Boris Johnson making model buses isn't weird. What's weird is not admitting how many children you have

So Johnson wants to protect his ‘loved ones’? What we need protecting from is him

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Tuesday 25 June 2019 17:19 BST
Boris Johnson refuses to deny photo of him with Carrie Symonds is six weeks old

Boris Johnson’s original strategy of winning the Tory leadership contest by placing himself under effective house arrest came unstuck at the weekend when he somehow managed to still cock everything up, from inside the house in which he had arrested himself.

But now we are on to Plan B, namely the media blitz, at least we all know why Plan A was the preferred option.

The BBC ... LBC ... Talk Radio ... all of these outlets seem to want to know more about the police being called in the middle of the night to the house of the de facto future Prime Minister over a reported domestic disturbance. They want to know how things like how many secret families does he have. And so on and so on.

But Boris Johnson, alas, doesn’t want to talk. He won’t, he has said at least twice now, “bring his loved ones in to it.” “It wouldn’t be fair on them,” he has explained.

Anyone who has ever worked in a news room knows the “privacy of my family” defence very well. There you’ll be, getting on with your day, when an email will arrive, detailing the latest injunction, taken out by the latest politician, popstar, actor or footballer. “Will no one, please, think of my children!” is the executive summary of such things, which arrive on legal headed notepaper, having cost the subject somewhere in the region of tens of thousands of pounds.

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, said person’s sudden, desperate concern for the welfare of their children and their mother, has come immediately after, to take just one random example, a lengthy affair with your brother’s wife. It’s an interesting approach – call in the lawyers to demand the free press in a free country hold themselves to a higher moral standard than you do.

Oh to be loved by Boris Johnson. A short list of the loved ones for whom he so gallantly seeks protection, are a handful of grown up children in their twenties of whom friends say now go about their lives with cover stories about the identity of their own dad.

Then there’s the ten year old daughter, from the ten year old affair, whose existence was kept quiet via a court order. And now there’s the former work colleague, 24 years his junior, who invited him into a flat she now can’t return to. There are rumoured to be more, but Johnson is just too gallant to discuss them.

Not too gallant though, through some mysterious magic, to transmit a photograph of himself and girlfriend Carrie Symonds in the fading light of the Sussex countryside to the newspapers, 24 hours after she had been recorded screaming, “Get off me, get out my flat,” at him.

There is some concern, that this photographic evidence of the happy couple happily back together on happy terms, appears to show Johnson both significantly heavier, and with significantly longer hair than he now has, and thus that it may have been taken several weeks ago.

Nick Ferrari asked Johnson about this 26, yes fully 26 times. It was a radio interview, so it is theoretically possible Johnson didn’t know that a video feed of it was also being broadcast live on various news channels, which would explain the gentle smirk that greeted his consistent refusal to answer the question. The question, in a nutshell, was “Are you lying?” The answer did not come.

When Ferrari wanted to know when he had last had his haircut, Johnson’s view was that the interview was “descending into farce.” He’s right, it was, but it was a farce of his own making, through telling a lie as robust as a wet paper bag and imagining its structural integrity could hold out, through nothing other than the sheer force of Johnson’s personality.

And that is how the Johnson premiership will start, grow and die. Things will have to be smirked away that are far more serious than a photograph in a Sussex beer garden. These things will be people’s lives and livelihoods. They will not be a laughing matter. The farce into which we descend will not be farce, it will be tragedy.

His plan for Brexit is as credible as his photograph. Its chances of surviving first contact with reality are the same, which is to say, zero.

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He accuses Jeremy Hunt of wishing to “carry on kicking the can down the road.” His own plan is to break up the withdrawal agreement, keep the bits he likes and get rid of the bits he doesn’t. The Irish border question can be dealt with after we’ve left, he says, and in the meantime, there’ll be free and frictionless trade.

It’s a legal impossibility, a fantasy, which the EU consistently warns it will not allow.

The withdrawal agreement IS the metaphorical can. Johnson looks interviewers in the eye, with as straight a face as he can manage, when even he doesn’t believe his own garbage, and tells them the can be broken up. That bits of it can be kept, other bits kicked.

Does anyone care? Is anyone listening? There are whispers that the Tory membership might not be as craven as we are led to believe. That more of them than previously thought might be able to see the transparently obvious – that they’re about to make a mistake of epic proportions. It is nevertheless, still unlikely to be enough.

Later, he would be telling Talk Radio that, “to relax” he paints models of buses from old wooden crates, complete with “happy passengers.” This is supposed to be evidence that he is, somehow, a strange man. But it is perhaps the only question to which he has given an entirely straight answer.

What is stranger than a man who paints models of buses? One who won’t tell you how many children he has, for a start. There is only one appropriate response to the hobbycraft revelations and it this: who cares?

As he made this apparently stunning admission, by the way, a Foreign Office Minister from his own party, Sir Alan Duncan, was standing at the despatch box of the House of Commons, breezily saying that Johnson needs to lose “for the good of the country.”

That is mad. The full tonto. Making a model bus from a wooden crate is entirely sane by comparison.

Still, Brexit “do or die” by the 31st October, Johnson continues to promise. As things stand, the “do” bit doesn’t look possible. Nor are there obvious ways to make it so. That only leaves one other option. Given that all of us, in the last three years have seen things you people wouldn’t believe, perhaps it’s fitting that Brexit is gearing up for its Blade Runner ending. Time to die.

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