Perils of treating Johnson like a celeb rather than a politician…

WHAT’S the difference between Boris Johnson and a celebrity? Not a lot to go by the interview he granted to the Sunday on Sunday, as followed up in yesterday’s edition of the Sun.

In the Sunday serving, the headline read: “Docs were ready for me to die.” On Monday: “Baby gave me will to live.”

David Wooding, political editor of the Sun on Sunday, opined from his chat with the prime minister that it was clear his “brush with death had left him a changed man”.

Just how changed will be a game of wait and see, I’d say.

The post-virus-new-baby interview was a scoop for the two Suns in that Johnson spoke only to them. But in appearance, it was the sort of interview usually granted to a celebrity: you know, no nasty questions, a nice chat beforehand about what will end up in print, advisers on hand to deflect awkward questions, a quiet word about the headline, and so on.

If Boris Johnson had the guts and gravitas, he would give a live television interview to a big hitter interviewer such as Andrew Neil of the BBC or Jon Snow of Channel 4. But he doesn’t do that because they would treat him as a politician rather than a celebrity.

As the comedian and writer Katy Brand pointed out on Twitter, Johnson saying that his new baby gave him the will to stay alive could also be seen as tasteless.

Here is what Brand tweeted: “I donated to the fund to help NHS worker Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong’s family and newborn baby when she died of Covid-19 just after giving birth. Wanting to see your baby isn’t what keeps you alive. Good PPE is what keeps you alive. Stop this awful crap please.”

Over at the Mail on Sunday, they had their own awful crap to peddle, having dusted off the “Minister bashes the BBC” headline they keep handy.

On this occasion, the minister was Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary (BBC battering being a requirement of the role). He came on very heavy in a letter to BBC boss Tony Hall about the Panorama report on lack of PPE, claiming that numbers of those interviewed were political activists.

Well, after ten years of cuts to the NHS, you’d be hard pushed to find many Tory-supporting medics. But this isn’t really the issue so much as a minister behaving like a thug and “the Vote Leave government trying to make confected tribal allegiance more important than evidence”, as pointed out by broadcaster James O’Brien.

Dowden said he “understood” there had been a number of complaints to Ofcom – understood as in he and his mates were the ones doing the complaining, perhaps.

It is for Ofcom to rule on these matters, not for ministers to come on heavy as if in an authoritarian state or Trump’s America.

That bullying letter from Oliver Dowden (no, me neither until the other day) didn’t bother denying the facts of the Panorama report.

There is much talk now about how life will change once we come out of lockdown. Judging by Dowden’s attack on the BBC, generally admired for its reporting of the crisis, the answer is not a lot in this respect at least.

Incidentally, also on Twitter – look, it’s a bad habit but I can’t help myself – John O’Connell, of Far Right Watch, put up a picture of Tweets from individuals all saying the same thing word for word about “journalism missing the mood in this great country of ours”. Whether these are Tory Twitter bots or Tory twits behaving like bots hardly matters. It just shows that Dominic Cummings and his gang are still working out of that news massage parlour.

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