They may have lost the vote, but supporters of the motion backing Boris Johnson helped bring about a dramatic turnaround at last night’s Althing Debate, which was held at the Isleburgh Community Centre in Lerwick.
An initial show of hands at the beginning of the debate revealed only one reluctant supporter of the controversial Foreign Secretary, with 12 folk voting against the motion ‘This house has confidence in Boris Johnson’.
But as Richard Forbes began to argue for the motion before the crowd of around 25 folk – with a heart-felt talk occasionally peppered with Latin phrases – opponents Ian Scott and Johan Adamson had it all to play for. Eleven people, after all, were undecided at the beginning of the night.
“You can rely on Boris to be Boris,” said Mr Forbes. “‘Brand Boris’, if you like. He’s charismatic – someone who’s open, someone who takes risks and is not afraid to fail.”
Supporting the Radio Shetland presenter was Chris Bunyan who recalled meeting Mr Johnson on the London tube in the days before he was made Foreign Secretary – an encounter which led him to invite Boris to take part in an Althing debate should he ever gain that job.
“The motion tonight is that we have confidence in Boris Johnson – not confidence in him as Prime Minister, or potential Prime Minister, or even confidence in Boris Johnson as a Foreign Secretary – but confidence in him as himself, to be Boris, warts and all. How many politicians can you think of who are honest enough to say what they actually believe?”
Mr Scott, however, was far from convinced.
“We are being asked, as a house, to declare confidence in Boris Johnson. In truth, I believe, declaring confidence in Boris Yeltsin would have more chance of success.”
Mrs Adamson said Boris was “out of touch”.
“He tried and failed to become rector of Edinburgh Uni – even Jonathan Wills managed to do that. He blusters, he blunders, he’s just a total baffoon. He’s meant to be educated, but he’s totally bombastic. It’s an image he cultivates, he thinks it makes him popular.”
In the end, the vote went against the motion – but only just. Ten hands went up against, and nine for, leaving five undecided.
Last night’s was the first of the Althing debates to be held this season. The next is due to be held on 18th November, where “Bullies rule the world” will be the motion.