FEELING cross about Boris Johnson is a waste of angry breath, but don’t let that stop you.
We are used now to his chicanery, charlatanism and his carefully cultivated clownish image, the hair mussed up, the suit ill-fitting, and his posh, barking intonation, where the words crash into each other like cars parked without a care on a steep hill.
And then there are the lies, the cheap bricks on which he stands and bellows. Johnson was sacked from The Times in the late 1980s for making up a quote. Rather than act as a deterrence, that dismissal seems only to have emboldened him.
Sometimes it seems deliberate; sometimes he just can’t be arsed remembering whatever damn thing it was he said last time. It’s as if he exists in a continuous dishonest present, in which nothing he has said, or ever will say, really matters so long as he continues to shuffle down that corridor. Either he is lying, or he has weaponised forgetfulness, or a mash-up of both.
Thanks to the Health Service Journal, we now have evidence that this habit appears to be written into government communications policy.
You may recall that last week the health secretary, Sajid Javid, boasted about opening a new hospital in Carlisle. He faced much online criticism for this, as it wasn’t a new hospital at all but a new cancer centre in the Cumberland Infirmary.
As he headed north for the opening ceremony, Javid tweeted that he was “Looking forward to opening one of the new 48 hospitals today” – pledging to open that number of new hospitals by the end of the decade being a Johnsonian wheeze.
What the HSJ has uncovered suggests that telling such whoppers is now official policy. The journal has discovered a communications ‘playbook’ for the government’s NHS building programme. This orders health trusts that major refurbishments and new wings or units which are part of the scheme “must always be referred to as a new hospital”.
This is astonishing, or it would be under any other administration, but this tatty lot regard telling the truth with the disdain that their boss holds for his comb.
The HSJ prints this telling paragraph from the comms policy: “The schemes named in the announcement are not all identical and vary across a number of factors. However, they do all satisfy the criteria we set of what a new hospital is and so must always be referred to as a new hospital.”
Johnson made this barmy pledge, and now the comms policy is being wrestled into a shape that fits his narrative, if not the poor, downtrodden truth.
Part of this is just crazy. I don’t know if the government has realised, but people live locally and tend to notice things. They’d certainly clock if a new hospital was being built, as hospitals are often huge and employ many people.
It’s not as if you wander around your area and suddenly notice a new hospital that wasn’t there before. People will notice and they should call out this nonsense when they see it.
The odd thing is, the new units or whatever that are being built are a good thing, so there is no need to wrap them in Brexit-style whopper-tape.
Incidentally, Brexit seems to be collapsing all around us, causing food shortages and other forms of pre-told misery, only hardly anyone at the BBC has noticed.
Perhaps a memo has gone out about that too – “The sunny uplands of this new arrangement satisfy the criteria we set of what getting Brexit done is and so must always be referred to as a great British success story.”