They may have led the same political party, but everything else places Boris Johnson as the polar opposite of his revered Conservative predecessor, Margaret Thatcher. Her determination serves to underline his own amateurism. And although Johnson will inevitably go down in British history, it will not necessarily be for the right reasons, writes Dominique Moisi.
On the eve of Britain’s departure from the European Union, the recent release of the fourth season of The Crown raises questions over the influence that series such as this have on contemporary politics. In this particular case, it is difficult not to see the show’s portrayal of the “Thatcher Years” as an implicit criticism of the “Johnson Years.”
Johnson seems to see himself as a modern-day Churchill, a personal hero of his to the extent that Johnson wrote a biography of the wartime leader. In fact, in The Crown, he appears as the absolute antithesis of Thatcher: a ‘straw man’, versus the ‘Iron Lady.’
Their respective hairstyles exemplify their contrasting personalities. Thatcher’s resolute hairstyle encapsulates her desire for absolute control. Johnson’s hairstyle (an effort, some rumor-mongers claim, to cover up his increasing baldness), on the contrary, conveys the non-conformism and eccentricity that is characteristic of British social elites: on the one hand, a hard-working petit bourgeois and, on the other, a member of the established British upper-class.
Another major difference is in the roles of their respective partners. Denis Thatcher was fully at his wife’s service. Conversely, it is felt by some that Carrie Symonds, Johnson’s fiancée, has a real influence on the decisions made within 10 Downing Street. Additionally, the depiction of Thatcher in The Crown—from her decisiveness in the Falklands War to her determination to force through massive changes on to the very fabric of British society—demonstrate the weaknesses, and even perhaps the amateurism, of the current Prime Minister. We can see that the political and societal context into which the fourth season of The Crown has been released is not altogether incidental.