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UK politics

Ignore the bluster, Boris is as ruthless as they come

Boris Johnson at the CBI conference in Newcastle on Monday. Owen Humphreys/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Boris Johnson wins by making it all about him, says Andrew Adonis in Prospect. This week’s “ruffled slapdashery” about Peppa Pig stole the headlines from the social-care rebellion. It also consigned poor Keir Starmer, who reportedly practised his speech for the same event three times over in the empty conference hall before proceedings started, to the cutting-room floor. Make no mistake, beneath a veneer of lackadaisical bonhomie, “Bertie Wooster meets Henry VIII” is far more decisive, ambitious and politically professional than he seems – “and leagues more so than any of his rivals in the Tory party or the present opposition”.

We aren’t just talking about charisma, although the PM is one of only two modern British politicians to be an A-list celebrity. (Tony Blair is the other.) The way he swivelled on the Owen Paterson issue demonstrates a ruthless boldness and urgent instinct for survival. In politics, my thesis is that leaders are basically all that’s important. “People don’t believe in ideas, they believe in people who believe in ideas,” wrote political columnist Jonathan Freedland 15 years ago, and I entirely agree. I’d add my favourite GK Chesterton quote: “I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” It’s the leader, stupid – that’s what it’s all about.

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