The dust of controversy stirred up by Boris Johnson is always about him and not whatever ridiculous or offensive words he just uttered to feed his addiction to self-promotion and the endless lash of headlines.
And if that last paragraph conjures an image of Johnson stripped to the waist while having his back whipped by the dominatrix of attention, well please accept my apologies.
He’d barely left the Foreign Office before he was invited back to the Daily Telegraph, where his less than prodigal return was greeted on the front page with the announcement: “He’s coming home.”
Reports that on reading that his wife said: “Oh shit!” and dropped a plate can be ignored, as I just made them up.
What is true is that Theresa May insisted Johnson stop writing his column when she made him foreign secretary. But he sneaked through the back door anyway to dash off a few columns, usually critical of May.
Now he’s back to his sideline career as a commentator and big mouth – a gig that is reported to earn him £275,000 a year.
When he was Mayor of London – an earlier stage in the Bor-rassic era – he said that his then Telegraph pay of £250,000 was “chicken feed”.
The latest rash of look-at-me headlines has been stirred by Johnson saying that Muslim women wearing burkas “look like letter boxes”. He also compared them to “bank robbers”.
According to the BBC, a source close to Johnson said he “won’t be apologising”, adding: “We must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on difficult issues.”
Yes, Johnson was sticking up for liberal values – while, ahem, saying something highly illiberal.
Johnson has been seen about with Steve Bannon, the former Trump strategist, ardent far-right agitator and fellow “nasty piece of work” (thank you Eddie Mair for that useful Boris label). Bannon loves to weaponise hatred – and, in Trump, we have a US president who has embraced hatred of outsiders. Essentially he is the first President of Hate.
Trump and Johnson occasionally indulge in mutual backslapping, but Johnson is a minnow in the attention-seeking pool next to that old pike Trump.
Yet we should try not to be detracted by Trump all the time. Look, instead, to Italy, where a rise in racist attacks has been blamed on the new far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini.
Or look to Spain, where the arrival of around 20,000 migrants – to a nation of 40 million – has seen the new leader of the Conservative People’s party, Pablo Casado, bang the anti-immigration drum.
Baroness Warsi – a surprisingly sensible Tory – called Johnson out on what she described as his “dog-whistle Islamophobia”. She’s right on that, and the main reason Johnson does and says such things is to appeal to the Tory grassroots, where such opinions still have currency. For he still thinks he could lead his party.
But just remember this: it’s not about the burka – it’s all about the berk.