Boris Johnson’s Trumpian path to power, by Stephen Daisley.
But was it a blunder? Or did Johnson, freed from such responsibilities as he felt bound by in the Foreign Office, consider the renewed vigour of anti-Muslim populism and decide to sound a dogwhistle? … He could … send a signal that there was someone in mainstream politics who shares the Breitbart crowd’s contempt for Islam. …
Step back and study the architecture of this row and you can observe how finely crafted is every angle and join. Johnson drops some crass remarks in a column critiquing ‘burka’ bans. He does this knowing the BBC will kindly amplify his message so that it reaches those who seldom take an interest in politics and will do so in scandalised liberal tones certain to irritate his intended audience. The ensuing outrage will force Tory chairman Brandon Lewis to demand that Johnson apologises, a demand that Johnson will rebuff. Free speech martyrdom: unlocked.
Political trolling is designed to elicit a reaction and Johnson’s effort has succeeded on all levels. Those who see Muslims as a threatening, alien presence in this country have cheered someone who finally ‘told it like it is’. Johnson is not the only Tory to have grasped the electoral potential of Muslim-baiting. Zac Goldsmith’s gloriously failed bid to become London mayor didn’t deploy a dogwhistle so much as a loudhailer against Sadiq Khan, branding him ‘radical and divisive’. If you want a Muslim for your mayor, vote Labour. Conservative MP Michael Fabricant pandered to similar sentiments last month when he tweeted a picture of a Khan balloon being sodomised by an inflatable pig. Muslim community leaders are understandably concerned that the Tory Party sees stigmatising Muslims as legitimate politics. If the Tories allow themselves to become institutionally anti-Muslim in the way Labour has become antisemitic, they deserve no less opprobrium.
I say ‘burka’ but ‘letter box’ suggests he actually meant the niqab.
hat-tip Stephen Neil