The ersatz English pride expressed by the entirely bogus St George’s Day celebrations is deeply creepy. I hate it. Wandering through London this week and bumping into people wrapped in red and white flags or dressed as knights has made me feel deeply embarrassed to be English. And how can Boris Johnson be so so daft as to embrace this nonsense. He surely can’t mean it.
But it did make me wonder about the true scope of the London mayor’s ambitions for himself and Britain-England, coinciding as it did with his admission that has not ruled out a run for Downing Street (presumably after he has beaten David Cameron at ping-pong for the job). This would seriously worry me because Boris Johnson is yet to establish his democratic principles by reforming City Hall and the institution of Mayor. He never really understood why it was an issue that Ken Livingstone ran London as his personal fiefdom.
Sometimes I have this waking nightmare that takes the form of A Very British Coup in reverse. It goes something like this:
1. David Cameron wins the next election, but not as well as he hoped and is dependent on Liberal Democrat support.
2. The economy continues to collapse and during the double-dip he is forced to go to the IMF (if his Labour predecesor hasn’t done this already).
3. Disquiet grows within a party that was never really convinced by the Cameron reforms and his position becomes seriously undermined.
4. The Liberal Democrats withdraw their support for Cameron and demand he be relplaced by a populist figure with civil libertarian credentials (I always thought this would be a David Davis-style character).
5. The new leader turns out to be extremely popular, indeed a cult of personality develops that sends a shiver through the establishment.
6. A coup is mounted to remove the demagogue from power.
Nonsense of course before you start picking holes in the constitutional accuracy of my flimsy construction.
However, I do think there is a certain truth the suggestion that Cameron may find himself facing a serious challenge if he fails to halt the decline. That challenge could come from Davis, but it not seems pretty obvious that Boris is flexing his muscles. And if he does so drapped in the flag of St George his rise will be both irresistible and slightly sinister.