Opinion: ‘Submarine’ Boris Johnson back in destroyer mode

‘Submarine’ Boris Johnson back in destroyer mode

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Boris Johnson is running late to our interview in his campaign offices and I'm getting nervous. 

The probable future Prime Minister has been under huge media pressure in the past week.

On the one hand, he has been criticised for avoiding interviews and television debates.

At the same time, there has been near saturation coverage of a domestic argument that threatened to derail his campaign. 

As he finally bounds up the stairs and through the door, he grasps my hand firmly and booms: "Ross, very good to see you - ah, talkRADIO!"

He furtively checks his phone while we get mic-ed up and then he's ready to roll. 

I immediately push him to commit to leaving the European Union on October 31. 

He goes further than ever, telling me the UK will leave on that date "Do or die. Come what may."

That is a categorical, black and white commitment that seems to stake his premiership on delivering Brexit by that exit date. 

It could well be a hostage to fortune. Critics on all sides, from the Brexit Party to Jeremy Corbyn's Labour, could use it to attack him if he fails.

He then goes further, agreeing to categorically rule out any further extension to Article 50 - another big, bold commitment which removes options from the negotiating table.

I ask him to commit to resign if these promises are not delivered. Mr Johnson does not rule it out: "I think that it follows from everything that I've said, that I think politics is at a crossroads in this country. And it is fundamental to trust in politics that we come out of the EU. We've had two delays now. My friends and colleagues in, in Parliament is, they've had a long time now to think about this."

Again - big words which could come back to haunt him in Downing Street.

Today I saw the Boris Johnson who has felt somewhat absent from this campaign. 

A submarine strategy does not suit a battleship - and Mr Johnson quickly found his destroyer mode. 

Firing a shot across the bow of Jeremy Hunt's operation, Mr Johnson criticised his opponent in no uncertain terms: "I fought for Brexit. I believe in it. Unlike any other candidate in this election, I can deliver it unlike any other candidate in this election. I can also formulate a great, one nation, modern conservative agenda and show how it can unite the whole country unlike any other candidate."

That was an attempt to put Mr Hunt back into his box after the foreign secretary had engaged in deliberately voluble attacks on Mr Johnson in the past few days. 

Mr Johnson also revealed his favourite hobby

And on that domestic row? I expected him not to answer, but Mr Johnson finally chose to address the issue on talkRADIO: "I'm a pretty, I, I think I'm a pretty, um, even tempered kind of guy. I don't easily get angry."

How will he keep his cool in Number 10? With a rather bizarre hobby.

Somewhat staggeringly, the likely future PM told me "what I do is well I don't make models of buses I get, I get old, um, wooden crates, right? And I paint them and they have two, it's a box that's been used to contain two wine bottles right? And it will have a dividing thing. And I turn it into a bus"

My favourite comparisons are between politics and sport. Both require teamship, tactics and individual excellence. So what was the last match the probable next PM saw?

"Um, oh God, I don't know. What was the last sports match I watched, blimey. Well, I suppose I must've watched some, I don't ever watch TV anymore."

No mention of the England Lionesses' victories in the Womens' World Cup. 

With every card stacked against him going into a tough set of negotiations with the EU, he was steely-eyed and sounded tougher than ever.

And the old personality that his fans love and detractors loathe was shining through again. 

Many ask: is personality enough?

But, with Boris Johnson, you do wonder whether it actually could well be.

Watch the whole interview with political editor Ross Kempsell here.

Read more

Boris Johnson - the talkRADIO interview

Boris Johnson will leave EU ‘do or die, come what may’