Greetings, America. This is the man likely to be our new prime minister, and everything’s going absolutely fine.
What a long way he’s come: It seems only days since he was seen in the London Olympics trying to ride a zip line and ended up suspended above a park like a giant toddler in a harness.
For those of you who don’t know, he is a man called Boris Johnson, formerly our foreign secretary and mayor of London, and for the last 24 hours or so, we have been obsessing about his hair.
We’ll get on to the exact reasons why later, but the first thing to note is that his hair is quite like Donald Trump’s, and that’s far from the only thing they have in common.
For a long time now, Johnson has been mooted as Britain's answer to Trump. This weekend, footage emerged of Steve Bannon claiming to have helped him with a resignation speech. While Johnson was quick to dismiss any suggestion that Bannon was influencing his campaign to be leader, it can be said with some confidence that he’s a right-wing populist.
For Johnson’s supporters, the notion that he might be able to attract the common man and thereby keep the Tories in power is a good thing — but for his detractors, he stands for something a great deal more insidious.
Where one side sees a politician who is straight-talking on race, others see an unapologetic racist, who used discriminatory language as recently as last August when he described Muslim women wearing the niqab as looking like “letter boxes”.
Like Trump, Johnson’s supporters feel his perceived popular appeal outweighs any shortcomings he has as an actual political operator and, like Trump, his failure to grasp detail is little short of astonishing.
Here, for example, is a piece in which (among other revelations), a senior civil servant describes him as a “fucking moron” for accidentally worsening the plight of a British woman imprisoned in Iran during his time as foreign secretary. In the eyes of his supporters, such failures are a price worth paying for electability.
Then you have the fact that he’s quite bad at keeping the conversation on topic, but only when the substance of the conversation isn’t working out so well for him.
At the time of writing, for example, everyone is talking about this utterly bizarre answer he gave in response to a question about pastimes. Which as far as he’s concerned is convenient — because we were getting dangerously close to talking about his lack of a Brexit plan.
Anyway, that is Boris Johnson and, of late, it has seemed fairly clear that he is to be our next prime minister.
And then, on Friday, the Guardian dropped something of a bombshell.
The paper revealed that the police had been called to the flat Johnson was staying in with his girlfriend, Tory activist Carrie Symonds, having split with his wife earlier this year.
It transpired that Johnson’s neighbours had heard a row through the wall. Plates had been smashed. There had been loud screams. His voice was allegedly heard telling Symonds to “get off my fucking laptop”.
They recorded it and called the police. Once the police had established those inside were safe, the neighbours shared the tape with the Guardian. They claimed the fact the row had taken place was in the public interest.
Now: Were the neighbours right to record what they heard and phone the police? Almost certainly. But were they right to come to the view that the fact Britain’s prime minister-in-waiting was involved in such a row was a matter of public interest and should be given to a newspaper?
This story landed right in the middle of a culture war, so the reaction to the story depended on which side you were on. It was either public spirited concern for the safety of their neighbours or a Stasi-like survelliance attempt by left-wing activists to take down Johnson.
Did you want to vilify the neighbours? This paper certainly did.
Maybe like this actual Telegraph journalist, you wanted to know if they can be arrested.
Or perhaps you worried what this said about, uh, Russia and China, for some reason.
Maybe you didn’t blame the neighbours, but did think the Guardian was at fault. Like the Sun. Which, for what it’s worth not only picked up the Guardian’s story, but even ran a load of follow-ups.
Anyway, as of Monday, perhaps the only member of the Westminster elite who hadn’t put forward a hot take on all this was Boris Johnson himself.
But then something did happen. A picture of him and his girlfriend looking very loved up...“emerged” (i.e., appeared online and on the front page of some papers, which chose not to syndicate it for use by others...suggesting it had come directly from Johnson’s camp).
It’s fair to say it was greeted with a degree of cynicism.
And an even greater degree of Photoshop.
You get the picture.
But now things get really weird. No one knew a) who had taken the picture, and most importantly, b) when it was taken. And suddenly, questions began to be asked, not least this one by Sky News deputy political editor Sam Coates.
The questions began to mount.
And so it came to pass that Hair Truth Twitter became a thing.
People started to go deep. Very deep.
Fast-forward to Tuesday morning, and the man still expected to be Britain’s prime minister is on national radio refusing to answer questions about when a photo of him and his girlfriend sitting in the countryside was taken. Twenty-six times, in fact. And that is where we stand on The Insane British Prime Minister-In-Waiting Hair Conspiracy Shitshow at the time of writing.
A footnote: In April, the EU extended our Brexit deadline until Halloween. And here is what it said:
I think we can all agree we're absolutely not.
Johnson's voice was allegedly heard telling Symonds to get off his laptop. An earlier version of this post stated it was the other way around.
Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alan White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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