We recognise bullying when we see it, and we look for idealism in politicians – not the vindictiveness on display from Johnson and May.
“I apologise to mugwumps everywhere for inadvertently comparing them to Jeremy Corbyn,” Boris Johnson said on Good Morning Britain on Thursday, after calling Corbyn a “mutton-headed old mugwump” in a column that morning for The Sun. Although his choice of words may seem lighthearted, this was a tactical, cruel move. That much was clear on reading the rest of the column, which began “the biggest risk with Jeremy Corbyn is that people just don’t get what a threat he really is,” and continued in that vein. It helped remind me – and other young people too, I’m sure – that the Tories are still, at heart, the “nasty party”, as Theresa May once called them.
Of course, Johnson’s toxic, foppish humour will always appeal to the immature – whether they’re 18 or 68. And his language is especially captivating to a small upper-middle-class subset who were part of the debating society at Oxbridge and follow prime minister’s questions with unrestrained glee.
But it’s easy enough for young people to see that Johnson is a calculated and conniving politician. Despite his history of fluff-ups (remember the zip-wire?), it’s clear he thought very carefully before launching this pointed, personal attack on Corbyn. It appears to be part of a much broader, highly organised Tory strategy to target Corbyn and his shadow cabinet, which has included an attack ad focusing on Corbyn’s comments about defence, and Theresa May crowing in PMQs about Diane Abbott linking on Twitter to the page “I like Corbyn, but”. The prime minister went on: “Even his own supporters know he’s not fit to run this country. They are right to be worried. Unable to defend our country, determined to raise taxes on ordinary workers, no plans to manage our economy. Even his own supporters know he’s not fit to run this country.”