Boris Johnson’s attitude towards immigration is what separates him from the likes of Donald Trump
Bertrand Russell, the famous English philosopher, once said: “Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion -- for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”
Whether one takes Boris Johnson to be eccentric or not, there is no denying that he is not the conventional politician, running by orthodox rules, allowing the convention to be his rigid guide.
Boris started out his career as a journalist and there’s a saying: “Once you have tasted the unshackled life of a journo, you will never fit into a template.” Hence, leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, used the term “reckless” while referring to Theresa May’s successor.
Maybe “maverick” would be a better word.
For a keen observer of international politics, the change of power in Britain can be summed up as: Fall of the banal, rise of the Bohemian.
But a Bohemian with a goal perhaps.
If Boris Johnson has tarnished his maverick image by refusing to stand by the British ambassador to the US during the recent email leak fiasco, then he possibly redeemed himself by tearing up Theresa May’s immigration plan.
Is Britain secretly craving an unorthodox messiah?
Even before Boris had won the contest against the calm, composed, and measured Jeremy Hunt, there was widespread speculation about his victory. When Boris equivocated in commenting over the resignation of Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador whose leaked emails showed his less than flattering assessment of the Trump administration, the political arena seemed to be outraged.
One politician even said: “What have we become?” This dithering on the part of Boris to stand by a fellow citizen doing his job as a diplomat was taken as a meek capitulation in front of bullying behaviour by the US president.
Despite being censured by a large number of people, he still managed to win the party’s support. Does this mean there is a consensus among most Conservative Party politicians that the US cannot be antagonized in any way?
If that is the case, then Britain’s position in the “special relationship” will surely be re-assessed. The US president has lauded Boris, even saying that “he will get the job done.” I wonder, how can he be so sure?
Analyzing from a third-world country, we find that even though Boris has a little madness, there is certainly a method in it.
Coming back to Britain’s current albatross -- Brexit. May tried her best, and only ended up creating more opacity.
In such a situation, a person with very unconventional approach to problems and a penchant for mischief and a little mayhem has taken over. By tearing up the immigration plan he has shown that, as PM, anything may happen though many of the actions may not be easily predictable.
Boris Johnson has shown his impetuous side in the past.
He is driven a lot by impulse, which means that in the days to come, there may be some startling developments. They may be shocking too and downright foolhardy but after the collapse of approaches by the book, perhaps it’s time to go a little barmy. Responding to a question by MP Roopa Huq of the Labour Party, the British PM is reported to have said that his government is in principle sympathetic towards legalizing unregistered migrants.
Relevant to note that, while serving as mayor of London, Johnson called on the government to give legal staying status to 500,000 illegal migrants living in the UK. It’s believed that there are more than 100,000 unregistered Bangladeshis in the UK who have been living there for years.
In 2009, as mayor of London, Boris said that if the legal status is given to those who have been living in Britain for more than 10 years, the labour crisis can be met successfully while taxes paid by them will increase government revenue.
Senior partner of Hamlet Solicitors, Biplob Kumar Poddar, observes: “The PM’s statement on Thursday about a general pardon for those living in Britain without valid papers is hope-inducing.”
If this happens, then more than 100,000 registered Bangladeshis will get the chance to stay in the UK legally, he added.
Everyone loves the libertine, not the lecher
There was quite a lot of discussion about Boris’s predilection towards clandestine affairs; during his time as a politician, he was caught red-handed lying about illicit relations. A female politician of his own party once said: “Boris is the life of the party but not the person from whom you would want a lift back home at the end of the evening.”
The message is very clear there -- he is a bit of a philanderer. But then, such spots on someone’s character can be defined in two ways -- either one is sleazy and a lecher or one is a mischievous libertine. There is, of course, a heavy dose of romanticism and subtle endorsement attached to the latter. The word “wicked” is so different from the word “vile.”
Think of the peccadillos of JFK or Bill Clinton. JFK’s steamy assignations in the White House, revealed so many years later, do not fail to stir up intense interest and no one actually deems him a licentious beast. He is a Don Juan or the “charmer” and that is because the world adores a little mischief. Just the way everyone marvels James Bond’s ability to win over all the women.
So, the colourful amorous life of Boris Johnson will perhaps add more spice to his persona. Of course, in the end, he has to deliver.
Reportedly, he is a proponent of the Australian style points-based immigration system, and if that is implemented, Boris just may become very popular among the diaspora communities.
Naturally, the major complexity to handle is Brexit. From the looks of it, there may be some really radical steps coming up -- dangerous too, but as Oscar Wilde said: “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”
Towheed Feroze is News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.