Boris Johnson’s recent escapades with the constitution have illustrated that populists are innovators, as well as threats to democracy, as we know it. Johnson, I suppose would argue that he is strenuously trying to deliver the Brexit the majority of Brits voted for, and was thus supporting the democratic majority. Well he has a point, I suppose, particularly in the absence of leadership. Since David Cameron handed in his badge and washed his hands of the whole matter there has been a palpable lack of leadership from any quarter.
The dilemma that faces Boris is that Parliament is determined to thwart ‘Boris the populist leader’ from delivering a Brexit that they fear will be bad for the UK and incidentally, wreck traditional political party structures. There will be no perfect deal, some are therefore for a deal and some are for leaving without a deal. It is worth saying that no one really knows what will be the actual outcome under any scenario. Some want to stay where we are, which we know is fairly comfortable, but with many issues round the corner.
The more interesting question is; Is any leader better than none? Boris maybe a bounder and an unorthodox politician, certainly an opportunist, but he does give the aura of confidence and by association leadership. By standing for the majority simple view, he is easy to understand and has a clear and popular message.
His attempt to thwart Parliament, was an attempt to exploit the Brexit election result and place him as the leader and figurehead of the Brexit majority which crosses all party lines. This idea, is extremely innovative and extremely high risk. Will he succeed? Only time will tell.
Whilst the whole country is wrapped in awe of the political shenanigans, the economy seems to treading water, but there are danger signs out there. Very low inflation and high employment, especially high or mass low paid employment, is a sure recipe for a downward lurch. What’s missing is investment, not in process, but in new innovative products. Risk, is avoided by a stagnant body politic, and corporate investment is aimed more at process innovation which will simply reduce labour demand. If the UK does find itself in a disadvantageous import export situation, there will be even more effort to reduce costs and labour content. In other words, increased efficiency has the cost of reducing labour, and the present corporate modus is to reward shareholders rather than reinvest in product innovation, which has longer term rewards.
Iconoclasts like Boris Johnson have something to teach us, unpalatable though that maybe, we have to risk much if we are to achieve a longer balanced prosperity. The unorthodox is in itself the foundation of innovation.