I switched on the radio last week and caught the tail end of a discussion about the Conservative leadership election. The presenter, who seemed to be in a highly agitated state, was talking about one of the contenders: ‘A man who’s lied to both of his wives, all of his mistresses, every constituent, every employer, every party leader, every colleague, every interviewer, every journalist he’s ever encountered, he’s not just lied to them, he’s actively agitated to deceive them…’ On it went. Even by left-wing shock jock standards, it was unhinged. He could only have been talking about Boris Johnson.
In the US, Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, is a well-established phenomenon. The journalist Fareed Zakaria defined it as ‘hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgment’ and it has led to well-respected columnists describing him as a ‘fascist’, a ‘white supremacist’ and a ‘Nazi’. ‘Just how similar is Trump to Hitler?’ asked an opinion piece in Time magazine after his election. Some people were so badly affected by Trump’s victory it made them psychologically ill. Students at Kansas University were offered ‘therapy dogs’ on election night, while at Vanderbilt they were encouraged ‘to take advantage of the outstanding mental health support the university offers’.
So far, Boris Derangement Syndrome, or BDS, hasn’t reached those heights, but we’re not far off. In a New York Times article last July entitled ‘Boris Johnson has ruined Britain’, a prominent, left-of-centre British journalist took issue with his decision to resign as foreign secretary. ‘It is a desperate move by a man who has lost almost all the credibility he had three years ago,’ she wrote. ‘As one of his allies told me last month: “He knows that the verdict of history is about to come down on him — and bury him.”’
Could the eagerness with which other journalists write Boris off, convinced he is destined to fail in politics, be prompted by a jealous contempt for anyone who ceases to be a spectator and steps into the arena? (To read more, click here.)