Last week, Boris kicked off his anti-EU campaign with a series of gaffes so embarrassing that even the Daily Mail couldn’t resist pointing and laughing. Has he finally gone off the rails — or is his instinct for self-promotion behind even his latest series of blunders?
First he posed in the doorway of his Vote Leave bus brandishing a Cornish pasty as a symbol of British pride — seemingly ignorant of the fact that it’s EU-wide agreements that specifically protect the £300m Cornish industry from knock-offs by other producers. (The same agreements also protect Wensleydale cheese, Yorkshire forced rhubarb and Welsh lamb, as well as champagne, feta and Parma ham.)
Boris’s next campaign stop was at the St Austell Brewery in Truro — a choice which baffled onlookers, since the brewery recently benefited from £50,000 of EU funding.
And finally, it transpired that Boris’s chosen mode of transport for his campaign is a Neoplan coach. Neoplan is a German company. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself — only the small detail that Boris’s professed alternative to EU membership would see a 13% tariff on imports of multi-passenger vehicles, meaning that it would have cost £56,000 more for a British firm to buy Boris’s bus if we were outside the European Union. In other words, Vote Leave’s own battle bus is a rolling advertisement for the economic benefits of EU membership.
So far, so Boris — the man has always been happy to use his own gaffes, calculated or otherwise, as a form of self-promotion. Last month we thought he had hit rock-bottom when he blamed President Obama’s dismissal of Brexit on his racial heritage. But today he plumbed new depths with a widely-derided claim that the EU is aping Hitler. The claim drew criticism from all sides, including Churchill’s grandson, a former head of the British army (£), and Boris’s own Tory colleagues. As Hilary Benn put it this morning, “Leave campaigners have lost the economic argument and now they are losing their moral compass… This comparison is both offensive and desperate”.
What makes Boris’s lurches into hysteria so shocking is that, only a few months ago, he claimed to be on the fence — and a few years ago he was actively promoting the achievements of the European Union in bringing peace and stability to a historically troubled continent. It’s been obvious from the start that his sudden conversion to the Leave campaign is really a thinly-veiled Tory leadership campaign. What’s only now becoming obvious is how disastrously even that leadership campaign is going.