For one, his ascendency suggests that the Conservative party has simply run out of a set of ideas it can unite behind. Johnsons post-Brexit economic plans are more nostalgia fest than grand vision. The manifesto offers little beyond the partial restoration of the public services that the party has been devastating for a decade. Can anyone recall an innovative Tory policy idea in the last three decades beyond basic Thatcherism 101?
But his rise also tells us that the UK establishment has become socially and ideologically incoherent. Globalisation severely divided their ranks. Eton and Oxbridge may be overrepresented in recent cabinets, as well as in the judiciary and other elite pockets but such pedigree means less among the more transient ranks of todays international CEOs and financiers. In those circles, economic capital is the only cultural capital one needs.
Decades of neoliberalism brought a shake-up of establishment winners and losers. While City players reached ever greater heights, the old Tory shire faithful were pushed to the margins. As private business consultants and magic circle lawyers flourished, BBC top brass and Whitehall mandarins saw their public servant status diminished. Brexit is likely to produce a new set of elite victors and also-rans.