BREXIT and Boris and other bastardised bother – that’s my embarkation point this morning.
The inhabitant of this ledge has long believed that Boris Johnson is a ruthless, scheming, out-for-himself operator and not the charming bumbler of all too convenient pretence. If proof were needed of his reckless regard towards anyone who isn’t called Boris Johnson, it finally arrived when simply by opening his big mouth he possibly condemned a British-Iranian woman to a further five years in jail.
Good sense is a foreign land to Johnson – and let’s get over the creepily chummy Boris business. The Foreign Secretary said to a parliamentary committee last week that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “simply teaching people journalism”. Her distraught family say she was in Iran on holiday.
Now Iranian state television has cited Johnson’s idiot words as proof she had been spying for the British – and that could double her five-year sentence.
Johnson has always been good with words, in the sense that he writes well and knows how to grab attention with a speech. But he is also careless with words: speaking and writing is a self-boosting performance art to him – with an ‘ah’ and a bumble, he’s off again, seemingly saying whatever comes off the top of his head.
This ability served him well as a columnist, where saying whatever happens to be uppermost in the mental attic is all part of the act. But as Foreign Secretary, Johnson should show far greater caution. Words have impact – and his careless words about Zaghari-Ratcliffe may well keep her in jail and away from her young daughter and British husband for another five years.
Johnson has since made a very reluctant apology – an apology so tardy as to be a further insult. This morning’s Daily Mirror makes a reasonable demand to Theresa May – listing the damage done to Zaghari-Ratcliffe by her foreign secretary’s rogue elephant mouth, then saying: “Now sack him.”
That seems unlikely as Mrs Maybe is a weak prime minister held hostage by unravelling events – and by her own cabinet.
This morning she outlines plans to set the time and date of our departure from the EU in law, warning she will not “tolerate” any attempt to block Brexit.
Theresa May stamping her feet and saying she won’t tolerate something is like a teacher who long ago lost control of her class standing there in tears and mumbling that this behaviour is appalling. No one is listening, and they are all shouting whatever they want to shout.
She’s lost two Cabinet ministers in a week, for heaven’s sake: a groping Defence Secretary and a gone-rogue international development minister. The hill on which Mrs Maybe stands is not high or mighty, but a molehill and she will only be allowed to stay for so much longer. Not a place from which to made demands.
Now I know that Brexit hasn’t happened yet: for good or bad we are still merely at the shouting and squabbling stage. A country that has a more than reasonable claim to past greatness has been reduced to a sectional land where the two halves of the Brexit debate pour rancour on each other. And nothing else gets done.
People look at us from abroad, and wonder whether they’d misunderstood us for all those years. Where, they ask, are the sensible Brits with their calm heads and understated manners? Perhaps, they think with a shrug, before turning their attention to something more important, the Brits just aren’t so great any more.
Still, Theresa May is making demands, so everything will be all right.