It’s taken him a while to get here but Boris Johnson is a man deep in the heart of his comfort zone. The world is his sofa. It might all be unutterably miserable for everybody else, but Boris Johnson has reached his own, very personal sunlit uplands.
The world he now lives in, and which the rest of us can only gaze upon in jealous wonder, is one in which the truth just doesn’t matter at all. He’s earned it, don’t be in any doubt about that. It’s been his life’s work, this. His very own wildly ambitious episode of Grand Designs, and now here’s Kevin McCloud bumbling up the driveway, inclining his neck to see the high turrets of the 182 room, fully bulletproof Bulls**t Mansion, the construction of which has somehow bankrupted absolutely everybody involved apart from the owner.
Three hours we spent on Wednesday afternoon, watching the prime minister answer questions on live television. Forty minutes in the House of Commons, and the rest in front of a committee of MPs, and all of it was a kind of guided tour by the proud owner around his own self-built temple of unreality.
The starting point, the grand entrance if you like, the prime minister has been working on for decades, and it’s the fact, slowly chiselled into the public subconscious, that no one even cares the tiniest toss if he’s telling the truth or not.
He said, for example, in an election campaign 18 months ago that he wouldn’t reduce the size of the armed forces. Now he’s reducing it from 82,000 to 72,000. Keir Starmer can bring that up at prime minister’s questions all he likes but the prime minister will just waft it away, as he did today and will do again.
It’s not happening. It’s not real. We’re making the army smaller but actually we’re making it bigger. Investing in it, modernising it, making it more nimble.
Later, at the Liaison Committee, Labour’s Darren Jones wanted to know if he personally had approved the £400m contract with a weird satellite technology company called OneWeb that went bust within about a week of receiving the cash, as is widely known to have happened within Westminster. “I shouldn’t really comment on that,” said the prime minister, with a chuckle.
And why should he? He was only there to answer precisely these type of questions so come on, get real. Who cares?
Yvette Cooper can ask him why we can’t have a Covid-based travel set up like Australia’s, and he can just reply that countries like Australia “don’t rely on the EU for 75 per cent of their food and 50 per cent of their medicine”, and emit a little laugh while he does it.
Not a complete lie that one, not at all. Completely true, in fact. But it does reveal everything he said for about 18 months, about how the UK would “prosper mightily” with an “Australian-style Brexit” to be the complete rubbish he always knew it was.
When he said “prosper mightily”, we now know he meant “die in agony from preventable illness and/or starve”, but he knows and and we know and Kevin McCloud knows that all this is just part of the charm.
The complete and utter b******* of it all is the entire architectural point. Everything’s Just Made Up. That’s the concept. Just Say Whatever You Like Whenever You Like And Everything Will Be Just Fine.
He can, if he likes, tell his own MPs on a private Zoom call that the UK got the vaccine first because of “greed”, the sort of comment he knows will inflame the mad vaccine war with the EU. And then when the comment leaks, it can turn out that it was both a defence of corporate capitalism, which has found the cure for Covid (even though AstraZeneca are distributing their vaccine on a not-for-profit basis), AND it can also have been a joke about the chief whip eating a cheese and pickle sandwich.
It can’t be both these things, obviously, yet these were the two defences, offered simultaneously. Maybe he knows that if he’d tried just one of them, someone might actually have attempted to interrogate whatever truth might be in them. But offer both explanations, completely contradictory as they are, and the s**tshow just rolls on.
No one cares about this stuff, do they? Not anymore. We’re all completely inured. Just let the guy say what he likes, do what he likes, have a little laugh about it and get on with our day.
Why bother caring? That sort of thing can send a person mad. Easier to just gaze in wonder at the ambition of it all, and that somehow, he really has pulled it off. Doesn’t even matter that there’s 130,000 people dead, either. Boris will be Boris. Not his fault. He’s trying his best, and even if he wasn’t, well, never mind, eh. Best to just have a laugh about it.
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