There is a growing trend in a world wearied by corruption, sleaze, and general inertia, to see a political outsider with bombastic personality and an impulsivity disguised as imagination, as being necessary to give a tired system a good healthy kick up the arse.
So it was that professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota in 1991, and later governor of the state in 1998, on the Reform Party ticket. The same voter mindset is also evidenced in various pockets around the world where cats are elected mayor. It must be very embarrassing to stand on stage after the final count, licking the wounds of your defeat while your victorious opponent licks their own genitals.
Though there is a long tradition of wildcard and comical candidates finding electoral fortune in local government, the last few years have of course seen the like translated to the national level.
In 2019 Volodymyr Zelensky, the star of the show Servant of the People about a school teacher who wins election as his country’s president, was elected President of Ukraine.
A more high profile example is so obvious that is does not even bare mentioning.
Now the UK seems primed to follow suit, as the Conservative Party finalises the arrangements for their coronation of Alexander Johnson as their leader and Prime Minister.
Johnson, known by his stage name Boris, started his career as a conveyor of ‘verbal pyrotechnics’ writing for The Daily Telegraph columns which were described by the paper itself (in way of defence) as ‘comically polemical’ and by no means in depth analysis.
By all accounts Johnson is an utterly unexceptional example of a class which had the world and his wife at their feet, an education beyond the reach of most people’s grandchildren, yet squandered such opportunities through a noxious medley of ‘narcissism and self-indulgence.’
As another character actor, like Zelensky, Johnson was a suitable figurehead to serve as Mayor of London, while he had a team of competent people around him to do the important things. It is upon this element of his CV that he is resting his case for the premiership, rather than his haphazard and short-lived tenure in the only other cabinet position he has held, that of Foreign Secretary.
Yet the taste for a showman seems as prevalent in Britain as it was in Minnesota in the 1990s, or Ukraine and the United States in the present day.
The comparisons between Johnson and Trump are endless, from the obvious to the less, and among them are that each of them saw off a far more qualified opponent who possessed poor communication skills, namely Rory Stewart and Hillary Clinton.
While it is important that a leader be a communicator and a forceful personality too, god knows that should not be the only positive attribute about them.
Johnson rides a wave of misunderstanding of diplomacy, international relations, and policy, all of which take the precision and the concentrated effort of the kind of which he has made a career as the very antithesis.
That such a misunderstanding exists among voters is a rot which threatens the heart of democracy, a system which relies on a well-informed electorate, who will at every turn put manners on its representatives and keep them from getting above themselves.
Job security should not be a term which exists in the lexicon of any politician. Instead, they should spend every waking second of their career in a cold sweat, with the crushing magnitude that is the sense of the importance of what they are doing, and its implications, bearing down upon their shoulders. All those who say their prayers out loud, should never be able to run from the similarities between their tenure to election and Christ’s walk to Calvary.
The political nerds whose frustration and anxiety pours out of them at every reading of the paper, are the minority of a population that will never study the subject at any level. Perhaps it is time to consider that politics be made a compulsory subject from an early stage of education.
It does not seem a great leap to suggest that most troubling heats of today’s political climate stem from the fact that we are not taught better. Flirtations with narcissists and populists, and the rising tide of hyperpartisanship which has seen political discourse sink to dangerously low levels, may well be eased were schoolchildren given a basic, working grasp of not just how their government works, but also of the philosophies which have brought it about and guide it today.
If Boris Johnson had exhibited due diligence and made the most of his education, allowing responsibility and morality to triumph over ego, it is likely that he would not have voted for himself.