This is not news. It is not a revelation. Boris Johnson is a lazy clown who cannot be bothered to pay attention to detail.
He flaunts the breezy optimism of someone unacquainted with financial hardship – or anything approaching it – and whose notion of responsibility is non-existent. He is one of those preposterous people who has convinced himself that if he says something with sufficient conviction, somehow it will magically make it true. His cushioned upbringing fosters an unfailing belief in the rectitude of his own latest whim. But, like I say, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.
If he’d surrounded himself with seasoned, hard-nosed apparatchiks – people with the political vision, intellectual prowess and systematic approach necessary to make ideas a social reality – this carelessness could be written off as a quirk of an eccentric, but effective cheerleader. But he hasn’t done that.
He has appointed crews whose unabated and unrelenting dimwittery is now beyond parody. It can only be possible that installing Nadine Dorries as Culture Secretary is the cruel outcome of a Downing Street drinking game gone wrong. And in the days while society does some proper soul-searching about how men should start re-thinking their attitudes toward women, how comforting to know that Dominic Raab doesn’t know what ‘misogyny’ means. But, yes, you knew all this anyway too.
To expose these alarming shortcomings of the government is the job of the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. To say that the good knight is making a complete hash of it is to give him and his colleagues more credit than they’re due. Their voices are not heard. They’ve not even been drowned out. They’re not (just) the victims of right-wing media bias. They had a brief moment of their own in the limelight last week and made no impact. And the reason? The only mantra they appear capable of repeating is that Boris Johnson is a lazy clown who cannot be bothered to pay attention to detail and who has surrounded himself with dimwits. So, excuse me if it seems like this is shouting, but WE ALL KNEW THAT ANYWAY.
Of the memes and jokes circulating in the past few days, my favourite is this one. ‘Have gallon of diesel: will swap for doctor’s appointment.’ A riposte appears. ‘A face-to-face appointment?’ ‘Don’t be stupid,’ comes the response. ‘That’s half a tank’s worth.’
It’s grim gallows’ humour emanating from a society that is demonstrably on the bones of its backside. £80 monthly wage cuts for the poorest in society; mass slaughter of untransported animals; people reliant on foodbanks; fighting on the forecourts; breakdown of trust in the police; corruption and backhanders in government and, oh yes, the hurtling pace of global burning. It’s not as if Sir Kier and his buddies haven’t got enough to go on. So why keep beating the same saggy old drum about bumbling Boris and his clumsy cabinet?
Starmer faces two major problems. First, a Tory government that has long since unhitched itself from the wagon of any ideology in favour of whatever sounds appealing this week, has systematically stolen Labour’s clothes. Admittedly, some of this has been forced upon them – and Sunak in particular – by the pandemic, but which Labour politician has ever argued against a high-wage economy, reskilling the unemployed, state intervention and even the re-greening of the economy (all of which, whisper who dare, featured prominently in the dastardly Corbyn’ manifesto – supported wholeheartedly by Starmer)? Even by the dismal standards of whataboutery that currently passes for political debate, the cry of ‘but we thought of that first’ sounds horribly limp.
Second, it’s about bravery and conviction. Neither is remotely on show from an opposition party paralysed into cowed silence and inaction by the spectre of the right-wing press. Nothing illustrates this more clearly that Starmer’s recent egregious decision to write an opinion piece for The Sun. Somebody somewhere must have whispered in his ear that this is what those working-class people read, so that’s the way to get to them.
The brave – and proper – thing to do would have been to refuse the offer on the grounds that the boycott of The Sun is a central plank of one of the most successful, independently organised campaigns ever undertaken by working people. The brave – and proper – thing to do would be to announce that he had been offered the gig and refused. It would have been gutsy and it would have earned him widespread disapproval from peddlers of hatred, racism and misogyny. How can that be a bad thing for the Leader of the Opposition? His capitulation is the hallmark of a party whose priorities seem to be to remain respectable and bland and unthreatening – saving their ire and disapproval for rotten old Johnson and his chums.
In the weeks to come, we’ll witness – I hope – some courageously irresponsible behaviour from people who know that the galloping destruction of the planet won’t be stemmed by half-baked inactions from those who can’t even keep their own populations safe and healthy. The message will be clear: this system that continues to allow tax evasion and reckless expansion, which encourages cruelty and discrimination, which exploits the poorest and weakest can only end in catastrophe. We can only hope in vain that opposition politicians don’t creep behind the banner of not inconveniencing anyone and proudly proclaim something like ‘We’re up for fighting for a better world too!’
No? Me neither.
OK, all together know – ‘Boris is a fatty – he smells’. That’ll do it.
You may possibly have noticed a lull in activity on this blog for the past few weeks. It’s because I’m putting the finishing touches to my new book – not politics (well, a bit) and not football (at all) – which will be out next year. Details to follow in due course.