Countrymen, he wrote that “if gay marriage was okay” then there was no reason “why a union should not be consecrated between three men, […] or indeed three men and a dog.” Scratch a liberal, and you’ll find the same old conservatism underneath.
Johnson puts forward a façade that will win over public opinion. But in reality, he is a complete egoist, and is just as removed from the life of ordinary workers and youth as the rest of the Eton-schooled gang that currently lead the Conservatives. In 2009, during the thick of a recession, he referred to his £250,000 annual salary from The Daily Telegraph as “chicken feed”, demonstrating clearly his contempt for the vast majority of ordinary people and the conditions they experience.
In the same year, Johnson claimed £4698.48 on taxi fares, with several dubious claims, including £237.50 for an 8 mile journey, where the actual fare would have been £32.00. Not only are the claims unnecessary given his self-professed extraordinary wage, but as such a huge advocate of cycling, could he not have saved the taxpayer the cost of his needlessly high travel expenses? Like the rest of his Tory chums, Johnson is just another out-of-touch bourgeois politician with his hand in the honey pot at the taxpayer’s expense.
The reactionary politics of Boris
Most importantly are Boris’ politics on the economic front, where he has time-and-time-again firmly shown which class he represents: the class of the rich; of big business and the bankers; of the capitalists.
As Mayor of London, Boris has repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for workers and their rights. Commenting on the Transport For London strike of February 2014, involving union members from RMT and TSSA protesting over job cuts on the London Underground, Johnson referred to the strikes as “pointless and unnecessary”, thus championing the loss of 953 jobs. Prior to the death of RMT leader Bob Crow, the Tory Mayor had consistently attacked the railway union leader, painting Crow and RMT members as backward Luddites who were an impediment to progress and change. After the strike was shown to be highly effective, Boris attempted to curb union powers by threatening to sue RMT for damages, adding his voice to the calls from the most reactionary political representatives of big business for further restrictions to be placed on the right to strike.
Furthermore, Johnson let his cuddly-image mask slip earlier this year when he went over the heads of the Home Office and ordered water cannons to use against future protests in London, claiming that the purchase was justified on the basis of how cheaply he could obtain the cannons second-hand from Germany!
Boris works hard to cultivate his image as the harmless, loveable Tory. But, as the evidence above demonstrates, he is clearly cut from the same out-of-touch cloth as the rest of the Tory leadership. Indeed, with his consistent support for privatisation and attacks on trade unions as Mayor of London, Johnson has shown that, if anything, he is the most faithful servant of the capitalist class of all.
Weakness and crisis in the ruling class
Boris has recognised a weakness within the leadership of the Conservative Party, and his candidacy in 2015 is a personal stepping stone for his goal of party leadership. As the crisis of capitalism continues and deepens, the weaknesses within the ruling class are being increasingly exposed. This can be seen by the seemingly endless series of scandals within the Establishment, which lurches from one crisis to another, and is demonstrated by the growing divides within the Conservative Party.
Faced with backbench rebellion and possible future splits, David Cameron finds himself trapped between a rock and a hard place. Carswell’s defection to UKIP is likely to trigger a wave of MPs – who are further to the right of Cameron – to question the leadership of the Conservative Party. Boris Johnson provides an alternative to Cameron that many Tories will feel is crucial for the longevity of their party, during a time where splits in the ruling class seem imminent. Cameron too has conceded that there is weakness, and has supported Johnson’s 2015 election campaign in a last ditch attempt to win back voters.
Rather than providing the unity and strength that the capitalist class requires from their political representatives at this current time, however, Johnson’s leadership aspirations merely expose the ever deepening crisis within the parties of the ruling class, which increasingly finds itself unable to rule in this epoch of capitalist decay. In promoting the possibility of Johnson as leader, the Tories have literally, and metaphorically, played their joker card.
The gauntlet has been thrown down at the feet of the Labour leaders. The capitalist system has entered into a terminal decline; the Establishment is in crisis; and the Tory-led Coalition is riddled with tensions and contradictions. Never has there been a better time for the leadership of the Labour Party to win a huge majority by presenting a bold alternative to the austerity of the Tories and the Liberals. This is the task facing the leaders of the labour movement: to fight for a socialist programme; to put an end to the miserable future that capitalism promises and provide a genuine alternative of hope and prosperity.