The prime minister’s instincts are revealed in the populist and authoritarian side of his legislative agenda
Part of the mythology surrounding Boris Johnson is the idea that his politics are, at heart, liberal. The prime minister’s record as mayor of London, where he was careful not to offend the cosmopolitan culture of the capital, is held up by moderate Tories as the guide to their leader’s true instincts. It is also said that his reluctance to impose anti-Covid measures derives from principled aversion to state control over the individual.
In truth, Mr Johnson is a libertine, believing in his own freedom to do as he pleases. That only superficially resembles concern for the rights that protect society against authoritarian government. If the prime minister were sincerely interested in liberty, his party would not this week have given Commons assent to a law that rewrites the terms on which citizens can peacefully protest against the government.