Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
5 June 2019updated 02 Sep 2021 5:28pm

Boris Johnson is threatening another Brexit bus tour, which can’t possibly backfire

2 Bus: 2 Furious.

By Jonn Elledge

Will no one rid me of this turbulent prick? Not content with being the worst foreign secretary in a century, resigning because his mate did even though he didn’t want to, and then sparking racial hatred via the pages of a national newspaper column for no better reason than his yawning fear of not being talked about, Boris Johnson is thinking of getting back on the bus. The Huffington Post reported this morning that Johnson was, joy of joys, being urged to consider arranging a bus tour to campaign for Brexit. Again.

Actually, he might not be. Also earlier today, Kevin Schofield, editor of Politics Home, tweeted that a suspiciously familiar-sounding source close to Britain’s worst Donald Trump impersonator had described the news as “total and utter bollocks”.

With most politicians you’d assume that one of these reports must be true and the other false, but Johnson is not most politicians. Given his record of backing both sides of an issue until the last possible moment, it seems entirely possible in my mind that Johnson was the source of both stories. This is, at this moment, Schrodinger’s bus tour: it exists and does not exist, at exactly the same time, and until Johnson collapses the waveform by actually publicly commenting, this state will persist.

It’s easy to dread the possibility of this bus tour, on the entirely rational grounds that it’ll be completely fucking awful. If it does happen, though, I’m not convinced it’ll have quite the effect those apparently urging it wish.

My suspicion is that, having been told that Brexit would be easy, a significant chunk of the electorate seem to have believed that it was – and that quite a large number of them stopped thinking about it as soon as the referendum was over. Some may even be under the impression that, having voted to leave the European Union nearly 26 months ago, Britain has already left. Most people do not pay the sort of attention to politics that the likes of us do.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

So what would the 2 Bus: 2 Furious campaign actually achieve? For one thing it would draw the attention of distracted voters back to an issue from which at least some of them have moved on. At the point they start looking at Brexit, it is at least possible that they will notice that the negotiations have turned into a complete and utter clusterfuck and ministers have been reduced to claiming that, contrary to reports, there will be adequate food.

More than that: running around the country harrumphing that voters should ignore all those people who still think Brexit will be a disaster risks reminding that them not only that many believe it will be a disaster, but that it hasn’t happened yet. That might in turn lead people to conclude that actually we’d be better off not bothering.

In other words, another Brexit bus tour might achieve what a thousand hashtags could not, and kill this insanity once and for all.

Content from our partners
Winning business: changing markets
Gibraltar - impact of Brexit

Frothing Remainiac that I am, this may well be confirmation bias on my part, of course. Maybe I’m wrong: maybe the whole thing would go spiffingly. But if Boris Johnson is thinking twice, I wouldn’t remotely blame him.