Boris Johnson: A quick cultural analysis

A friend of mine recently wrote a long political analysis of the threat to democracy posed by Boris Johnson. I wrote a digested version from a cultural studies lens…

Boris Johnson is (according to cultural spokesperson Stormzy) a wasteman.

But what is a wasteman? According to Urban Dictionary, it is someone who does not act their age, that is disrespectful of women, and does not look after their children. Most importantly, a wasteman wastes that most precious of resources: time.

Boris is sending us backwards in time. Although clever and calculating, he performs the archaic role of a bumbling eccentric Englishman. He turns parliament into a playground. His comments about the burka show his obliviousness of nuanced feminist discussions within Islam. And his ideology is set to stunt and retard the growth of British society and culture in a rapidly evolving world of technologies and ideas.

His team represent a syndicate of opinions that support radical free-market doctrines; intends to run government like a Silicon Valley start-up; and that values popular opinion over the parliamentary process of giving space for conflicting views.

But one of the biggest risks, waiting just off-stage, is the question of human rights and our right to protest. He could soon change ‘trespass’ rules to make protest difficult; interfere in the ability of universities to take a stand; and sweep up anybody that does not fit within his simulation of British society.

As Stormzy, and others like him, are only too aware. We need new tools to beat the wastemen, and they’ll emerge from the underground.

(A really good book for understanding Boris and performative Englishness is the dystopian novel ‘England, England’. It is about an aristocratic entrepreneur who turns the Isle of Wight into a gigantic theme park filled with English signifiers and folklore. At one point, insight professionals are recruited to uncover the quintessential aspects of Englishness, the 50 item long list starts with the Royal Family, and covers pubs, snobbery, Manchester United, the class system, stone henge, Oxford/Cambridge, emotional frigidity, the Magna Carta and so on. The theme park becomes an international success, whilst the real England spirals into economic stagnation).

Research Designer