Just when you were beginning to wonder if you’d heard the last of Boris Johnson’s buffoonery, Britain’s national clown is back with a bang.
After a sabbatical of several weeks following his melodramatic resignation as foreign secretary over Prime Minister Theresa May’s soft Brexit plan, he’s now causing a conniption by deliberately trolling his country’s minority Muslim community.
In a newspaper column, he presented what was essentially a liberal argument that Britain should not ape Denmark’s extreme move to ban Muslim women from wearing burkas in public, but BoJo, being BoJo, had to take it a provocative step further and share his personal bigotry as well.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes,” he wrote. “If a constituent came to my MP’s surgery with her face obscured, I should feel entitled … to ask her to remove it so I could talk to her properly. If a female student turned up at school or at a university lecture looking like a bank robber then ditto.”
While many are genuinely outraged and want Johnson’s shaggy head on a platter for ridiculing and demonising a minority group, his broadside is resonating across large swathes of the British population who feel extreme interpretations of Islamic lifestyle have no place in Western civilisation and their country is losing its identity by over-pandering to medieval migrant sensitivities.
Are women wearing burkas oppressed victims of a misogynistic culture that forces them to hide their faces, or is it very much a personal dress choice that no one has a right to interfere with? We could argue about it until the cows come home, but we’d be missing the point while BoJo has the last laugh.
The thing is, Johnson doesn’t give a damn about any of it. This was a cynical, calculated attempt to catapult himself back into the limelight and lobby the support of hardliners in the Conservative Party who are unimpressed by May’s insipid leadership.
Johnson is auditioning for the prime minister’s job as the candidate of the resurgent populist right, starting with taking the Tory helm. The very real possibility that he may achieve his naked ambition by adopting tactics such as making fun of people’s physical appearance speaks volumes about the sorry state of British politics.
Brace yourselves for the new Britain under BoJo the clown, an inward-looking island of intolerance run by a caggie-handed, cheese-headed, fopdoodle with a talent for slummocking about – if I may borrow a very English takedown of Johnson by Labour Party politician Tom Watson.
Anyone pooh-poohing the prospect of BoJo as prime minister would do well to look across the pond to a country where they similarly turned their noses up at a Johnson lookalike who is now their president and the most powerful man in the world.
There may well be some intrinsic differences between US President Donald Trump and Johnson, but the latter is undeniably taking pages out of the former’s playbook to shock, disrupt and insult his way to the top.
BoJo is Britain’s Trump, although he may not lie as much and is probably far more intelligent.
“Boris Johnson looks like if Donald Trump drank,” comedian Trevor Noah remarked. Let’s have no qualms about appearance-shaming the two – who have both been likened to a shaved orangutan – because they’ll have none whatsoever doing the same to you.
So, quoting Noah again: “Boris Johnson is a cross between a head injury and an unmade bed. He looks like if Owen Wilson was addicted to meth and chocolate.” Now that’s funnier than letter boxes.
It would be even more hilarious if BoJo is not only made to wear a burka himself, but placed in full purdah so we never have to see or hear of him again.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post