On Thursday, the anger at Mr. Johnson was palpable, replacing last week’s anger at Prime Minister David Cameron for calling the referendum in the first place. The sense that Mr. Johnson had presided over the Brexit campaign without a plan for what to do if it won — and then walked away without cleaning up his mess — was particularly enraging.
“He’s like a general who marches his army to the sound of guns and the moment he sees the battleground abandons it,” Michael Heseltine, a Tory politician, told the BBC. “I have never seen anything like it. He ripped the Tory party apart. He has created the greatest constitutional crisis in peacetime in my life.”
.. With his air of disarrayed befuddlement, his crazy coiffure, his idiosyncratically imaginative P.G. Wodehousian locution, his habit of slipping into Latin and Greek, his foot-in-the-mouth self-deprecation and his obvious delight in himself, he oozes a charm rarely seen in politicians.
He cycles to work and carries his things in a backpack. He looks as if he’s slept in his clothes and just gotten out of bed. He has the privileged demeanor of an old Etonian (he went to school there), but a Bill Clintonesque way with crowds and an appeal that transcends class.
.. It was a boring assignment, but Mr. Johnson found a way of livening it: He made things up. His great talent was to take tiny grains of information in reports and proposals, repackage them as official European policy and present them as part of a broad narrative about Brussels’s risibility. His stories were full of wrong-sized condoms, fishermen forced to wear hairnets and international disputes over cheese policy.
While his stories became increasingly influential in the euroskeptic wing of the Conservative Party and in many ways set the tone for the British papers’ coverage of Europe ever since, Mr. Johnson tends to treat his approach as great fun.
.. “We had eight frustrating years where we’d ask detailed policy questions, and what we’d get back in response was bluster and grandiose claims,” said Joanne McCartney, a Labour Assembly member who is now deputy mayor. “If he didn’t know the answer to the question, which was a regular occurrence, he’d use bluster and wit to avoid answering.”
.. Mr. Johnson tried his normal humorous approach. Asked, for instance, about his assertion that the European Union has a law saying that balloons cannot be blown up by children under 8 (it doesn’t), he deflected the question, saying, “In my household, only children under 8 are allowed to blow up balloons.”
“Even people who truly hate me are saying it’s the best they’ve ever seen,” he said.
.. Didn’t he know that a continent was in crisis? Would this finally expose him as unacceptably unserious? In some of his tweets, he seemed not to acknowledge that the sentiment in Scotland was for Remain—did he understand the political structure of the United Kingdom?
.. During the Leave campaign, Johnson played Paul Ryan to Farage’s Trump—the more socially acceptable peddler of destructive ideas.
.. You know, when the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”
But only the right kind of people, it seemed. “You’re going to let people that you want into your country. And people that you don’t want, or people that you don’t think are going to be appropriate for your country or good for your country, you’re not going to have to take,” Trump said.
.. there are structural economic issues that have left both Leave sympathizers and Trump voters with real grievances, and it will be disastrous if bigoted nationalists are the only ones who engage them.
.. Both Trump and Farage and his allies have made openly racist and ethnic appeals.
.. (For those who are not regular viewers of Trump’s speeches, this is a reference to the idea that Obama is blackmailing Clinton with the threat of jail for supposed crimes related to her e-mails.)
The verbose, charmingly unkempt Johnson, 52, has been described as Britain’s Donald Trump; he’s stoked anti-immigrant hate and shown little regard for the truth during the “Brexit” campaign.
.. American Erik Bidenkap, who’s working in London, says the similarities between Trump’s presidential campaign in the U.S. and the “Brexit” campaign in the U.K. are stark. “In America, politicians are saying, ‘We’re losing to China, we’re losing to Mexico, they’re stealing our jobs,'” Bidenkap told NPR. “Here in Great Britain, same thing.
.. No one who’s followed Johnson’s career is surprised by his rhetoric. The former journalist has always had a tetchy relationship with the truth.
.. Johnson “has managed to use his disarranged, slightly comical hair as a helmet, shielding him from more serious scrutiny. It lets him come across as an unconventional politician…”
He claimed the EU dictated the shape of bananas and likened the bloc to underwear that had “become too tight in some places—far too tight, far too constrictive—and dangerously loose in other places.”