View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
12 January 2015updated 09 Sep 2021 2:18pm

Boris’s attack on “civil liberties nuts“ shows that he’s prepared for battle with Theresa May

The Mayor will not allow himself to be outflanked on national security in a future Conservative leadership contest. 

By George Eaton

Although appearances often suggest otherwise, nothing that Boris Johnson says or does is without deep political calculation. His declaration that “I’m not particularly interested in this civil liberties stuff” was a classic of the genre. The remark, made during an interview with Sky News at yesterday’s Trafalgar Square rally, positioned him firmly at the authoritarian end of the Conservative spectrum.

“You have got to have a very tough security solution, to be absolutely determined to monitor these people, know where they are, know who they’re talking to,” he said. “I’m not particularly interested in this civil liberties stuff when it comes to these people’s emails and mobile phone conversations. If they are a threat to our society then I want them properly listened to.” In another interview, he remarked: “There are a lot of civil liberties nuts these days who say that we should hang back. I’m personally in favour of surveying these people and knowing who they are and what they’re doing.”

The Mayor of London did not always talk such a tough game on security. In 2005, he denounced Tony Blair for planning to remove “our 800-year-old freedoms” by detaining terrorist suspects without trial. But more recently, he demanded an end to the presumption of innocence for those visiting Iraq and Syria (so that they are presumed jihadists). This volte-face cannot be separated from Johnson’s unofficial struggle with Theresa May for the title of Conservative leader-in-waiting. The Mayor recognises that the Home Secretary, the longest-serving occupant of that office since Rab Butler, represents the greatest threat to his planned seizure of the Tory crown in the event of election defeat. Even after recent stumbles over the child abuse inquiry and the European Arrest Warrant vote, May led Johnson by 11 points in the most recent ConservativeHome leadership poll

By presenting himself as a man prepared to do “whatever it takes” to defeat terrorism, untroubled by liberal appeasers, he aims to check one of May’s greatest strengths: her reputation as a resolute defender of law and order. There is little appetite among Tory MPs and even less among the grassroots for the libertarianism still espoused by former leadership candidate David Davis. In a close contest, the Mayor, whose chief weakness remains his perceived lack of seriousness, cannot be afford to be outflanked by May on a matter as grave as national security. With his populist jibe at “this civil liberties stuff”, Johnson has served notice that he will not be. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Where do we get the money to fix the world's biggest problems? – with ONE
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU