The Spectator Podcast: who is Boris Johnson, really?

This week has seen the continually bizarre spectacle of the Tory leadership contest grind on. Earlier this week Sajid Javid pitched himself as the candidate best placed to ‘make a better Boris’, reflecting the strange reality of a contest in which only one of the candidates really believes they can win.

But who is Boris Johnson, really? The man who looks almost certain to be our next prime minister seems to divide opinion like no one else in British politics. Is he a charismatic man of the people, or a phoney demagogue? A progressive liberal or a Brexit extremist covering for the far right? In this week’s magazine, Toby Young argues that Boris’ opponents are so blinded by their dislike of him, they’ve completely lost sight of who he actually is. He talks to Stephen Bush, Political Editor of the New Statesman, to discuss Johnson’s character, as well as the shape of his forthcoming premiership.

Away from Westminster, whatever happened to the Isis terrorists nicknamed the Beatles? Before Shamima Begum emerged as Isis’ most famous British recruit, these four young men from the UK were among Britain’s most infamous exports to the caliphate. Paul Wood writes in this week’s magazine that, in spite of their amusing nicknames, these four men were responsible for some of the worst excesses of Isis violence. He says that the scale of their crimes hasn’t yet been heard publicly, but they may never be put on trial. He joins us down the line from Beirut, alongside Tom Wilson, Senior Research fellow at Policy Exchange and an expert in the study of extremist groups and counter-terrorism strategy.

Finally, does the Lord’s prayer need a 21st century re-fit? Pope Francis seems to think so, having courted controversy by approving a revised translation of Christianity’s most beloved prayer. He says it’s a minor change that better reflects the church’s view of God, but critics say it’s yet another infraction against tradition by a pope who doesn’t know his place. Melanie McDonagh writes for the Spectator this week that the change is not only theologically wrong, but a threat to one of Christianity’s most important and unifying cultural artefacts. She joins us, with Marcus Walker, rector of Great St. Bartholomew’s Church in London and former Deputy Director of the Anglican Communion’s embassy to the Vatican.

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