Paul Nizinskyj: Make up your mind, Boris

Boris needs to say what he actually thinks before anyone can get to know him properly as a politician.

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If you type my name and Boris Johnson’s into Google, the top result will reveal a rather dashing picture of yours truly taken by a BBC reporter at Conservative Party Conference 2012. Accompanying the peculiarly fresh-faced portrait (it was hideously early in the morning...you can just about detect the pain in my eyes) was my answer to said reporter’s question about whether I thought Bozza was a future Tory leader.

Absolutely, I said, followed by something about people thinking he would have been a joke as Mayor of London but he managed to pull that off pretty well - he marries style and substance, I said, and people respond to that. I genuinely believed that and I have for a long time. Now I’m not so sure.

Boris is without a doubt an incredibly intelligent man and a highly skilled, if somewhat flawed, politician (there are only so many situations you can fly by the seat of your pants, no matter how large, before you get caught) - but he’s also arguably the most ambitious man in the House of Commons.

Nothing wrong with ambition, you might say - this is the Conservative Party, after all - and you’d be absolutely right. But I can’t help feeling there is something wrong with the kind of ambition that leads a Tory student to publicly support the SDP simply to get elected Chairman of the Oxford Union. Or to talk like a libertarian when it’s convenient but then advocate the Living Wage and cracking down on private hire vehicles like Uber.

Because what’s progressively troubled me over the years about Boris is, despite being larger than life, the man is really quite difficult to pin down when it comes to political philosophy. There’s little in the way of guessing where he might stand on a particular issue, which you might put down to characteristically Tory pragmatism, but which I can’t help thinking is more political opportunism.

In a way it makes sense for him to attempt to shore up a broad base of support in the party as well as the country by appearing to appeal to everyone, but too often this leads to him sitting on the fence on huge issues like Britain’s membership of the EU.

I still have no idea where Boris lies on this issue, despite his very Eurosceptic reporting for the Telegraph in the 1990s and despite his supposedly Eurosceptic speech featured on Guido Fawkes a few days ago - which actually said nothing more than there would be upsides and downsides to either outcome of a referendum.

You’ve won our hearts, Boris, now it’s time to win our minds. Make your mind up.

Paul Nizinskyj is a founder and director of Conservatives for Liberty.

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