Boris Johnson’s stand-up routine falls flat in Downing Street

Standing in Downing Street last night, Boris Johnson was the reverse Jehovah’s Witness. Instead of knocking on your door, he spoilt your peace by stepping outside his door to deliver a new commandment from his Book of Brexit (“Thou shalt just bloody well do what I tell you”).

No one much likes having their bell bothered by the Witnesses, who receive divine credits for knocking on doors (thanks, Google); Boris Johnson deserves no credit for his backwards door-stepping gig.

Prime ministers do like grandstanding moments that are rarely grand. Theresa May was always dragging her weary whinge bones on to that podium to mumble nothing of much account. Now Johnson is at it, too.

Last night’s turn was a poor effort. Normally, Johnson gives the impression of enjoying the political stand-up routine; normally, he knocks out a few ‘jokes’ (other evaluations of their humour content are available), then bumble-bounces off with a cheery mock-Churchillian wave.

Last night the heckles of protesters in Downing Street put him off his stride. The mask slipped, and that character known as Boris slipped a little too, revealing the man behind the chummy waxwork.

We should all know by now that ‘Boris’ is a creation, a stage character, part comedian, part charming chancer – a put-up job to disguise the ruthless creature beneath.

The mask coming untethered should remind us of the unstable character of this man who slipped into Downing Street when no one was paying attention.

Before that speech last night, the political editors and the TV presenters chattered excitedly about how an election was about to be announced. In the event, Johnson said nothing much, piffle-waffling for a few thankfully brief moments.

The meat in this thin sandwich was back me or face a snap election on October 14. “I don’t want an election, you don’t want an election,” Johnson waffled-piffled. Oh, how do you know what I want? It’s irksome to be told what you want by Johnson. What I desire is for him to fall headline into a stagnant vat of his own Latin jokes and never be seen again; sadly, we don’t always get what we want.

Although less assured than usual, last night’s stand-up routine was another bout of autocratic bossiness – do what I say or else.

And the way Johnson threatens rebel Tory MPs threatening to join Labour to stop a no-deal is a disgrace ­­– and towering hypocrisy, even for him. He rebelled against his predecessor all the time, joining Jeremy Corbyn to vote down her Brexit bill (and Corbyn is another lifelong rebel who doesn’t tolerate rebellion from others).

Looking back now, you wonder if the rejection of May’s soft Brexit bill was a victory at all. That long-negotiated deal allowed for our gradual and managed exit from the EU. All that Johnson’s no-deal, no-parachute jump over the cliff guarantees is instant and then lasting chaos.

The Tories should not get away with calling an election before the Brexit deadline of October 31 – and Labour should be wary of voting for such a snap election.

No one listens to Tony Blair nowadays, but he is right to warn as he did yesterday that such an election would be an elephant trap for Labour, with the split opposition vote delivering a likely Tory victory.

No one much likes Blair now, but he’s right on this, and he did win three elections in a row.

Jeremy Corbyn says he wants an election; well, he has to say that, doesn’t he, as he’s been banging on about having one for ages. But it’s hard not to worry that the 2017 campaign might be as good as it gets for Corbyn.


Are any more cute pets being transported into Downing Street today to distract the media, or was that a one-trick puppy? Once that dog gets to know its new owner, chances are it’ll scoot back to the rescue centre.

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