Once again, Boris Johnson demonstrates his dubious grasp of history
Does the top Tory need re-reducating about the Battle of Hastings?
Once again, Boris Johnson has fulfilled his new role of providing the Daily Telegraph with Monday morning splashes. Once again, relying on his time-honoured tactic of using flowery language rather than any discernible alternative plan to attack Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.
The latest target for his ire is the EU’s ‘backstop’ proposal for the Irish border. In his latest column, Johnson say says this “would mean that for the first time since 1066 our leaders were deliberately acquiescing in foreign rule”.
As some opponents seized on the column as another example of Johnson’s opportunism, others suggested that the former foreign secretary’s grasp of history had left him exposed.
On Twitter, the columnist Nick Cohen had the former foreign secretary banged to rights. He wrote: “Harold didn’t acquiesce in 1066. Rather famously he fought a battle at Hastings. Can’t he get anything right?”
Alas it’s not the first time that Johnson has made a dubious historical claim. A decade ago, the then mayor of London got into trouble for stating that table tennis was not invented in China but on the dining tables of England in the 19th century when it was called whiff-whaff. Joe Jaques of Jaques of London, whose family commercialised the game, said that Johnson had his facts “completely wrong”.
Meanwhile an entertaining review of Johnson’s 2014 book about Winston Churchill by a University of Cambridge history professor suggests that the top Tory is not exactly all over the details of recent history.
“At many junctures in the book, the ability to think historically deserts its author,” wrote Richard J Evans in the New Statesman. “He describes men such as Hitler as ‘short when their height (5ft 8in in his case) exactly matched the average height of European men at the time; and he describes Churchill as a ‘Victorian Whig’, though the Whigs’ attitude to the state in legislation such as the 1834 Poor Law was entirely different to Churchill’s."
Opponents of the big mouth Brexiteer might be unsuprised to read that the review also states that Johnson "doesn’t weigh up policies and ideas with any care or penetration"...