Boris Johnson’s recent remarks in his newspaper column have – inevitably - led to a storm of protest and a flood of support. What is being ignored (conveniently) by those doing the protesting and laying charges of racism against Johnson is the fact that in his article, he clearly stated that the Burka should not be banned in the UK, as it has been in Denmark, France and elsewhere.
Personally I found his comments about letter-boxes and so on rather silly (as well as being old jokes) and I would not have made them. But I’m not going to criticise Johnson for doing so for two reasons; firstly, I entirely agree with him that the Burka should not be banned in the UK. I find the idea of living in a country that tells its citizens what they can and cannot wear rather disturbing. I find a lot of what the state does disturbing actually, as those of you who have read my book, ‘Comments of a Common Man’ will know.
I do think however, that there are certain circumstances, places and situations, where a Burka should be removed; Ports and Airports being an obvious one. Apart from that, since it is a reasonable requirement for people to remove crash helmets, scarves and other face coverings while in a bank (as one example), why should that not be applied to women who wear a Burka?
I say this because the UK is not an Islamic country. It is a country that allows freedom of choice to its people and that includes, under ordinary circumstances, the right to wear a Burka if one chooses - but it is still not an Islamic State where women are required to wear them.
The second reason that I do not criticise Johnson is even more basic – that freedom I just mentioned.
Like the freedom to wear what you wish, in the UK (theoretically at least) we have something called freedom of expression. It means that we have the right to say and write what we wish, provided what we say and write is not libel or slander.
And it includes the right to be offensive and to be offended. So I will defend Boris Johnson’s right to use the terms he did, and even though I personally find them offensive, I do not take offence. I do however disagree with his descriptions of Burka wearers. I will also defend the right of those who have criticised him to do so.
So why does Boris Johnson so often do and say things that cause controversy? Is he as idiotic as he sometimes appears to be, is he setting himself up to be some kind of political martyr or is he smarter than that?
Boris Johnson is actually a very smart man. His remarks about the Burka are intended to cement his ‘man of the people’ image, his ordinariness. His appeal is to what he sees as a significant number of voters. Let’s not forget that he twice won election as Mayor of London, a city that is as diverse as you could wish. He did so by attracting a majority to cast their votes for him.
Johnson’s support for Brexit and his hard-line stance on the EU makes him (in his eyes at least) somebody that the UK electorate can trust. Whether or not he really is however, is something only he can tell you.
But even a significant number of those who voted remain in the EU referendum accepted with good grace that they lost, the UK is going to leave the EU and we should get on with it. The only exceptions to this are those members of the elite that think they know best.
Would Boris Johnson make a good Prime Minister were he to succeed Theresa May? The only way to find that out is to make him so and he can stand or fall on what does or doesn’t do.
What Boris Johnson is not however, is a racist. He is not a buffoon and he is not an idiot.
He is in fact, a smart guy and in many ways, just as smooth an operator as almost every other politician.
© Kevan James 2018
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