On the art of sniffing milk and prime ministers…

JUST give that milk a sniff. So said Morrisons the other day when announcing that it was dispensing with use-by dates.

With accidentally pertinent timing, this came just as everyone was finally starting to sniff something else that seems to have turned.

I just checked again and it’s off for sure. There’s a terrible cheesy and winey smell, a stink of stale entitlement mixed with a sour wash of shifty lies kept too long at the back of the fridge. Never mind that cartoonish splodge on the carton, Boris Johnson has gone right off.

Some of us spotted the mould had set in long ago. Doesn’t this smell funny to you, we said, passing the crumpled Eton yoghurt pot around. Oh, that’s just Boris smelling like Boris, his defenders said.

Now even his MPs are sniffing that pot and wondering what they bought, as their great communicator is reduced to bumbling his words, smirking when dodging serious questions, and hiding.

Even the normally supportive Sun newspaper is damning on its front page today – “It’s my party and I’ll lie low if I want to.” That’s fine as far as it goes, but you need to remove the ‘low’ for a more accurate headline.

As you will not need reminding, Johnson is in trouble over whether he attended a lockdown party in the garden on No 10. Along with other assorted parties he might or might not have popped along to.

The bring-your-own-bottle party is the one that’s causing him problems now.

A party that occurred after a press conference during which we’d all been told to stay indoors. A party that occurred just before the story broke about Dominic Cummings bending the rules to drive to Barnard Castle “to test his eyesight”.

And, more sombrely, a party that occurred when relatives were being told they couldn’t visit loved ones in care homes and some, incredibly, are even said to have been reduced to watching their loved ones die on Zoom.

And if Johnson cannot see what’s wrong with that, he’s an even worse man than we thought.

Many of his blatant character faults have been well aired here and elsewhere. It’s all too easy to assemble Boris’s Bad Bits, a sort of greatest hits album in reverse. Let’s widen this out instead.

Something else that smells off is featured on the front page of The New York Times today, under the headline: “How Boris is revealing his true self.”

This opinion piece by Moya Lothian-McLean is less concerned with his present troubles than with what his government has been doing with its power.

Having arrived at No 10 by hitching a ride on the back of Brexit, Johnson talked about restoring “freedom” and “taking back control”. What he and his lieutenants have done instead, Lothian-McLean writes, is to seize control for themselves and strip away the freedoms of others.

“A raft of bills likely to pass this year will set Britain, self-professed beacon of democracy, on the road to autocracy,” she writes. “Once in place, the legislation will be very hard to shift. For Mr Johnson, it amounts to a concerted power-grab.”

After wondering just who this political chameleon called Boris might be, Lothian-McLean delivers her killer punch ­– “Now he has revealed who he really is: a brattish authoritarian who puts his personal whims above anything else.”

That really is a case of how others see us. The BYOB party could be the undoing of Johnson, but another even darker story lies behind all those headlines. But you need to be in New York to notice what’s going on.

Now that Sir Keir Starmer is out of isolation (again!), perhaps he could start pointing out some of these things.

Meanwhile, one of our own newspapers prints parallel-planet propaganda like this…

But not all our newspapers are falling down on the job, as shown by this front ‘page’ from the online only Independent, suggesting that No 10 staff were told to ‘clear up their phones’ before the investigation into those parties…


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