Sometimes a buffoon is just a buffoon

It seems like the season for dish-spilling political memoirs. First we had former Republican speaker John Boehner raking his party over the coals for ending up in Crazytown. Then over in the UK a former Conservative cabinet member Alan Duncan has published excerpts from his diaries while in government in which he castigates Boris Johnson, calling him a buffoon.

Sir Alan Duncan, the MP for Rutland and Melton from 1992 until the last election, said the prime minister was “a clown, a self-centred ego, an embarrassing buffoon, with an untidy mind and sub-zero diplomatic judgment”.

“He is an international stain on our reputation,” Duncan added, in diaries that have been serialised in the Daily Mail.

Later, after Johnson quit as foreign secretary in July 2018, Duncan wrote that Johnson needed publicity like a drug addict needs cocaine. He also told the Spectator in September that year that Johnson “needs a regular fix” of headlines and equates it with political power.

In an entry made in September 2017, Duncan claimed that Johnson “despises” the former prime minister Theresa May and had accused her of disloyalty.

Duncan also claimed he had had a row with Johnson over a press report about diplomats treating him as an “international joke”.

Johnson is said to have asked: “Why don’t they take me seriously?” Duncan claims he replied: “Look in the f***ing mirror!”

Johnson is not the only politician to come under fire.

May is also criticised in the diaries, with Duncan noting she has an apparent lack of personality on the campaign trail, and describing her as “a frightened rabbit, a cardboard cut-out, her social skills are sub-zero”.

He calls the home secretary, Priti Patel, “a nothing person, a complete and utter nightmare, the Wicked Witch of Witham”.

He also accuses another former prime minister, David Cameron, of being “glib”, and of making too many appointments from a “narrow” group of close associates.

I knew that Johnson throughout his life has deliberately cultivated a clownish persona as a means of drawing attention to himself. I was also aware that he would deliberately mess up his hair before going before the public or cameras. I had assumed that he could not be a total intellectual non-entity because it is not easy to rise to the position of prime minister in the cutthroat environment of UK parliamentary politics. But Duncan is someone who worked closely with Johnson and thus knows him well. His calling Johnson a buffoon may reveal that the latter has merely the kind of cunning that enables someone to rise on the political corpses of his adversaries without any idea of what he wants to achieve when he gets to the summit.

But it is no wonder Johnson and Trump got on so well. They both seek attention for its own sake.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    The non-entity here is Duncan. Johnson is an extremely shrewd operator and an extremely bright person. The yardstick I usually throw out in cases like this is this: Johnson’s family were perfectly capable of paying his full fees for Eton. They didn’t need to, however, as Johnson passed the entrance exam to be a King’s Scholar, widely held up as one of the hardest exams in the world. You can buy a place at Eton -- Prince Harry certainly didn’t get in on his own intellectual abilities, for instance -- but you can’t buy a King’s Scholarship.

    As for not having “any idea of what he wants to achieve when he gets to the summit” -- “stay at the summit” would appear to be the plan. Oh yes, and “shag as much as possible”, obviously.

    It’s touchingly naive to think someone like Johnson might have any use for power other than for its own sake. You might just as well ask why Jeff Bezos ever needs to make more money. It’s just a way of keeping score among his circle, people for whom money is otherwise meaningless.

    If you’re looking for a politician who wants to gain power in order to get things done to make life better for people -- we haven’t had one of those at the top for well over a decade.

    Sadly, however, like the US, the British -- or more specifically English -- electorate will vote for a cartoon character for a laugh. And Johnson has been cultivating that character since before Donald Trump had an IMDb entry.

  2. file thirteen says

    The “Right Honorable” Sir Alan Duncan only calls ABdePJ* a buffoon (among other things) because the latter dares to front the media with messy hair. Nothing deeper than that, and nothing could be of greater concern to the toffee-nosed upper class.

    *Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson

  3. EigenSprocketUK says

    Alan Duncan is a non-entity to the public these days. But he’s still a malevolent force who drives some of the squalid parts of the Tory engine room behind the scenes.
    Back in his more often-on-TV-famous days decided to grow a moustache, chose a toothbrush style that made him look altogether too much like Hitler, and would not be persuaded to shave it off for months. It was almost as if he liked it.

    I reckon that Johnson and Duncan both had a good laugh over the diaries, particularly the buffoon bits. All good fun to them. I also reckon that Johnson plans to exact his revenge one day. All good fun.

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