Johnsons latest vanity project is part of a plan to make the country more like him, says Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore
Boris Johnson has no policies, it appears, beyond tax cuts for the rich and oh optimism. Act happy. Act big. He wants the Queen to have a great big yacht. At a hustings last night he burbled on about the royal yacht. One of the things that all wings of the Labour party can agree on is that it was a good thing to decommission HMY Britannia in 1997. If the royal family wants a yacht it has more than enough dosh to buy its own.
Johnson, of course, doesnt see it that way. Nor does the newspaper that pays him a quarter of a million pounds a year. The Telegraph has campaigned for a new royal yacht and Johnson has argued in the Commons before about it. It was regretful, he said in 2016, that this was not a priority for Theresa Mays government.
Some of us find the necessity of food banks and conditions of rough sleepers regretful, but heigh ho! What floats Johnsons and many other Tory MPs boats is literally a big boat. A peculiar vision of a yacht as a kind of floating embassy, presumably with an ambassador on board, one approved by Trump, I guess, and maybe Prince Andrew. This vessel would sail around the world doing all these amazing post-Brexit trade deals, impressing people.
It is a fantasy. Johnson goes on about soft power. He considers this country to have a lot of soft power and thinks this would enhance it. Should taxpayers fund it? No even he is not that bonkers. Instead he says it should be privately funded which is not dodgy in the least, is it? A boat given to the royal family paid for by anonymous donors to do deals in the brave new world.
Johnson told his audience on Thursday night this new royal yacht would be a post-Brexit weapon in our foreign policy. Right. Does the Queen want this? The great man doesnt appear to know. He replied: I think the crucial thing is that it should be something that Her Majesty herself actually wants and Ive not established that. But a yacht is a perfect symbolic vessel for the post-Brexit buccaneers of the high seas. Business done on boats by oligarchs who can fly on to its helicopter pad is how this country will flourish apparently. What will go on there, and who is accountable?
We already know he loves a big symbol of power: a bridge. The unbuilt garden bridge on which millions was wasted. Boris Island, an airport in the Thames estuary. He is enthusiastic about a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland. All of this selling of impossibility is alluring to his base. It passes for imagination and derring-do, rather than the jottings of an ill-prepared egomaniac.
He cares about displays of might that benefit the already gilded. This has nothing to do with healing a divided country. It has everything to do with how he will operate as prime minister. He will front it out. His only idea for the country is that it becomes more like him. We pretend to be a superpower even if we are not, we fake sovereignty while relying on unnamed businessmen, we wing it but call this independence. We will actually bow down before anyone who will buy a used car from us.
It is all a facade. He is the ringmaster of the circus in this fake-it-till-you-make-it version of global trade. His promise, both personally and politically, is to act as if you are in power even if you are not. It worked for him and thats all that matters. It is not for Queen or country. The yacht is just another side-show in the vanity project that will be his premiership.
Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist