How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. First the constant, blatant lies. Challenged by Andrew Marr yesterday about the 400,000 more children in poverty since 2010, the Prime Minister suggested there were in fact 400,000 fewer. A very big fat porkie which leapt effortlessly to lips to whom the truth has long been a stranger.As Andrew Marr sought to locate his inner Andrew Neil, Johnson relied on tried and tested techniques unbecoming anyone who would offer himself as the leader of his country. It wasn’t just the customary, arm waving bluster – irritating as hell as it is – but the fact that he calculated if he didn’t pause for breath, the interviewer would be hard pressed to get too many awkward questions in.

Then the poor politician’s all purpose standby – whatever the problem it was the other guys’ fault. Terrorists on the loose? All down to Labour. Austerity breaking the fabric of society? Only necessary because Labour left the economy in tatters. And so, shamelessly, on. Constantly reminded that the Tories had been in power for ten years, Johnson said he had only been in charge for a matter of months. The Conservative government? Nothing to do with me guv! Even if I did once grace it as the worst Foreign Secretary on record.

The party only began in July, apparently, when he took the top job the same way as he hopes to keep it – by avoiding any kind of scrutiny of his policies. An essential tactic, because he doesn’t have many and he really can’t be arsed reading the ones fed to him. The sheer scale of his evasiveness took the most cynical breath away. OK so the money for 34 of his “40 new hospitals” was just seed funding for a business plan. But hey, why would you have a business plan if you didn’t intend to do business? OK so lots of the 50,000 “new” nurses are actually nurses in the NHS already that he needs to persuade not to leave. No worries. They’ll be well impressed with the money his government will shove in. And, most ludicrous of all, denying that his famous withdrawal deal (copyright T. May with the odd twiddle) means a border in the Irish sea leaving Northern Ireland essentially part of the customs union and single trade arrangements of the European Union. As his own Brexit secretary has admitted. Then again, he’s probably read it.

This is a man without a conscience backed by a team without shame. We knew about the attempt to re-brand Tory HQ as an independent fact checker, and flogging a Tory website as the Labour Manifesto one. We knew they’d done a cut and paste job on a Keir Starmer interview making a man who actually does understand the consequences of Brexit seem to flounder. But now we find a blog by The Secret Barrister explaining the legal complexity of sentencing has been lifted wholesale and posted as a Johnson twitter thread. This isn’t just common plagiarism, it’s fraud on an industrial scale. Compare and contrast Johnson live yesterday saying he wouldn’t go into tedious detail about how he plans to improve terrorist monitoring. That’s because he doesn’t do tedious detail. Or, indeed, any detail.

What he does do is deploy his erstwhile employers at The Daily Telegraph as de facto Tory election leafletters. There was a time when readers of any persuasion admired this publication for it’s rigorous approach to hard news. Long gone. Now it peddles comment as news, not infrequently topped by a quote from its star columnist; one, Boris Johnson. Ah yes, Johnson the columnist. He could scarcely conceal his irritation yesterday that people might be so mean as to flag up crass things he had written. Ok he may have been racist about Muslim women, dismissive of feckless single mothers and their unsavoury offspring, casually abusive about anything else which popped into his hapless head as the deadline loomed. But, y’know, people shouldn’t take offence when he let off a little harmless steam.

Except of course it isn’t harmless. Nor is it in the distant past of a man so economical with the actuality that a previous editor of the same broadsheet fired him for serially lying about Europe when he was their man in Brussels. Boris Johnson continues to badmouth people at will and without evidence, because he sees no reason to play by anyone else’s rules. He is a mobile advert for the worst kind of entitled posh boy, altogether too posh to give a toss what the plebs might think.

Characteristically, he refused again to commit to the Neil interview all other party leaders have given. Even stooped to a little fatuous flattery of the Andrew whom he was facing. That’s another of his trademark tropes – if all else fails, revert to cheery, cheeky chappie mode. Well, enough! This campaign has been run on a series of tired slogans calculated to burn into the consciousness of swithering electors. No more “dither and delay”, “get Brexit done”. When even he must have grasped that delay is built into any future trade deals, and Brexit will be with us until Johnson’s youngest child – whom he can’t quite recall – is finishing university.

It’s also being run by people who put such a paltry price on their own soul that they’ve flogged it off to allow them to back publicly a man they once reviled as being unfit for office. The pathetic Matt Hancock whose word is not so much his bond as a single transferable thought for the day. The egregious Michael Gove, now so enslaved by the man he once stabbed in the front, that he’s not above orchestrating a cheap stunt with Johnson’s dad – a transparent attempt to shift the news agenda from the non appearance of his boss on a Channel Four debate, to manufactured outrage about the way the broadcaster played the PM’s absence.

It seems that Johnson was just too busy to make the show. Just as he’s seemingly too busy to go in front of Neil.Maybe he’s had to find time to brush up on his technology skills. It’s said he’s well acquainted with an entrepreneurial blonde in that field. Harmless fun.



First published in The National 2.12.19