Boris Johnson is making the same mistakes as Theresa May did in 2017

November 13, 2019

by Martin Odoni

I did mention earlier in the year that Boris Johnson, who in most respects could hardly be more different to his predecessor, Theresa May, is nonetheless still just similar enough to make many of the same mistakes. This General Election campaign, he seems to be setting out to prove it.

We all remember, I am sure, the negativity, cowardice, and general ugliness of the Conservative campaigns in General Elections 2015 and 2017. 2017 in particular was almost painful to behold, as a mechanical, no-chances-taken, evasive, badly over-choreographed and colourless Tory campaign pretty much handed Labour about ten points in support from a public on the threshold of lethal boredom. The whole seven-week fiasco demonstrated that May was absolutely hopeless at heading up an Election campaign, and should have established her as the very model of a leader not to emulate on the metaphorical hustings.

With this in mind, and looking at the current Tory campaign, one has to ask, not for the first time, “BoJob, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” Johnson seems to be copying May’s every mistake, having started the campaign with a mistake copied from David Cameron (as mentioned last week).


A XXX-rated Prime Minister if ever there was one, just not in the way he would like us to think.

Consider in GE2017, when the Tories announced in their Manifesto a change to social care policy that increased the financial burden for elderly people suffering illnesses related to dementia. Although the actual burden on patients was not as severe is it sounded, it was still a very regressive policy, which was quickly nicknamed Dementia Tax. It caused a public uproar. Within a couple of days, May had panicked and reversed the policy, the first time on confirmed record that a Manifesto pledge had been formally U-Turned away from before the General Election had even arrived. In the weeks that followed, May was nicknamed The U-Turn Queen, while Jeremy Paxman famously called her,

“A blowhard who collapses at the first sign of gunfire.”

blowhard uturnqueen

But this time, Johnson has gone one better even than reversing policy between Manifesto and Election. His Government promised less than two weeks ago to halt fracking, with a view to banning it, “until compelling new evidence is provided” to show it can be done safely. Now, before he has even published the Manifesto, that policy has been U-Turned away from as well, with Johnson accepting, via very quietly-published civil service documentation, that “future applications will be considered on their own merits”. Whatever else that is, it is clearly not a ban nor necessarily conditional on evidence, and indeed it sounds no different to the status quo that was in place beforehand.

A blowhard who collapses at the first sign of Cuadrilla gunfire, perhaps? “U-Turn if you want to?” said Margaret Thatcher. It seems that Johnson, like May, is very much for turning.

(On the subject of U-Turns, Johnson has again retreated from his vague promise in the summer to hold an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, reiterating a vague commitment to investigate “all kinds of prejudice”. This dodge might work against his party though, given the research published last week showing that anti-Semitism is absolutely rife on the right wing.)

One of May’s numerous, very cringe-worthy platitudes during GE2017 was a repetitive warning of a “Coalition of chaos” under Jeremy Corbyn, chiefly between Labour and the Scottish National Party. Two-and-a-half years of subsequent Governmental gridlock under an alliance between the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party gave the punchline to that. But amazingly, Johnson appears to be matching that rhetoric by giving the same, barefaced-hypocrite warnings again. This, even as Labour are visibly moving to try and dislodge the SNP from its supreme position in Scotland, not ally with them.

During the 2017 campaign, the cowardly May famously, and probably illegally, had unapproved journalists locked in a room so they were unable to ask her questions while she toured a factory in Cornwall. There was more than just a faint echo of that kind of incredible cowardice in Nottinghamshire last week, when Johnson visited a school where the 6th Form pupils were kept away from him at all times by confining them to the common room.

Johnson refused to visit a nearby hospital on the same day when it was on ‘Black Alert’, instead choosing to visit a nearby hospital that was not in ’emergency mode’. Over the weekend, he dismissed the severe floods in the north of England as “not a national emergency” (quite the contrast with Tory reactions five years ago when it was Tory-voting constituencies further south that were flooded). These incidents have a particularly uncomfortable resemblance to another display of shocking cowardice by May in 2017, albeit after the Election, when she ran away from locals in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower Fire Disaster. The resemblance is in the combination of personality faults that it highlights – a lack of empathy with the public, and a fear of facing the public under uncontrolled conditions.

Johnson is not learning the lessons of thirty months ago. Then, the Tories were projected to win a resounding landslide. Some of the early opinion polls, suggesting that the Tories have a double-digit lead, would seem to project something similar for 2019. But look what happened in 2017 when the Tories blundered and bored in equal measure, while Labour rallied at high speed with a positive and colourful campaign. The start of Labour’s campaign this year has, again, been very positive, full of colour, with high participation, and a strong message of hope. The start of the Tories’ campaign has, again, been negative, riddled with blunders, lacking in colour, lacking in participation, numerous candidates dropping out, and with a message overly-fixated on Brexit.

And it is led by a man making so many mistakes similar to those committed by his predecessor that it raises the question of whether there was any point in the Conservative Party changing leader this year at all.

4 Responses to “Boris Johnson is making the same mistakes as Theresa May did in 2017”

  1. hilary772013 Says:

    Reblogged this on hilary77blog and commented:
    Martin telling it as it is, at his brilliant best.

  2. signpostnotwindchimes Says:

    Needs repeating everyday, every hour, loudly and clearly📣📣📣

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: