Does Boris Johnson take the population for idiots? His latest offering suggests so

What the prime minister’s served up this week was full of flummery, cliche, pointless idiom and the inevitable whopper, writes Robert Fisk

Tuesday 29 September 2020 13:21
Boris Johnson leaving Downing Street
Boris Johnson leaving Downing Street

Yasser Arafat, when at his most distressed – angry, obsessive or just plain lost for words when speaking to Palestinian audiences – often left out verbs. Gaddafi likewise. So did European fascist leaders of the 1930s who shall not be further identified. 

If you want to transform your audience into children, then verbs can be a complication. It’s reaction you want, not understanding. And I’ve always subjected dictators – and now the “populist” leaders elected in our own democracies – to a close analysis of the linguistic content of their speeches.

True, Donald Trump is hardly worth the effort. Naive, childish – infantile is surely the right word – there’s no analysis to be done. Twitter doesn’t lend itself to verbs. But listening to Boris Johnson’s offering to the British people (or at least, I suppose, the English people) this week was a sobering experience. Flummery, cliche, tiresome repetition and self-regard vied with pointless idioms and the inevitable whopper – along, of course, with a nasty little threat about policemen and soldiers and the unusual word “backfill”.

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