Boris Johnson continues to baffle me.
It’s not that I wasn’t ready for his kind of Prime Ministership. We all pretty well knew what we were getting when a majority of us didn’t vote for him. He avoided all scrutiny except that of the police during the leadership campaign – Jeremy Hunt proved himself the much more reasonable and mature candidate – and then made like a fishfinger, hiding at the bottom of a fridge during the December election, which he was gifted through the equally effective work of the right-wing press and a left-wing bozo. Boris had it all easy, as is usually the way with all things Boris.
Yet when he won, I thought we’d see two changes take place. The first was that he’d revert to type and become the big inclusive liberal One Nation Tory he’d always claimed to be. This was made more obvious because of the manner of his victory in November. He couldn’t stop saying enough nice things about the North. The North bit would largely be forgotten as the government got down to muddling its response to the pandemic, but the Chancellor’s largesse has been surprisingly generous. Money for everybody [footnote: except those that really need it]!
The other thing I expected was a serious knuckling down to the job of being Prime Minister. All the trademark Johnsonisms would go, or, at least, get a trim. He wouldn’t look such a shambolic mess all the time, would master his briefs (or at least tuck them in), and wouldn’t resort to stupid stunts in order to make meaningless headlines. If there was one doubt that everybody had about Boris it was that he wasn’t mature enough to lead the country. His career had been marked by laziness but also a reliance on the likability of his big bumbling character. Surely, this time would be different…
Yes, it was naïve ever to think that.
So far this week, we’ve had a front-page splash of Boris doing cock push ups before he became the first big guest on Rupert Murdock’s newest venture, Times Radio. Boris turned up at the studio looking like he’d spent his night wrestling with the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt, before attempted to recast himself as a latter day Franklin D. He promised the spend like crazy to avoid the inevitable job losses after this pandemic. Doing so, he resorted to his typical formulations, heavy on the alliteration. “We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband – you name it.”
Bloody bootiful! Boris boosts Britain’s bounty!
Alliteration really is the cheapest rhetoric trick. And that’s the problem with Boris. His first six months in office have been characterised by tricks, tics, and utter banality in the face of perhaps the biggest crisis to hit the country since World War 2. Would Churchill have dropped down to give us ten to prove everything was alright? Or would he have put on his serious face and provide a symbol of maturity at a time when people needed to know that the bright people are in charge.
This Boris completely fails to do. His clown act bores even us clowns. I don’t believe a thing he says and much as I despise myself for being so cynical at a time like this, I think cynical me might have a point.
It’s made worse by the fact that whilst Boris acts like he’s next in line for the bouncy castle, his administration is going about dismantling the Civil Service, replacing a supporting pillar of our establishment and replacing it with a tower made of Dominic Cummings’s cardboard coffee cups. It’s beginning to feel like that episode of Fawlty Towers when the builder turns up and asks what kind of lintel they used, only to be told a “four by two”.
Meanwhile, Brexit remains the runaway septic tank, trundling towards the local reservoir. The water will sure taste good next year, with no significant trade deals made and a No-Deal Brexit the outcome most of us predicted.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Russian Report, the stench of which is even noticeable this far North. At the very least, it’s getting really difficult not to suspect it contains something particularly critical about Johnson’s relationship with Evgeny Lebedev.
Yet perhaps the abiding suspicion I have is that there’s really nobody in charge. People joke about Cummings being the real power behind the throne but I suspect that dog he bought as a whizzo idea to woo the media spends more time on the throne that its master. There’s big talk about rebuilding schools and getting everything back to normal in September but not much evidence that the government are implementing the kind of short-term changes that would make that possible. Their plan to produce thousand of hours of videos to replace teaching should the schools not open seems, from here, to be an almost unconscious admission that anything more comprehensive might not be possible. There’s talk of the entire nation being vaccinated by Christmas when they’ve taken months simply to get testing off the ground.
A quote comes to mind by Tom Werner, the American producer behind Mork & Mindy, Soap, and Taxi, and now chairman of Liverpool FC. He said over the weekend: “We want to undersell and overdeliver.” This they have done. They never promised fans any titles, but they did say that they would always take sensible measures to put the right people and processes in place. It’s exactly the opposite to how this government operates. They overpromise and underdeliver, with a conspicuous absence of the right people and processes in place. We just have Boris, scruffing up his hair, and trying to woo us some bafflingly banal bumbling braggadocio, aka bollocks.
2 thoughts on “Boris”
Agreed with you about Johnson at the time, agree now, agree that nobody seems to be running the country. Personally I don’t think he will last the course and someone else will be in the hot seat before the next election.
Don’t talk about the B word with anyone as it ain’t worth it but suffice to say whatever you tend to think I am probably thinking the opposite 😉
On majorities, seen you mention this before. It seems to have become a thing since the B word that no one shall name nor get into an argument about came into being. I think Baldwin was the only person to ever to achieve a majority of votes cast , that back in 1931. If you invoke Major’s FBPE law of minorities then you could say that nobody has ever carried a majority of the electorate since universal suffrage. On those terms, the 70.7% shunning Boris is at least progress from the 78.4% who didn’t vote for Tony Blair in 2005 , a 66 seat majority on 21.6% of the electorate, and a fateful vote as it turned out.
I did my bit for a fairer voting system during my “yoof”, voted LibDem up to 2010, when they sold out, I was even one of the ten people who voted for AV at the referendum. Still support and believe in PR even though it wouldn’t suit my preferences at the moment. People seem to like the system they have where they vote against what they don’t want rather than voting for what they do.
Yes, I know the B word is a matter of faith now. No point arguing it. Might as well argue about God.
I was brought up believing in first past the post and the logic that it produced strong governments. That too feels increasingly like a matter of faith. Unless some method of 3D printing stonework can reduce costs, then the Palace of Westminister is going to be a neo-Gothic sinkhole for public money. I’m increasingly of the opinion we need a new parliament, in a modern building, adapted to modern ways of working (proper office space, electronic voting). We would also need a new system of running our elections. Doubt it will happen, though. We’re in thrall to the past.
Yes, you’re right about majorities but since 1950, the party that wins has been dipping quite regularly below 40% and there’s a slight but noticeable trend, especially with Other rising. Brexit isn’t the reason I’ve changed my mind as much as the fragmentation of the old two-party system. I am actively discouraged from voting because I know my vote is meaningless, and that really can’t be healthy in any democracy. My own bullshit/hypocrisy sensors also start flashing. I feel it increasingly incongruous with so many of my other opinions about science, technology, and progress that I should get so hot under the collar about some parliamentary procedures. Much as I like history and tradition, they shouldn’t get in our way. The debacle around voting in recent weeks, with Mogg ending remote voting, was the final straw. We looked ridiculous in the eyes of the world. If we’re so obsessed with tradition that we’d put people’s lives at risks, then it’s an unhealthy obsession.