Does Boris Johnson Need Brexit More Than Brexit Needs Him?

A analysis of a quarter of a million posts in social media shows that Boris Johnson has Brexit to thank for keeping his leadership ambitions on track

If Boris Johnson’s opponents in the battle for the Tory leadership are betting on him disappearing beneath a deluge of negative newspaper headlines, they need to look at how discussion of Johnson is playing out in social media. So far in June, no other issue linked with Johnson has surpassed the daily volume of comments posted about his views on Brexit.

Brexit overshadows all of the things Johnson doesn’t want to talk about. Social media discussion about Johnson’s private life peaked on 22 June, but the volume of posts about the row between Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds was still less than the daily slanging match over Johnson and Brexit. It’s a similar story for issues upon which Johnson appears less certain. Discussion of how the NHS would fare under a Johnson government is only 5 per cent of the social media debate.

As a defence mechanism, Brexit is working in Johnson’s favour, but it also distracts public interest away from the issues he does want to discuss. Johnson’s efforts to promote his record as Mayor of London and his new tax plans have suffered a loss of momentum in social media because of the obsession with Brexit. 

Many of the people posting about Johnson on Twitter are opposed to Britain leaving the EU. I suspect Johnson and his camp won’t mind one bit, nor will the Conservative party members who Johnson needs to convince. So long as people are talking about Europe at the expense of everything else, Johnson has a platform and remains in the game.

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