BORIS Johnson has two faces or maybe more. One is the shouty big-mouth politician spoiling for a fight, the other the would-be statesman. He’s much better at one than the other, and no prizes for sticking the tail on that bellowing donkey.
At prime minister’s questions yesterday, Johnson was frustrated by Sir Keir Starmer’s refusal to play the desired game. Starmer had spotted the big sign saying Brexit Elephant Trap, and walked around it.
Instead of asking about the government’s apparent wish to break international law over the EU withdrawal agreement, Starmer dedicated all of his allotted six questions to the government’s chaotic track-and-trace system.
Johnson blustered through that, then apropos of nothing started booming about the Northern Ireland protocol.
You might have thought he’d have kept his mouth zipped on that one. But he was hoping to lure Starmer into the old Brexit quagmire into which Jeremy Corbyn sank without trace.
The new line from Johnson Conniving & Co is that the withdrawal agreement was never up to scratch and was signed in a hurry. Well, yes, it was bundled through parliament on his instructions. Next he’ll be saying he missed that part because it was covered by a coffee stain. Or the dog ate his copy of the agreement.
Johnson tried his statesmanlike act later in a Downing Street press conference about new Covid restrictions being introduced on Monday. Christmas is cancelled was the verdict in today’s papers – even though only the other month, Johnson said everything would be over by then, no worries.
That’s the problem with the two faces of Boris Johnson: which one do you trust and does either tell the truth? At the press conference, he said “As your prime minister” in a way that was meant to be reassuring, but risked mugs of tea being dropped up and down the country. Oh, shit, yeah – we’d forgotten about that. He’s the prime minister, dear God.
Then he started dressing things up, busking along, the old make-it-up-as-you-type columnist in him coming to the surface. Not sure what to say? Just come up with a catchphrase. First it was the “Rule of Six” in relation to the number of people who can meet together. Unless I misheard and it was Rule of Sex.
He burbled about Covid marshals, some sort of vigilante neighbourhood watch comprised of state-sponsored busybodies, by the horrible sound of it.
After that he went for Operation Moonshot – a crazily ambitious project to deliver up to 10m Covid tests a day. Johnson does like these ridiculous names. Operation Moonshot? How about Operation Crash Landing In A Muddy Field Again?
“We expect everybody in the country to obey the law,” Johnson also said – apparently forgetting that his own government was thinking of ignoring international law. Oh, and that his own adviser, Dominic Cummings, refused to apologise for flagrantly breaking lockdown restrictions.
Rarely before has it felt so obvious that rules are for the little people. And to Johnson and Cummings, that grim right-wing comedy double act, we are all little people, to be pushed out into the restaurants for a cheap meal, bundled onto the trains to travel to work, ticked off for wanting too many Covid tests, then told there will be millions more tests soon; bullied into the shops, then ordered to stay away from each other.
No wonder people are confused and anxious. Turns out having a Brexit-brained government in charge of a public health crisis is the worst possible idea.
As the Irish man asked for directions in a classic, if caricatured, joke says… “Well, sir, if I were you I wouldn’t start from here.”